The credit card industry has faced a tremendous amount of criticism during the last four years. Politicians have imposed significant regulations and legislation on card issuers. Consumers continue to bash the high interest rates and fees associated with their cards.
But despite all the criticism, credit cards offer real benefits to consumers that are unmatched with other forms of payment. If you pay your credit card balance in full on time every month, your credit card may be the wisest way to make purchases. Here are some extra protections and benefits offered by credit cards:
Car Rental Loss/Damage Insurance
With a number of issuers, using your credit card can cover damage incurred when renting a car, so you may not have to pay for the extra insurance coverage that car rental companies try to sell. To be safe, be sure to check the description of this coverage in your Cardmember Agreement. You must be the primary renter and use your card for the rental. To be covered by the car rental loss/damage insurance, you must decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) or similar option when you are reserving and picking up your rental car. Coverage applies for the first 30 days, and is in excess to your other sources of insurance. You will be reimbursed only for losses and expenses not covered by plans. Coverage may not be available in some countries.
Typical exclusions include: items stolen from inside or outside the vehicle; person not designated in the rental agreement/contract as an authorized driver; loss that occurs while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; racing or reckless driving; blowout or tire/rim damage that is not caused by theft or vandalism or is not a result of a vehicle collision causing tire or rim damage.
Price protection helps you get the best price you can find on the products you buy. Many issuers will refund the price difference if you find a lower price on the same item from the same manufacturer within a designated time period--typically 60 days. Many issuers will set a refund limit. The lower price must be in print, such as in-store flyer or an ad in a newspaper, magazine or catalog. Internet prices are usually excluded. You need to save both your receipt and also the original U.S. warranty that comes with your product. Standard exceptions include: internet purchases or advertisements; items subject to rebate or manufacturer's coupon or a refund; items sold at "going out of business sales or "close out" advertisements; and customized items.
Citigroup now offers Citi Price Rewind, a price protection service that helps consumers save money if the price of an item drops more than $25 during a 30-day period from the date of purchase. The entire amount must be made with your Citi card to qualify for a refund. Purchases made with a business credit card do not qualify. Chase will refund of the difference between the price you paid for an eligible item on the card and a subsequent lower advertised price for the same item within the first 90 days of purchase.
Purchase protection covers eligible purchases against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days from the date of purchase. It can repair, replace or reimburse for up to the amount charged. For example, American Express coverage is limited to $1,000 per occurrence, and up to $50,000 per cardmember account per policy year. It is in excess of other sources of indemnity. Bank of America's Visa Signature card offers Purchase Security within the first 90 days of the date of purchase. Bank of America will replace, repair, or reimburse you for eligible items of personal property purchased entirely with your eligible Visa Signature card up to a maximum of $500 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder in the event of theft, damage due to fire, vandalism, accidentally discharged water, or certain weather conditions. If a retailer will not accept a return within the first 90 days of purchase, some cards, like Chase Sapphire, will reimburse you for the cost of the item purchased on your card.
Extended Warranty Protection
This protection extends the length of the free repair period under the original manufacturer's U.S. warranty up to one additional year. Capital One doubles the original warranty time period and duplicates the coverage of the original manufacturer's warranty up to a maximum of twelve months on most items you purchase. Citi duplicates the manufacturer or store warranty up to 12 months on most items you purchase and is limited to repair or replacement of the lesser of the amount charged to your card or $10,000. To receive Extended Warranty Protection, you must submit the store receipt, the credit card receipt and a copy of the manufacturer's warranty.
Common Carrier Lost Luggage Coverage
If you purchase your common carrier tickets with your credit card, lost luggage coverage will cover you and your dependents for permanently lost, stolen, or damaged bags while checked with your carrier. Coverage applies after that carrier's liability coverage has been exhausted.
Coverage varies by issuer. Citi's coverage for checked bags is up to $3,000 per occurrence per covered person, up to $10,000 total. American Express' coverage is up to $1,250 for lost, stolen or damaged carry-on baggage, and up to $500 for checked baggage. This is in excess of the Common Carrier's liability and includes up to $250 of coverage for high-risk items, such as computers, jewelry and electronics.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage
To get this coverage, you must purchase the trip entirely with your credit card. If certificates, vouchers, or frequent flier miles are used, any remaining charge for the trip must be paid entirely with the credit card. Coverage is typically limited to the lesser of $1,500 per calendar year or the original cost of the ticket.
If your trip is interrupted for a covered reason, you will be reimbursed for the travel on the carrier to return to your destination or to join your group at their current location. Exclusions include: pre-existing medical conditions; participating in bodily contact sports; non-emergency treatment or surgery; pregnancy and childbirth (except for complications). Coverage is limited to the amount not covered by another insurance or indemnity. Some cards offer this coverage for free while others may charge a premium.
Some cards offer roadside assistance for lock-out, gas delivery, tire changes and jump-starts. The fees for the services are usually pre-negotiated and will be billed to your account. You will have to pay for all labor, fees, and parts. If you have a rental vehicle, call the car rental agency before you call your credit card company because many rental agencies have special procedures regarding emergency road service.
Medical Prescription Replacement Assistance
If medications are lost or forgotten, some card issuers will help you in obtaining new prescriptions. The costs are your responsibility.
Doctor Referral/Emergency Medical Transportation Assistance
If you or another covered family member becomes injured or ill while traveling, some issuers can provide a global referral network of general physicians, dentists, hospitals, and pharmacies. They can also help arrange transportation to the nearest appropriate medical facility, and set-up and coordinate the transport. You are responsible for all costs associated with medical care and transport. In the case of a death, the Benefit Administrator can make arrangements for returning the remains of the deceased home.
When a covered trip is delayed more than 12 hours due to a covered event, expenses incurred as a result of the delay, such as meals and lodging, are reimbursed. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers this coverage.
If your checked bags are delayed for a period of 18 hours or more by a common carrier, you will be reimbursed for the emergency purchase of covered essential items. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers this coverage.
Common Carrier Travel Insurance Coverage
Some cards, like the Citi/AAdvantage and Discover cards, offer up to $500,000 in flight accident insurance.
Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance
Reimburses you for personal property stolen from your hotel or motel room. Your hotel/motel stay must be purchased entirely with an eligible card. MasterCard has this coverage.