Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 19, 2020

Millennial Money: Learn to unlock benefits available through your credit cards

A few days after buying a sweater at Macy’s, Erin Chisman returned to get the same one in a different color, only to realize it was 50% off. Upon seeing the new price tag, the Wisconsin-based business owner was determined to save.

So she turned to the cards in her wallet.

“I looked at my terms and I noticed that it did have price protection,” she says. “Within three days, I had a check in the mail” for the $30 difference.

Price protection, a benefit that refunds the difference of a lower advertised price, has largely vanished from many credit cards in recent years. But plenty of other side perks remain, and your card may even have added some new ones. Here’s what to know about these benefits so you don’t miss out.

Benefits not all created equal

If you don’t know all the perks your card offers, you’re not alone. Only 36% of cardholders reported fully understanding their supplementary benefits, according to J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study.

It can be hard to keep track because offerings vary widely, depending on both the credit card’s issuing bank (American Express, Chase, Citi, etc.) and, often, the payment network on which it runs (Visa, Mastercard, AmEx or Discover).

But if you spend some time with your card’s terms and conditions – or with a customer service rep online or by phone – you can learn your card’s benefits and how they can help. Consider some of these examples and the potential savings they offer.

Cellphone protection

A credit card’s cellphone protection benefit can cover a stolen or damaged cellphone up to several hundred dollars per claim. To qualify, you’ll have to pay the monthly phone bill with the eligible card, and an out-of-pocket deductible typically applies.

Chisman relies on cellphone protection offered through her business credit card to avoid paying the cellphone company for coverage on four employee phones at her music school. “The savings there (are) between $20 and $40 per month,” she says.

If your card’s coverage is primary, it means you don’t have to involve your own insurer. If it’s secondary, it may supplement what your insurer doesn’t cover.

Extended warranties

A card’s extended warranty protection might prolong an original manufacturer’s warranty, sometimes a year or longer, depending on the terms. Regardless of your purchase, the savings can add up.

A 2018 survey by Consumer Reports found the median price for an extended warranty on a major appliance was $131. For a small appliance, it was $19, but either way it’s money that your credit card can save you.

Some cards have stopped offering this benefit in recent years, but those that have it usually cover what’s included in the original manufacturer’s warranty. To qualify, the product must be purchased with the eligible card. Exclusions may apply for some products like cars and computer software.

Return protection

When a retailer’s return policy fails, this credit card benefit may refund you the amount of the purchase. Only certain products qualify, and you’ll have to act within a certain window to file a claim.

Shipping the item to an assigned address and paying for the postage out of pocket may be required. Read the fine print to determine whether it’s worth it for you.

Purchase protection

It’s disappointing when a new item is damaged or stolen, but less so if you’ve paid for it with a credit card that offers purchase protection. This benefit has also been phased out by some issuers, but it’s not extinct.

Depending on the terms, the item will be replaced or repaired, or you’ll be reimbursed up to several hundreds of dollars per claim if filed within the required time frame.

The process generally requires documentation, which may include a credit card statement, a receipt and other information.

Exclusive discounts

Depending on your credit card issuer, you might also qualify for exclusive cardholder discounts. Some Mastercard World Elite cardholders, for example, can get $5 off every Postmates purchase of $25 or more (not including delivery fees, tips and taxes).

And eligible American Express credit cards provide a complimentary ShopRunner membership that offers free two-day shipping. Terms apply.

So make sure you look beyond just your credit card’s rewards rate and fully explore all the benefits that can help you save money.

This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lissalambarena.