You purchase extended warranties, you pay a ridiculously high interest rate, and you simply replace things if they get stolen or lost. Sound familiar? I was guilty of all of these – throwing away money because my shiesty credit card company never really made me aware that these were all things they covered or could be flexible on. Sure, if I felt like cozying up with a coffee and the five page small print booklet they deliver once a year I may have known, but since most people would rather read Snookie’s biography that sift through that jargon, we all get taken advantage of. Note that every card varies, and some basic cards do charge a fee for some of the benefits. So here, my friends, are the sneaky credit card benefits you don’t know about that will save you money:
You can ask for a lower APR
If you are one of those special creatures who have very few late payments, it’s worthwhile to call the number on the back of your credit card and ask for a lower interest rate. Let them know that you are planning to more aggressively pay off your debt, and are tempted to transfer your balance to one of the various 0% introductory rates being offered by other companies, but would rather stick with them if they can help you out. This actually works and never hurts to try.
You can ask for more credit
If you’re one of the lucky ones with very little debt, call up your credit card company and ask for an increase in your credit limit. As long as you can trust yourself to not go out spending like some bored socialite, this will help your credit score by increasing your credit utilization rate (the less of your credit you’re using, the better for your score).
If a company has not provided the service it promised, you can file a complaint with your credit card company and they will “chargeback” or refund your money. This generally has to be done within 60 days of the charge, and you are supposed to have attempted to solve the issue with the merchant directly first. Additionally, you must have proof in case the merchant denies your claim and if you return something by mail, make sure you get a tracking number in case the merchant claims non-receipt. When I worked in nightlife, I remember drunk idiots trying to charge back bottles they purchased the night before all the time. These guys were the worst. Not only does this never work, but you look like a D-bag, so take ownership of your stupid mistakes – it’s on camera.
This is a benefit generally offered on higher-end cards, and covers things that are lost, stolen or damaged, generally within 90 days of purchase. Every card varies on what is covered, but Amex for example will cover things like a stolen bike or even your dog chewing up your shoes. The card company may ask you to send in the damaged goods, or for example if you lost one earring they may request you send them the other one before they refund you the money to replace them. Also be sure to file a police report if an expensive item is stolen. The per-incident dollar limit can vary widely by card (anywhere from $500 to $10,000), so be sure to put your big-ticket purchases on the best card you’ve got.
Before you buy an extended warranty on anything, check with your credit card to see if they offer this as well. All American Express cards currently offer this, Visa has it on all Signature Cards, and MasterCard offers it to their Platinum, Gold and World card holders. Just call the number on the back of your card to double check, because most of these cards will double the warranty of whatever is being offered by the store or the manufacturer. Be sure to keep all of your original receipts as well as the receipts for repair costs if that is cheaper than replacement.
Even if you’ve purchased something somewhere with a limited return policy (like 30 days) – sometimes your credit card company can extend it to 90. Most cards will refund you up to $250 if you aren’t happy with a purchase and the merchant refuses to return it, with an annual max of $1000. Amex actually offers a premium return protection program for $49.99 a year to all consumers, not just cardholders, who will get 180 days to make a claim. The plan covers such items as jewelry, watches, books and DVDs for up to $600 per eligible purchase and $2,500 a year.
Rental car insurance
Most rental car companies will attempt to sell you on purchasing additional coverage – preying on your fear of crashing that economy Ford Focus and ruining your life. What you need to know is that if you get in an accident while driving a rental, your auto insurance policy will likely pay most of the damage, and your credit card company will provide secondary coverage. Credit card plans generally cover the repair or replacement of stolen or damaged rental vehicles. They also often include the charges of towing the vehicle to the nearest authorized collision repair facility. However, depending on the card’s terms, the cardholder might be charged loss-of-use fees to cover the time when the damaged car is out of service during repair. Visa offers this benefit to all card holders, but other issues only offer it at a premium level – so call first before you deny the insurance and veer off the road while texting and driving.