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Here's a look at the programs -- and caveats -- offered by the major card networks when merchants will not accept a return because of a limit on the number of days after purchase allowed for returns.
- American Express: Refunds of up to $300 per item and $1,000 per account annually are available up to 90 days after your purchase. Items must be in the "original purchase condition." The purchase must have been made within a U.S. state or territory. Excluded items include motorized vehicles, perishable items, computer software and jewelry.
- Discover: Returns must be made within 90 days of purchase. Refunds are available up to $500 per item and $2,500 maximum per account annually. Excluded items include digital downloads and products for commercial use.
- MasterCard: Coverage is limited to 4 claims per cardholder annually with a maximum of $250 for each claim. Returns must be made within 60 days of purchase. Items must be purchased from a store that has a minimum 10-day return or exchange policy. Excluded items include collectibles, one-of-a-kind items and professional services.
- Visa: The payment processor doesn't offer a specific return program, but banks that offer Visa-branded cards may offer return protection policies. The Chase Visa Platinum, for example, will accept claims up to 90 days after purchase with a limit of $250 per claim and $1,000 annually.
When it comes to airports and the flying experience, most of the best perks do not come standard. If travel is important to you, you'll have to look to the benefits offered by specific cards.
Travel reward credit cards might offer, for example, access to airport lounges, free luggage checks or discounts on in-flight service.
Here's a sampling of some card-specific perks:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can get reimbursed up to $500 for expenses like meals and lodging if their transportation -- including airplanes, buses, cruise ships and trains -- is delayed by more than 12 hours.
- Citi Prestige cardholders receive an annual $250 air travel credit, which can be used for tickets, baggage fees and upgrades. Of course, the card also comes with an annual fee of $450.
- Barclaycard World Elite MasterCard holders are covered by an insurance policy if they have to cancel or interrupt a trip due to illness, injury or death. Maximum reimbursement for transportation costs is $1,500.
Some Visa-branded credit cards and American Express cards also offer insurance if a cardholder's luggage is lost, damaged or stolen. On Amex cards, maximum reimbursement is $1,250 for carry-on baggage and $500 for checked baggage. This perk covers only what a cardholder's primary insurance carrier won't.
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Your credit card might offer you an extended warranty -- for free. Each card payment network will extend a manufacturer's warranty up to 12 months on claims of $10,000 or less.
Here's a look at the standard benefits (some premium cards offer more coverage):
- American Express: Original warranty must be for 5 years or less. Exclusions include physical damage as a result of a national disaster or power surge, mechanical failure covered by a product recall or loss caused by fraud, abuse or illegal activity. Purchases not covered include motorized vehicles and parts, animals or living plants and perishable items.
- Discover: Original warranty must be for 3 years or less. Exclusions include items that need repair due to normal wear and tear or a power surge or if it is subject to a recall. Purchases not covered include computer software and used goods.
- MasterCard: Original warranty must be for 12 months or less. Exclusions include loss resulting from "war or hostilities," "acts of God," mechanical failures due to normal wear and tear and failures subject to recall. Purchases not covered include antiques, floor models that don't come with a manufacturer warranty or professional services.
- Visa: Good on eligible Visa Signature cards. Original warranty must be for 3 years or less. Purchases not covered include rented or leased items, medical equipment and items "intended to become part of real estate," such as garage doors and ceiling fans.
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Theft and damage protection
You purchased an iPad to take with you on your overseas vacation. And then, when you weren't looking, a thief swiped it. Good thing you bought the gadget with your credit card.
If your item isn't already covered by other insurance plans, chances are your credit card will cover the replacement costs. The card networks all offer replacement policies on items damaged, lost or stolen within 90 days of purchase. Exclusions and items not covered are similar to the extended warranty plans.
Here's a look at the standard purchase protection policies:
- American Express: Maximum coverage is $1,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 annually. (Premium cards have a $10,000 per occurrence cap.)
- Discover: Maximum coverage is $500 per occurrence and up to $50,000 annually. Insurance doesn't apply for items stolen from a vehicle, personal property or a public space when the cardholder "fails to exercise due diligence."
- MasterCard: Good on eligible MasterCard cards. Maximum coverage is $1,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 annually. Insurance doesn't apply for items "that mysteriously disappear without any evidence of a wrongful act."
- Visa: Good on eligible Visa Signature cards. Maximum coverage is $500 per occurrence and up to $50,000 annually.
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Rental car insurance
Many credit cards offer collision and theft protection policies for free, as long as you use your card to rent the vehicle and decline the coverage offered by the rental agency. And these card policies also only kick in for losses and expenses not covered by your own auto insurance.
- American Express: Coverage for loss and damage applies for the first 30 days of a vehicle rental. Towing, storage and loss-of-use fees charged by the rental agency are covered. Vehicles not covered include (on some cards) cars with an original manufacturer's suggested retail price of $50,000 or more, certain "exotic cars," trucks, sport-utility vehicles and vans.
- Discover: Applies for the first 31 days of a vehicle rental. Maximum reimbursement is $25,000. Off-road, antique or limited edition vehicles, recreational vehicles, trucks and vehicles whose replacement value exceeds $50,000 are not covered. Coverage applies to vehicles rented anywhere in the world.
- MasterCard: Applies on standard cards for the first 15 days of a vehicle rental. Towing and up to $500 in loss-of-use fees are covered. Vehicles with an MSRP of $50,000 or more, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and antique vehicles are not covered.
- Visa: Applies for the first 15 days of a vehicle rental within the cardholder's country of residence or 31 days in another country. Towing and loss-of-use fees are covered. "Expensive or exotic vehicles," trucks, motorcycles, mopeds and recreational vehicles are not covered.
Some, but not all, credit cards will refund you the difference on a new purchase if you later find another merchant selling the same item at a lower price.
If this is a perk you absolutely must have, seek out a credit card that offers this benefit.
- Chase: Offered on eligible cards. Valid within 90 dates of the date of purchase. Benefit of $500 per item and $2,500 annually per account. Benefit of $50 per item and $150 per year on advertisements of cash-only, close-out, liquidation and going-out-of-business sales. Excluded items include cellphone service agreements, refurbished items and items purchased outside the U.S.
- Citi: Offered on U.S.-issued cards. Valid within 60 days of purchase. Benefit is limited to $500 per item and $2,500 annually per account. Excluded items include tickets, products that can spoil or be consumed and jewelry (except watches).
- Discover: Offered on all cards. Valid within 90 days of purchase. Benefit is limited to $500 per item and $2,500 annually per account. Excluded items include motorized vehicles, jewelry, gift cards and travel or travel-related services.
- MasterCard: Offered on all cards. Valid within 60 days of purchase. Benefit is limited to $250 per item and 4 claims annually per account. Excluded items include those "purchased from an internet site whose primary purpose is not the sale of the item or related items," art, professional services and pets.
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