When deciding on a new credit card, most Americans focus on perks such as reward programs, free FICO credit scores, and generous introductory offers. These are certainly important, but they represent just a small portion of the benefits that many credit cards offer. With that in mind, here are nine perks offered by many major credit cards that might be some of the most valuable benefits your credit card offers.
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1. Extended warranties
Many credit cards offer as much as a year of extended warranty protection on certain purchases made with the card. In order to qualify, products must have an existing manufacturer's warranty -- it doesn't create a new warranty for products that ordinarily wouldn't have one. However, this benefit could potentially turn a two-year manufacturer's warranty into three years, so it's certainly valuable.
2. Concierge service
Many credit cards, especially those with high annual fees or high spending limits, offer a concierge service. Visa Signature and MasterCard World Elite credit card products have a concierge service, as do premium cards like the Platinum Card from American Express. Lots of cardholders don't take advantage of these services (I'm guilty of this), but around the holidays, it may be worth trying. Concierge services can help with travel planning, event tickets, and restaurant reservations -- even if the event is sold out or the restaurant claims to be booked up.
3. Return protection
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Many credit card issuers offer return protection programs -- that is, they will accept returns in certain cases even if a merchant won't. For example, American Express' return protection program will reimburse cardholders with this benefit for an eligible item within 90 days from the date of purchase, up to $300, with certain exclusions.
4. Price matching
If trying to find the best possible price around the holiday season drives you crazy, you should look into getting a credit card that offers price matching. To name one example, Citi has an excellent price-matching feature where cardholders register their purchases and are automatically refunded the difference if Citi finds the same item for sale at a cheaper price within 60 days. There are obviously some exceptions, but this can take the "Did I really get the best deal?" worries out of much of your holiday shopping.
5. Rental car insurance
If you plan to rent a car during your holiday travels, it's worth checking whether any of your credit cards offer rental car insurance. Many credit cards provide rental car insurance, which works as a supplement to your personal auto insurance policy. Coverage varies among card issuers, as do exclusions -- for example, exotic and expensive cars are typically excluded, and cars rented in certain international locations may not be covered. If your card does provide this coverage, it could easily save you $15 or more per day when you decline a car rental company's damage waiver.
6. Travel insurance
There are several forms of travel insurance offered by credit card issuers. For example, Visa Signature-branded credit cards offer trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel delay expense reimbursement, and travel accident insurance. If your checked bags contain hundreds or thousands of dollars' worth of holiday gifts, this could certainly be a valuable benefit if the airline loses your bag -- not that this ever happens.
7. Free checked bags
While they tend to have above-average annual fees, many airline co-branded credit cards offer free checked bags, which can save you lots of money on holiday travel, especially if you travel with your family. For example, my Delta-branded American Express credit card not only lets me check a bag for free, but the other people on my reservation get the privilege, as well (up to eight people plus the cardholder). This perk can save a family of four $200 in baggage fees on a round-trip flight.
8. No foreign transaction fees
Many credit cards charge a fee for purchases made outside the United States; this is known as a foreign transaction fee. These fees vary, but the industry standard is 3% of the purchase amount. However, many cards don't charge foreign transaction fees, which could translate into hundreds of dollars in savings if you're planning to travel internationally this holiday season. Travel-oriented credit cards tend to have this perk, as do all credit cards issued by Capital One.
9. Theft and damage coverage
If you buy an item, and it gets damaged or stolen, your credit card issuer may be willing to replace it. For example, certain MasterCard credit cards are eligible for up to $1,000 in coverage per incident for stolen items that qualify. Of course, there are some exclusions, but if you buy an expensive electronic device that ends up getting stolen, this could instantly become one of your card's most valuable perks.
How to find credit cards with the perks you need
As the title of this article suggests, these perks are often overlooked. Consumers and credit card issuers often focus on the "headline perks" -- that is, rewards programs, sign-on bonuses, and 0% intro APR offers. Many of our favorite credit cards offer some of these overlooked perks, but to find them, you'll probably have to read past the headlines.
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Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.