Travel FAQ: Things You Might Not Know About Your Credit Card

September 23, 2020

This is part of a series on frequently-asked travel questions.  This specific post dives into some of the different best credit card benefits that you might not even know about!  You would be shocked how much money you may save over time just by becoming knowledgeable about perks you already have access to.

What You May Not Know About Your Credit Card Benefits | What are the best credit card perks and benefits? Most cards have so many perks and benefits that most people don't know about and never use--and so they're leaving money on the table! From insurance and reimbursements, warranties, subscriptions, access to lounges, and so much more, here are some of the best credit card benefits to look for and how they work! #creditcards #travelhacks #lifehacks

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Every card is different, so you’ll need to dig into exactly what credit card benefits you might have to choose from…and if you have multiple cards then you should think about how to choose cards with complementary rewards and benefits.

For purposes of explanation I’ll be mostly explaining some that are on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, as well as some different ones on my Delta Skymiles Platinum.

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First, let’s talk about the baseline rewards, usually in points or cash back.  I won’t spend much time here, since I’m more focused on other benefits and perks, not rewards.  There are many different structures, and you have to figure out what’s right for you.

What will you pay for the most on this card?  Do you want more points/cash back on groceries and gas?  On restaurants?  Travel?  And then there are limited-time points that often have specific card partnerships (e.g. my Chase Sapphire is currently also offering 5x points on Lyft rides).

One other thing that is technically a credit card benefit but to me is totally non-negotiable is no foreign transaction fees.  A foreign transaction fee is usually around 3%, so if you spend $5,000 internationally you’d pay $150 in fees on a card that charges fees.  I travel abroad so much that this is a must-have.

Check out my Travel FAQ on How to Deal with Money Overseas

Get to know your card - these are some of the best credit card benefits and perks around

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So here are some of the best credit card benefits out there…but by no means the only ones.  Do your research and see what your cards offer and what you’d actually use.  I’ve broken these down into two main categories of perks—protection (insurance and reimbursement) and subscriptions (access or assistance).

Protection (insurance and reimbursement)

Ultimately this is about peace of mind…many credit card benefits are about reimbursing you if something goes wrong, giving you an extra layer of protection (not always standalone).

Rental car insurance

This is the one credit card perk I actually USE regularly, and it has saved me SO much money over the years!  Rental car insurance (damage waivers) typically cost $10 to $30 per day (and can be even higher depending on your destination), which can double the cost of the rental or more—so this is *clutch*.

And yes, I have actually had to test out how well it works…even recently.  I’ve had everything from a massively cracked windshield in New Zealand, to most recently getting caught in an insane hailstorm in South Dakota.  The ultimately $4,000+ damage bill was covered by the benefits company and I was home free.

It’s critical to find out ahead of time what you have to do to fulfill the terms.  Usually this includes the booking being in your name and on your card (though other drivers on the rental agreement are usually covered).  You typically have to decline all coverage offered by the rental car company, and there are many countries and types of vehicles that are excluded.  Additionally personal injury and theft of personal belongings are typically not included.

Rental car insurance is one of the best credit card benefits for someone like me!

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Trip interruption/cancellation insurance (like injury)

If you have to cancel or cut a trip short and can’t get refunded for pre-paid travel expenses then you can file a claim and should be able to get reimbursed.  Whether due to illness, injury, weather, terrorist action, jury dury…the list is pretty decent.

This covers the main cardholder but also family members (if their travel was booked on the card).  I’ve only had to use this once or twice, but it came through in the clutch.  I absolutely destroyed my ankle a few weeks before a solo trip to Quebec City.  There was no way I’d be able to get around on crutches and flying wasn’t great for me, so I had to cancel the trip and both my hotel and flight were non-refundable.

This coverage DEFINITELY does not cover everything, so make sure you read the benefits details very carefully.  You still should consider looking into real comprehensive travel insurance for certain types of trips at least, but it’s a really helpful option to have.

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Trip delay insurance

I’m kind of annoyed that I’ve never used this…I totally forgot it existed and I could have saved some money.  Basically, if your travel (on a common carrier) is delayed more than 12 hours or requires you to stay overnight, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses (e.g. lodging or meals).  On my card it covers up to $500 per ticket, which isn’t chump change.

Baggage delay insurance

This will reimburse you for essential items if your baggage is delayed (over 6 hours).  It’s only $100 per day on my card for up to 5 days, but this could certainly help get some toiletries and bare bones clothes if you bag doesn’t make it to your destination on time.

Luggage lost or delayed? Your credit card perks might have you covered

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Lost luggage reimbursement

In a similar vein, if an airline (train, cruise ship, etc.) loses your luggage or contents within it, this covers you for pretty significant reimbursement for replacing both the actual luggage and the contents.  My Chase card covers up to $3,000 per person per trip.

Purchase protection 

This gives short-term coverage (120 days from purchase) on items bought with the card.  On my Chase Sapphire this is only up to $500 per item, but say you just bought something and it gets damaged or stolen in a way that’s not covered by the manufacturer or other insurance you hold (e.g. homeowners), this could be really helpful.

Product warranties, insurance, and more - the best credit card benefits

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Extended warranties

Say you buy a fancy new food processor, or a vacuum cleaner, or…take your pick.  The product usually comes with a valid original manufacturer-written U.S. repair warranty of 3 years or less (often only 1 year), and so the credit card will extend the manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year so if something happens you’re covered.

This doesn’t cover every type of purchase (for instance, pre-owned/used items or any kind of vehicle are excluded), but can definitely help you out.

Travel accident insurance

If you get injured traveling, it’s worth looking into whether it’s covered here.  There is a LOT of fine print on this one and hopefully you also have personal health insurance and other things, but this might help offset or cover certain types of accidents or injuries.

(I do find it amusing that on several of these different insurance coverages “A declared or undeclared war” is listed as one of the exclusions.  Um…noted?)

Subscriptions or assistance/referral

Okay, switching gears to a different type of benefit.  This is a bit of a catch-all, but includes subscriptions or access to certain services or perks (often while traveling).

Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-Check (or Clear or whatever)

I’m a huge Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check fan, and have had them for almost 5 years (on that note, need to look into my renewal…).  Some cards will reimburse you for some or all of the fee for this program, though passing the background check is on you.

Lounge access or similar perks

YAS.  This isn’t hugely common but certainly for airline credit cards it is, and then other cards will sometimes offer access to Priority Pass or something similar.  Again, read the fine print because those “lounge subscriptions” may or may not do you a ton of good.

But for me, having access to Delta lounges was the #1 reason I got their credit card (and upgraded to the higher level).  Now that I live in Louisville, layovers are a regular part of life and it’s worth it to splurge on lounge perks.

For someone like me, lounge access is one of the best credit card benefits around

Roadside dispatch

For me this isn’t as useful since I have AAA, but this at least gives you a place to start if you have car trouble.  It doesn’t actually cover the cost of the service though they seem to have some pre-negotiated flat rates for certain things like towing or tire change.

If you’re in a rental car, make sure to contact the rental company first, as they usually are on the hook for taking care of things like breakdowns.

Visa Signature Concierge Service

Honestly I’ve never used it and so not sure if it’s all that useful.  They say it’s to help get tickets to sporting events, concerts, great dinner reservations, and more.  I need to give it a try sometime just to get a sense of value.  (Holler at me in the comments if you’ve used it!)

Travel and emergency assistance

This is a bit of a catch-all, but this service can help make legal or medical referrals while you’re away from home, or help you get travel or emergency assistance.  This isn’t covering any costs, just connecting you to people who can help.  It’s a pretty broad offering…need an emergency translator?  Help getting a prescription filled?  An English-speaking attorney?

When you’re away from home you obviously don’t have all your normal life infrastructure (and if you’re out of the country you might not speak the language or know how the systems work), so this can be a big help.  I haven’t used this with my personal credit card, but my old corporate card had a similar offering and I had to use it a couple times.

So what credit card benefits could be saving you money??

Hopefully this has given you an idea of all the different credit card benefits your cards might have, and which you should have been taking advantage of before now.  Even compiling this has made me realize that I’ve missed out on saving money with perks I didn’t realize I had!

And obviously this list isn’t exhaustive.  There are lots of different additional complimentary offerings, limited-time or permanent credit card perks ranging from a DoorDash “DashPass” monthly subscription (free delivery) to cellphone protection (clutch when you crack your screen).  Dig into what you have (or what a prospective card has) and see what works for you!

Other trip planning resources to help you out:

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Travel FAQ: What You May Not Know About Your Credit Card Benefits | What are the best credit card benefits? Most cards have so many perks and benefits that most people don't know about and never use--and so they're leaving money on the table! From insurance and reimbursements, warranties, subscriptions, access to lounges, and so much more, here are some of the best credit card benefits to look for and how they work! #creditcards #travelhacks #lifehacks

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