Shop Smart: Credit card perks highlighted
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Many credit card users can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by using credit cards -- and they may not even know it. ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recently spotlighted seven lesser-known credit card perks that users may not even know exist.
"Visiting your credit card's website is a good first step to finding out what benefits you may be missing out on, along with any rules and limitations you may need to know," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.
Here are seven examples of credit card benefits to look out for.
Partner discounts -- Card issuers often offer price cuts or other perks, such as extra points, from companies they do business with. Discover cardholders, for example, can earn double reward points when they rent a car from Alamo, Enterprise or National; head to the high seas on Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess or Royal Caribbean cruise lines; enjoy the sun and fun at Sandals and Universal Orlando resorts; and even munch on Mrs. Fields cookies.
Extra product warranties -- Some issuers automatically extend manufacturer warranties, usually up to a year (a great perk for expensive items that otherwise would be costly to replace). But it usually also applies to cheaper items that consumers may not know come with a warranty, such as eyeglasses, coffee makers and luggage. You must use the card for the entire purchase, so don't split the transaction between, say, a credit card and a gift card.
Additional cash back -- Some cards offer a bonus 5 or 10 percent cash back if you buy an item from hundreds of retailers listed on your card issuer's website. The Citi CashReturns card, for example, lets you earn an unlimited 5 percent additional cash back (on average) on purchases from more than 400 participating retailers. You can shop online, by phone or by going to participating stores.
Coverage for damaged goods -- You and your phone are attached at all times (until it comes flying out of your pocket during a Zumba class or a roller-coaster ride). A credit card with theft, damage and loss coverage reimburses users for items purchased with it that are lost, stolen or accidentally damaged within a stated time period, often 90 days. But some cards limit the number of times users can make a claim within a certain time period.
Price protection -- If you buy something with your card and find it for less within about 45 days, the issuer will refund you the difference. But ShopSmart recommends checking the fine print in your terms for any rules you need to follow to get that benefit. Citi, for example, requires that you see the item advertised in print at a lower price, although it gives you 60 days from the date of purchase to find it.
Rental car coverage -- If you use your card for a rental, some issuers will cover any loss to a rental vehicle, up to certain limits. If you already have collision coverage, the card will pay your deductible. Just remember to decline the collision-damage waiver.
Travel insurance -- Trip cancellation covers losses if you have to cancel plans, perhaps due to illness or injury. But check your card issuer's rules about what doesn't qualify and how much you will recoup.
First Published March 3, 2013 12:00 am