Whether you’re in the market for a new travel rewards card or a student credit card, you’re probably doing some research to see what perks each card offers. Depending on both the issuer and the specific card you’re looking at, benefits can vary — which is why you should read a card’s terms and conditions to see what you have access to.
It’s a good idea to decide which perks will benefit you most. If you’re a frequent traveler, for example, airport lounge access or travel insurance might be worth that annual fee. Likewise, a no-fee cash back card might have insurance and warranties you can use.
With this in mind, here are a few under-the-radar (but useful) credit card benefits, and a few top credit cards available in each category.
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.
If you find yourself in a situation with a non-refundable plane ticket that you won’t be able to use, travel insurance 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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best travel credit cards for trip cancellation insurance:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Trip cancellation and interruption insurance of up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. This covers non-refundable travel costs like flights, hotels or site-seeing tours.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Trip cancellation and interruption insurance up to $10,000 per trip and up to $20,000 per eligible card every 12 months.
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Trip cancellation and interruption insurance up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per covered trip.
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).
Most travel credit cards offer specialized travel benefits designed to take some of the hassle out of travel. 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. If your luggage is permanently lost, coverage will reimburse you for the value of your lost luggage.
Here are a few of our picks for the best travel credit cards for luggage protection:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Lost luggage reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Lost luggage insurance up to $2,000 per bag and $3,000 per trip.
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: Lost luggage reimbursement up to $5,000.
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.
This benefit is common for co-branded airline credit cards but it is also provided by some travel rewards cards. An added bonus offered by these same cards: 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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best airline credit cards for priority boarding and free checked baggage:
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Main Cabin 1 priority boarding and one free checked bag when you fly Delta flights.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Cardholders and up to six companions on the same reservation get a free checked bag on Alaska flights.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®*: Preferred boarding privileges and one free checked bag on domestic itineraires.
Airport lounge access
Airports are not the most comfortable places to hang out, especially when you have a few hours to kill before a flight. However, airport lounge access makes lingering around an airport worth it. Anyone can snag a membership at an airport lounge, but if you carry the right credit card, you may be able to walk in for free.
Airport lounge access is sometimes found in co-branded airline credit cards and higher-tier rewards cards, and they normally don’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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best travel credit cards for airport lounge access:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Priority Pass Select membership with complimentary access to over 1,300 VIP airport lounges across more than 500 cities worldwide.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Priority Pass Select membership with complimentary access to over 1,300 lounges around the world, plus unlimited access to the issuer’s brand-new Capital One Lounge with two complimentary guest passes per year.
- The Platinum Card from American Express: Access to Delta Sky Clubs (for Delta flights only), Airspace, Plaza Premium, and Lufthansa lounges, plus a Priority Pass Select membership and access to Amex Centurion Lounges worldwide.
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, rental car insurance is a must. Many credit cards include some form of coverage called a collision damage waiver. 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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best credit cards for rental car insurance:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Auto rental collision damage waiver for rentals purchases with your Sapphire Preferred card. This covers theft and collision damage for up to the cash value of the car being rented.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Auto rental collision damage waiver for rentals purchases with your Ink Business Preferred card. This covers theft and collision damage for up to the cash value of the car being rented.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Auto rental collision damage for theft or collision (up to the vehicle’s actual cash value of $75,000).
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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best credit cards for purchase protection:
- Chase Freedom Flex℠: Coverage for damage or theft for up to 120 days with a maximum benefit of $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Coverage for damage or theft for up to 120 days with a maximum benefit of $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: American Express purchase protection for up to 90 days from the date of purchase, and the maximum claim amount is limited to $1,000 per covered purchase (up to $50,000 per year, per covered card).
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.
Here are a few of our picks for the best credit cards for extended warranties:
- American Express® Gold Card: The Gold Card lengthens the original manufacturer’s warranty by up to one year for wannaties of five years or less. The maximum coverage amount per item is $10,000 (up to $50,000 per eligible card).
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less on items purchased with your card are extended by one year. The maximum coverage amount per claim is $10,000 (up to $50,000 per account).
For many of us, our cellphones are like lifelines. Not only do they connect us to loved ones and friends, but they can also be our main way to access the internet. In the case that something happens to your cellphone, your credit card may have your back.
While this benefit can’t necessarily bring your old phone back to life, it can reimburse you for the cost of your cellphone in the event that it is stolen or damaged.
To be able to take advantage of this benefit, you need to use your credit card to pay your monthly cellphone 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.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Cardholders or the employees listed on the monthly cellphone bill paid by your card receive up to $1,000 per claim (three claims per 12 months with a $100 deductible) in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage.
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card: Coverage against damage or theft for up to $600 per claim (with a $25 deductible) each month you pay your cellphone bill with your card.
- Chase Freedom Flex: Coverage up to $800 per claim ($1,000 yearly coverage, up to two claims per year) in the event of theft or damage to your cellphone paid for by your Freedom Flex. A $50 deductible per claim applies.
The 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 with its more under-the-radar perks.