- Travel rewards credit cards allow users to earn miles and points with regular purchases, but the card’s benefits can be very valuable as well.
- In some cases, it may be worth paying a higher annual fee to get access to premium benefits like airport lounges or status matching.
- Every card and issuer offers its own unique combination of purchase, travel, and other benefits. It’s up to you to decide which you value most when picking your credit cards.
- Try the free CardMatch tool at CreditCards.com to find the right credit card with the perks you value most »
Some people only look at the sign-up bonus or miles and points rewards when picking a credit card, but they might be missing out on some important features they should consider. In addition to miles and points, credit cards can offer a slew of benefits that can save you money, improve your travel, and unlock experiences you couldn’t access with cash or a debit card.
As someone who has 14 cards and looks at credit card features seemingly every day, I look out for certain key features when choosing cards of my own. From my daily cards in my wallet to the occasional-use cards I keep locked away at home, here are some benefits I look for when choosing a credit card.
When you buy an item in-store or online, you probably plan for it to work out well and meet your needs. But sometimes, a product doesn’t work out as planned. I’ve had more than a few items prove sour from the start or go bad far sooner than I would have expected.
For example, I bought a robot vacuum last year on Amazon that stopped working just a few weeks after the warranty expired. If I had used debit for that purchase, I would be out of luck and have to pay for repair or replacement out of pocket. I’m glad I used a credit card with extended warranty protection that will pick up the cost instead.
Here are some of the most important purchase benefits I look for in a credit card:
- Purchase protection: This benefit acts as insurance for new purchases, typically for 90 days or 120 days after buying something new and paying with the card. If you buy a new cell phone and the screen cracks four weeks later, you’ll be glad you have this backup plan.
- Extended warranty: This protection usually adds a year of warranty protection on top of what the manufacturer provides where eligible. See the vacuum situation above for why I’m glad I have it.
- Price protection: It’s so frustrating to buy something and see the price drop just a few weeks later. This benefit will refund the difference if the retailer won’t.
- Return protection: Some stores have really bad return policies. If you buy something that doesn’t work out and the store won’t take it back, this benefit may reimburse you for the cost.
While I have had Southwest and American Airlines hold planes due to tight connections and delays, it doesn’t always work out that way. For instance, United “doesn’t hold the plane for anyone,” according to the company’s CEO. I felt the wrath of that experience five years ago and spent a night in San Francisco, at my expense. Like several others who ran to make a connection for the last flight of the night to Santa Barbara from SFO, I made it in time to watch the plane sit there for ten minutes before backing out and flying away.
Had I used my primary travel credit card I use today (the Chase Sapphire Reserve), my card would have paid for the San Francisco hotel nigh. Here are some favourite benefits that can save time, money, and hassle when away from home.
- Rental car insurance: One thing I know is going to happen on trips from time to time is car rentals. With this benefit, you can sign the waiver and skip paying for the add-on price of insurance through the rental company.
- Trip cancellation insurance: If a member of your family ends up in the hospital, you don’t want to get stuck paying for that trip you had planned as well. If you pay for a trip with a card that has this benefit, you’ll get your money back if you can’t go on your trip for a covered reason.
- Trip interruption insurance: See the story above about the night in San Francisco to see when this would have helped me. If a trip is interrupted due to weather or another covered reason, your card will pay for the cost of getting back on track.
- Late and lost baggage coverage: Most frequent travellers have a late or lost luggage story. This benefit will replace lost luggage and items or pay for some new clothes and toiletries if your bags are delayed.
Premium travel benefits
If you want to take your travel experience to the next level, try out an airport lounge. These premium lounges offer clean, comfortable places away from the hustle bustle of the terminal to get complimentary drinks and food, fast wifi, and much better bathrooms.
Depending on the airline and airports you use most, one card may be better than another. I get in with my Priority Pass Select membership from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Here are some perks you may enjoy.
- Lounge access: Airport lounges are pretty awesome. With the right credit card, your membership is covered.
- Status: The Platinum Card® from American Express is an example of a card that gives you gold-level hotel status on multiple brands. That can include hotel executive lounge access, faster internet, room upgrades, and more.
- Global Entry / TSA PreCheck credit:Global Entry and TSA PreCheck help you skip lines and get through security and customs faster at participating airports. Some credit cards will pay for your membership fee through a statement credit.
Other useful perks
Some cards give you exclusive access to presales, concierge services, and other perks. I don’t use these that often, but on occasion, they come in handy.
For my anniversary, I bought presale tickets to the upcoming Rolling Stones tour using an American Express presale. Capital One cardholders have exclusive ticket access for the upcoming New York Food & Wine Festival and iHeart Radio Festival. If you are a foodie or music aficionado, getting first access to tickets could be the difference between going and not making it in the door.
While I don’t consider these benefits make or break, I’m glad to know I have them when I’m looking for an exclusive experience at a restaurant or tickets to a favourite show.
Don’t ignore your benefits
A huge number of people get credit cards but never bother to look through the benefits. Don’t be that person! Instead, put your card to good use to maximise the value you get in return. I get hundreds if not thousands of dollars from my card’s benefits every year. With the right card and knowledge of how it works, you can do the same.
Try the free CardMatch tool at CreditCards.com to find the right credit card with the perks you value most »
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