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Under-the-radar credit card perks you should know

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No matter if you’re in the market for a new travel rewards card or a student credit card, you’re most likely doing a bit of research beforehand to see what perks each option has to offer.

Depending on both the issuer and the specific card you’re looking at, benefits can vary; this makes it all the more important to read through your card’s terms and conditions to know exactly what you have access to.

Here are a few under-the-radar (but useful) credit card benefits and what they typically consist of.

Free trial cancellation

If you’ve ever signed up for a free trial only to later be hit with charges when it ended, you know how frustrating it can be. However, Mastercard and Visa don’t think you should be surprised by a subscription charge and have put new rules into place to protect you.

As of January 2020 (Visa followed suit in mid-April), merchants are required to get cardholder approval at the end of a free trial before they can start billing you. More specifically, issuers are being asked to send a notification in a timely fashion by email or text before the trial period ends and payments begin.

Notification should include a simple mechanism for cancellation, such as a link. Other details should include the transaction amount, payment date, merchant name and explicit instructions on how to cancel.

If you decide to keep the service, all charges that appear on your statement should now include the merchant website URL or the phone number of the store where you made the purchase. Additionally, each payment after the trial should include a receipt with instructions for how to cancel the service when you’re ready to do so.

The terms and conditions for using the service should be clear from the moment of enrollment. With more transparency about what happens when free trials end, you, as the consumer, can make more informed decisions about how you want to move forward.

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Sometimes travel plans don’t work out. Your flight may be delayed or canceled due to bad weather, or you may have to pause a trip due to circumstances outside of your control (namely, the coronavirus pandemic).

If you find yourself in a situation with a non-refundable plane ticket that you won’t be able to use, this perk can offer some support. As a common offering for travel rewards cards, coverage becomes available when you use your credit card to pay for your travel expenses. In the event that your trip is canceled or delayed due to factors outside of your control, your travel expenses will be refunded up to a certain amount. This is true even for expenses that are non-refundable through the provider.

Luggage protection

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find that your luggage isn’t there to meet you. In the event that your luggage is lost or delayed, time will most likely be taken out of your trip to resolve the issue (such as a quick trip to the nearest shop to replace clothing and toiletries).

Luggage protection benefits will cover your luggage if it is lost temporarily or permanently, and coverage kicks in when you purchase your airfare with your credit card. If your luggage is temporarily lost, you’ll be reimbursed for any expenses you may incur to replace items until your luggage is returned. Usually, coverage will provide up to $100 a day. If your luggage is permanently lost, coverage will reimburse you for the value of your lost luggage.

Priority boarding and free checked bags

If you’ve ever been upgraded on a flight, you know how good it can feel to board the plane early. You don’t have to fight for overhead bin space for your carry-on and you have more time to relax before the flight.

For those who want a chance at priority boarding, certain credit cards can help. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers preferred boarding when you the card to pay for your airfare.

This benefit is common for co-branded airline credit cards but is also provided by some travel rewards cards. An added bonus offered by these same cards is that the cost of your checked baggage may also be covered. Depending on the issuer, you may even be able to use this perk to cover more than one bag and possibly the luggage for fellow travelers.

Airport lounge access

This is a common benefit for co-branded airline credit cards and higher-tier rewards cards and normally doesn’t require additional purchases to be made to access the perk. Sometimes this perk will extend access to your fellow travelers, as well. Other times, traveling companions are allowed access but must pay a fee.

Lounges can be great places to wait for your flight instead of crowding with others at the gate. Most lounges offer some complimentary snacks, drinks and Wi-Fi. Though, if you’re looking for something more luxurious, a higher-tier card like The Platinum Card® from American Express should be on your radar. It offers access to American Express’ Centurion Clubs, some of which offer gourmet meals and spa services.

Auto rental collision damage waiver

Renting a car when you’re traveling can give you the freedom to come and go as you please.

Whether you’re renting a car for business or leisure, insurance is a must. This benefit provides secondary coverage to your primary insurance policy. As a secondary policy, the benefit will kick in to cover whatever the primary insurance policy does not.

Though this is a common benefit for travel cards, it’s usually only applicable if the rental is paid for with the credit card in question and put in the cardholder’s name.

Purchase protection

While ordering packages from the comfort of your own home is great, it can have a few downsides. For one, there’s a possibility that an item will arrive damaged. But even worse, someone may simply walk away with your package before you know it has even arrived.

When this happens it can feel like you’ve simply lost your money, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Purchase protection covers the replacement of purchases you make that end up stolen or damaged. Just keep in mind most issuers that offer this benefit put a cap on the amount you can be refunded each year or the number of purchases you can claim. You also normally have to make your claim within a specific timeframe of making the purchase.

Extended warranties

When you buy a big-ticket item like a television or a computer, your purchase will come with a warranty. This warranty covers any issues you may have with your purchase for a specific timeframe. But what happens if your new computer conks out a few days after the warranty expires? That’s where an extended warranty benefit comes in.

If you make your purchase with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll be covered by an extended warranty benefit that extends the manufacturer’s warranty period. The extension is usually a year of extra coverage but can sometimes be longer. Much like a manufacturer’s warranty, this extended warranty will cover the cost to repair or replace an item up to the original purchase price.

Cell phone protection

For many of us, our cell phones are like lifelines. Not only do they connect us to loved ones and friends but can also be our main way to access the Internet.

While this benefit can’t necessarily bring your old phone back to life, it can reimburse you for the cost of your cell phone in the event that it is stolen or damaged (less a $25 deductible with a maximum benefit limit of $600 per claim and $1,200 per 12 month period).

To be able to take advantage of this benefit, you need to use your credit card — such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card — to pay your monthly cell phone bill. Keep in mind there’s normally a cap on the number of claims you can make in a year and each individual claim amount.

The information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has been collected independently by The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Travel accident insurance

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or are simply planning a family trip, travel insurance is a good thing to have in case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance.

No one plans to have an accident on a trip, but things happen. Whether you hit a bad wave while learning to surf or have a fender bender in your rental car, you’ll want to have coverage. If your issuer provides travel accident insurance, it will kick in when you purchase your fare with your credit card. In the event that you pass away or have a serious accident, you could be covered for up to $500,000 or more depending on your injuries and your issuer’s policy.

Bottom line

Credit cards are not just handy tools to use for shopping and earning rewards. When considering today’s best credit cards, take some time to also research the benefits that each offers. While you may initially be attracted to a card because of its generous welcome bonus, it could also offer some great protections for you and your future purchases.