You might have a travel rewards credit card to get extra points on your vacation or to elevate your travel experience with airport lounge access. Maybe you picked up an airline credit card for a lucrative welcome bonus and keep it around for its free luggage benefit. Or perhaps you keep things simple with a 2% cash back credit card.
Regardless of which credit card you have in your wallet, chances are that your card offers some benefits that you don’t know you have. Many credit cards offer a variety of travel insurance coverages that can protect you when you travel. Most offer additional warranty coverage on items you buy. Some even offer statement credits for things you might buy anyway.
These hidden benefits can save you a substantial amount of money and most of the time, all you have to do to access these benefits is to pay with a credit card.
Here’s what you need to know about the secret credit card benefits that you might not know you had.
Your Guide to Benefits
All of the hidden credit card benefits of your credit card can be found in your card’s Guide to Benefits.
When you open a new credit card, you will receive a Guide to Benefits which lists your card’s benefits and lays out each benefit’s terms, conditions, and limitations. If you want to know what benefits your specific credit card offers, the card’s Guide to Benefits is where to look.
When you first opened your card, chances are you received your Guide to Benefits in the mail or electronically. Some card issuers put their credit card benefit guides online, either on a public website or on your online card management portal. If you can’t find your card’s guide to benefits, call your card issuer—your card issuer will provide a copy electronically or by mail.
When you purchase expensive electronics, getting an extended warranty can be a good investment. Many retailers will offer to sell you an extended warranty at checkout, or you can purchase an extended warranty on some items through third-party services. But your credit card might give you the same or better warranty protections for free.
An extended warranty is a common hidden benefit of many credit cards. The extended warranty benefits offered by credit cards commonly double the manufacturer’s warranty, up to an additional year, or simply provide an additional year of coverage. Usually there’s nothing you need to do to register your purchase — if you use your credit card to purchase an eligible item, you are automatically covered.
The Amazon Prime Visa extends the warranty of the items you buy using the card by an additional year when an item has a warranty of three years or less. This means that you don’t have to choose between using one of the best cash back credit cards and having your purchases protected. When you use your Prime Visa card, you’ll get both 5% cash back on Amazon and extended warranty protection.
Of course, the extended warranty won’t cover everything — check your card’s benefits guide for details on what is covered and coverage limitations. Extended warranties typically exclude perishable items like food and cosmetics; consumable items like lightbulbs; vehicles; and items like ceiling fans and air conditioners that are permanently installed in your home.
Cell phone protection
If you’re like most people, your cell phone is the most expensive item that you carry with you. And it also might be the item most likely to get broken or stolen.
If you accidentally drop your phone and pick it up to discover that your screen has been transformed into 10,000 tiny shards of glass, you’ll want to have paid your cell phone bill with a card offering cell phone protection.
Cellular phone protection pays for the repair or replacement of a damaged or stolen phone when you pay your monthly bill with the card. Coverage is usually subject to a deductible and includes annual limits on the amount of coverage or the number of claims you can make.
The best card to use to pay your monthly cell phone bill is the one that offers both increased rewards for cell phone service chargesl and a cell phone protection benefit. The Wells Fargo Autograph Card is a great choice to use to pay your monthly bill, as the card offers $600 of cell phone protection with a $25 deductible and offers 3x points on cell phone service.
Most cell phone protection plans cover damage to or theft of your cell phone, but they don’t typically cover phone loss. Additionally, some plans only cover damage that impacts your ability to make or receive calls — if you simply shatter your screen, you might not be covered, depending on the card you use.
Roadside assistance and roadside dispatch
If your car breaks down while you’re away from home and you didn’t purchase the roadside assistance option with your insurance, your credit card might be able to provide some help.
Most Visa and Mastercards include roadside dispatch service. While the benefit won’t pay for services like towing, winching or fuel delivery, it can connect you to local service providers for free. While a credit card benefit that doesn’t actually pay for the service it provides might not sound useful, if you’re stranded on the side of the road, you’ll probably appreciate having a single number to call, rather than searching for a reputable towing service.
Some cards offer certain roadside assistance services for a flat fee. A very small handful of cards offer a true roadside assistance benefit, which can provide services like towing, tire changes, jumpstarts, fuel delivery and winching for free. These cards include the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the United Business card, a pick on our best business cards list.
Many retailers offer generous return policies, with some major big box retailers like Target and Walmart offering 90 day returns on most items. But what happens when a retailer has a stingy policy or your busy schedule simply doesn’t allow you to get back to a store within 30 days? In these cases, return protection can reimburse you for new items that the seller won’t take back.
Return protection isn’t nearly as common as it used to be, but some premium credit cards like the Amex Blue Cash Preferred and the Capital One Venture X still offer this benefit. With either card, you have 90 days to return eligible items purchased using your card. If a merchant won’t give you a refund, your card will.
Be aware that return protection limits are often much lower than other consumer insurance benefits like extended warranty and purchase protection. Most cards have fairly low limits on the amount you can be reimbursed per claim and per year. Common coverage limits are around $300 per item and $1,000 per year.
Let’s say you bought a new pair of sunglasses for a weekend trip for wine tasting in Napa Valley. You arrive at your AirBnB to find your sunglasses broken in half just days after you bought them.
If that example sounds oddly specific, that’s because that is exactly what happened to me … but I submitted a claim to my credit card benefit administrator, and purchase protection paid for a new pair of sunglasses.
Purchase protection can reimburse you if something you purchased with your card gets damaged or is stolen shortly after you bought it. Most purchase protection plans cover purchases for at least 90 days — and some cover purchases for as long as 120 days from the date of purchase.
Like extended warranty benefits, purchase protection excludes certain items like perishable items, automobiles, and consumables. Check your card’s guide to benefits for exclusions.
Auto rental collision damage waiver
When you rent a car for vacation or work, the last thing you want to worry about is paying for expensive car repairs if your rental car gets dented in a parking garage or is involved in a fender bender. But before you purchase an expensive collision damage waiver option from the rental company, check your credit card’s guide to benefits. You might have auto rental collision damage waiver coverage.
When you use a card with auto rental collision damage waiver insurance to reserve and rent a car, the rental car can be covered against damage or theft by your credit card coverage. Coverage typically applies only to cars rented from traditional rental agencies.
Most cars are covered, but if you’re renting an expensive luxury car, a moving van, or a vehicle like a high-capacity van or work truck, double check your card’s benefit guide — many of these types of vehicles aren’t covered.
Auto rental collision damage waiver insurance is a very common credit card benefit. Many cards with no annual fee like the Capital One Quicksilver offer an auto rental collision damage waiver benefit, but most of the time this benefit only offers secondary insurance, even on some premium cards like the American Express Platinum card.
If you plan to rent a car, you’ll want to use a card that has primary auto rental collision damage waiver insurance. A card with primary insurance won’t require you to submit a claim to your personal auto insurance if you need to make a claim. The Venture X, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase Sapphire Reserve are three popular cards that offer primary coverage. If you are a small business owner, the Chase Ink Business Preferred offers primary insurance when renting for business.
Auto rental collision damage waiver insurance only offers protection against damage to or theft of a car that you rent. It does not provide liability or medical coverage — if you are liable for damage to someone else’s car or become injured, your card’s collision damage waiver insurance won’t protect you. If you’re renting cars, it can be a good idea to check the liability coverage of your current auto insurance policy or pick up travel insurance.
Trusted traveler credits
If you signed up for an airline credit card to get bonus points, receive free checked baggage when traveling, or get airport lounge access, you’re probably already getting plenty of value from your card.
But if your card also includes a trusted traveler program membership fee reimbursement, using that card to pay for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership might net you a statement credit.
Many airline and premium travel credit cards offer a statement credit toward enrollment in a trusted travel program like Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS as a perk. In most cases, all you need to do is charge your trusted traveler program membership fee to your card and you’ll get a statement credit for the amount of the charge.
Most cards limit trusted traveler credits to one credit every four years, so you’ll be able to cover for your own membership and renewals with a card offering this benefit. But if you want to also enroll your spouse, partner, children, or traveling companions in a trusted traveler program, you’ll need to pay … or find another one of your cards that also has this benefit. If you have multiple cards offering trusted traveler credits, you can usually use your other cards to pay another person’s membership and still receive the credit.
Trip delay reimbursement
Your flight has been canceled, your airline has rebooked you for tomorrow, and you’re unexpectedly stuck in an unfamiliar city overnight. You could shell out hundreds of dollars for a last minute hotel room, try to get the airline to pay for lodging, or find a spot to sleep at the airport.
Or, if you booked your flight with a card offering trip delay reimbursement, you could simply book a room at the nearest airport hotel and submit it to your credit card benefit administrator for reimbursement.
Hotel nights aren’t the only expenses covered by trip delay reimbursement. If trip delay reimbursement coverage applies to your travel, you’ll find that you can get covered for most reasonable expenses incurred during your travel delay. Meals, toiletries, lodging, transportation, and medication are typically covered.
Trip delay reimbursement is a benefit you’ll find only on premium credit cards. But if you picked up either the Chase Sapphire Preferred for its increased rewards on travel or the Chase Sapphire Reserve for airport lounge access and its $300 travel credit, you’re in luck. Both cards automatically cover you with trip delay reimbursement protection when you book your common carrier (like an airline, bus, or train) travel using the card.
Having trip delay protection doesn’t mean that you can stay at the Fairmont on your credit card issuer. Trip delay protection usually provides coverage of $500 per ticket booked with your card. Only substantial delays are covered — usually trip delay protection requires at least a six hour or overnight delay.
If you’re only using your credit card for making purchases, you may be missing out on substantial benefits. Read through your card’s Guide to Benefits to see what other perks might be included, such as purchase protection, roadside dispatch, or extended warranty coverage. Your pocketbook will thank you.
Editorial Disclosure: All articles are prepared by editorial staff and contributors. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the editorial team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in this article is accurate as of the date of the publish. Check the lender’s website for the most current information.
This article was originally published on SFGate.com and reviewed by Lauren Williamson, who serves as Financial and Home Services Editor for the Hearst E-Commerce team. Email her at email@example.com.