Lesser-known credit card perks

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Earning cash back or airline rewards are two major credit card perks, but they are not the only ones that credit cards offer. That little piece of plastic in your wallet can do a lot more for you, if you don’t shortchange yourself. Read on for a list of lesser-known credit card perks.

Rental Car Insurance

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover — the four major credit card networks — all offer rental car insurance. However, the specifics and requirements for each widely vary.

In general, most cards offer secondary rental insurance and cover only certain damages not covered by your regular car insurance policy. There are cards that offer primary coverage, so call your credit card company to verify before you book. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to refuse the extra insurance offered by the car rental agency to use primary or secondary rental insurance from your credit card.

Also, it’s not enough to just have a credit card with coverage in your wallet — to receive any rental car insurance, you need to book the car with that card. Make sure the reservation is in your name, too.

Free Credit Monitoring

Keeping tabs on your FICO score can help you keep track of how your credit is trending. It used to be that you had to pay to find out your FICO score, but many cards now provide your FICO score on your monthly statement for free. Other cards let you access your score online at anytime; you can see it whenever you log into your account.

Cards that offer free FICO scores include those issued by Capital One, Citi, Discover, US Bank, American Express, Bank of America, Barclaycard US, and Chase. If you carry more than one of these cards, you may notice slight differences between the FICO scores they provide — that’s because card companies use reports from different credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian). If you notice a huge discrepancy, take note: it could be a red flag letting you know that something funky or fraudulent is happening in your name.

Purchase Protection

Most credit card companies provide purchase protection for lost, damaged or stolen items paid for with their credit card. Each policy is different and limits vary, too. Some may try to repair the item first while others refund the entire cost of the item.

Protections are typically restricted to 90 days after purchase, so if you drop your new iPhone 91 days after you’ve bought it, you’re out of luck. Keep in mind that damage and theft protection are more common than loss protection, but some companies will back you up if you inadvertently lose a valuable purchase.

Price Rollback Protection

It can be frustrating to make a purchase (especially an expensive one) only to discover the price is lowered not long after. If you swiped with your credit card when you bought the item, however, you can do more than bemoan the sales cycles that vex you. You may be able to get some money back through price rollback protection.

Not all credit cards offer this perk, and it’s often called by various names: price protection, price rewind, and price rollback. It works like this: if you buy an item with your credit card and see a lower price up to 60-90 days after your purchase, you can receive a refund for the difference. The exact timeframe varies by card, and of course there are exclusions and limitations. For instance, most cards have a limit on how much you can get back per transaction — between $250-$500 is common — and limit how many claims you can make or how much refund money you can receive within a 12-month period. It still pays to be a savvy shopper, because you can’t use price protection for every purchase you make.

With most cards you’ll need to fill out a claim form and have an itemized receipt that shows the exact item with the same model, manufacturer, etc. Some cards, like certain Citi cards, let you register a purchase online and then the website searches online for a lower price. If they find one, the difference is automatically refunded.

Extended Warranties

Here’s another reason to hold onto your receipts for larger purchases — many credit card issuers offer an extended warranty that can tack on up to an extra year of warranty coverage on your purchase. Specifics and exceptions vary by card, but in most cases, you just need the original receipt, your credit card receipt (make sure you paid for the product entirely with your credit card) and the original manufacturer warranty details.

Return Protection

Got buyer’s remorse but the store says all sales are final? There may be an easy solution if the credit card you used to purchase the item offers some type of return protection. This may be listed in your card benefits statement — that notice you get in the mail annually but toss in the trash without reading — under a name like “return guarantee,” “satisfaction guarantee,” or “return protection.” There are limits to the time and cost, but generally if you are unhappy with a purchase that was a couple hundred bucks or less, and the store won’t let you return it, the card issuer will make it right by refunding the money on your next statement.