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Credit cards’ cash back and travel rewards programs get a lot of attention, and rightfully so. As long as you pay in full and avoid overspending, these perks represent free money. Bankrate offers a lot of good content on how to maximize credit card rewards around the holidays.
In this piece, however, I want to focus on some lesser-known — but still very valuable — credit card perks that can save you money around the holidays and throughout the rest of the year.
A few years ago, I saved about $300 on an Apple Watch repair because I paid with a credit card that offered purchase protection coverage. While the terms vary from card to card — and not every card offers this coverage — the general parameters are that damages and theft can be covered within 90 or 120 days of the purchase. Here are some of our favorite cards with purchase protection.
It’s common for credit cards to tack on extra time to a manufacturer’s warranty for TVs, appliances and other products. The best credit cards for extended warranty coverage typically offer an additional year. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing some near-term rewards for better long-term protection from a credit card that offers an especially generous extended warranty or purchase protection program. If something breaks, you’ll be glad you did.
If you pay with the right credit card, you may be able to avoid paying for a separate travel insurance policy. Certain cards offer travel benefits ranging from trip cancellation and interruption coverage to rental car insurance, compensation for lost or delayed luggage and more.
Airlines have also made their change and cancellation policies more consumer-friendly in recent years, so between those updates and the coverage your credit card might offer, there’s a good chance you’ll be covered. The top credit cards for travel insurance offer such perks for free.
Online shopping portals
I’m a big fan of stacking discounts. For example, not only can you combine a store promotion with a rewards credit card, but you can also make your purchase through an online shopping portal — representing three ways to save on the same purchase.
Popular online shopping portals include Rakuten and Shop Through Chase, though a lot of the big airlines have them as well. Essentially, they’re a form of affiliate marketing. When you log in to one of these portals and click through to a retailer’s website, you can be rewarded with additional rewards points or miles, while the referring portal likely earns some type of affiliate incentive for initiating the sale. Some portals make it even easier via browser extensions.
Learn more about how to take advantage of online shopping portals.
Card-linked offers are like digital coupons that you select through a card issuer’s website or app and load onto your card. When you make an eligible purchase, any discount is automatically applied.
Amex Offers and Chase Offers are just two examples of card issuers offering such discounts. If you own a participating card, it’s definitely worth perusing the options every few weeks. I recently saved 10 percent on my monthly internet, TV and phone bill thanks to one of these offers. I also recently used a card-linked offer at Panera Bread, and I have other deals pending the next time I buy something from ExxonMobil and Peloton.
Free ShopRunner memberships
ShopRunner is a service that provides free two-day shipping and free returns from dozens of popular retailers. It normally costs $79 per year, but many American Express and Mastercard cardholders can get a free membership. PayPal members can qualify, too.
The bottom line
Generally speaking, credit cards offer stronger rewards programs and buyer protections than other payment methods. But while cash back and travel rewards get a lot of the headlines, you may have access to more perks than you realize — including retail and travel benefits. These rewards can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars and avoid a lot of hassles, too.
Have a question about credit cards? Email me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to help.