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5 credit card perks to be thankful for

Dawn Papandrea

November 24, 2015

Concierge services when you travel, face time with Disney characters, access to airport lounges, roadside assistance and price protection — that piece of plastic in your wallet can open doors, help you out when your car has a flat and save you money on a big purchase.

You need to know, though, what your particular card offers before you need it. Many cardholders don't.

Here are five credit card perks to be thankful for:

1. Cool experiences

You probably know all about earning credit rewards and points, but many issuers are giving customers the VIP treatment, says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group in Howell, Michigan.
For instance, as a Chase Walt Disney World cardholder, Foguth's family received one-on-one time with some Disney characters without waiting in line. “My travel agent at the time told us that because we had that card, we can have such perks on our trip,” he says.
Likewise, MasterCard offers golf packages and Priceless surprises for cardholders.
And many cards, including American Express Platinum and Navy Federal's Visa Signature card, include a concierge service that can help you get tickets to Broadway shows and into hot restaurants.

“If cardholders are booking a trip or need help with booking entertainment, they can call the concierge line to get special access to events and offers,” says Randy Hopper, vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Tip: You, too, probably can get similar VIP treatment with a card. “If you're going to go somewhere, call your credit card companies to ask if they have any special offers in that city or destination during that time frame,” says Foguth.

If cardholders are booking a trip or need help with booking entertainment, they can call the concierge line to get special access to events and offers.”
 Randy Hopper,
vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal Credit Union

2. More — and unusual — benefits

Card issuers are vying for your business, which means there are always new options and perks being offered. There are rewards cards (cash back, travel, etc.), co-branded cards for those who shop with a particular retailer, and cards for new credit users, students and those trying to rebuild credit.
And then there are more unique card bonuses…
For college students, Discover offers a card that includes an extra $20 annual cash back for good grades. Students just need a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and the bonus is good for up to five years.
Millennials and urban dwellers may prefer a card that includes 20 percent off the price of Uber rides. That's a new perk of the Capital One Quicksilver card.
If you travel a lot, American Express has a Boingo Preferred Plan that gives some cardholders free access to 1 million Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide and more.

Tip: With so many choices, it pays to do research. People who take the time to shop around when looking for a new credit card will be better off in the long run, says Hopper. Find the one card that you'll qualify for, offers favorable terms and that rewards you in some way for the kind of spending you're likely to do.

3. Discounts, price protection and extended warranties

Shoppers can save money by using their credit issuer's online “rewards mall.” Some examples include Discover Deals and the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. Cardholders using rewards malls often can find discounts and special offers from the retailers where they usually shop.

“Especially around the holidays, you can potentially get free shipping and a percentage off by using online shopping portals,” says Hopper.

And don't forget about price protection: Many cards — but not American Express — offer this, though time periods for the coverage vary and cardholders have to track the prices and submit a claim. Citi's Price Rewind makes things easier, searching for lower prices, sending an alert if one is found and inviting the cardholder to request a refund of the price difference.

Once you've bought that big-screen TV or made some other big purchase, your card also may extend the manufacturer's warranty. The programs also vary, so check the details on your card's protection.

Tip: Be a smarter shopper. Start with the rewards malls and compare the offers to other online promo codes you can find — sometimes you can stack offers to save even more. And check the price protection and extended warranty plans for your cards. Some cards even offer purchase assurance and a satisfaction guarantee.

Look at it from this standpoint: If you're going to be traveling, which card offers you the best travel benefits?”
 Michael Foguth,
founder of Foguth Financial Group

4. Travel conveniences — by air, land and sea

Cardholders can score all sorts of travel perks that can save time and aggravation.
For instance, you might be able to enjoy the comforts of an airport lounge before a flight, avoid paying airline baggage fees, or shorten the line during hotel check-ins. Another thing to ask about is lost baggage protection.
“Look at it from this standpoint: If you're going to be traveling, which card offers you the best travel benefits?” says Foguth.
Roadside assistance will come in handy, too, if your SUV breaks down on a trip. Some card issuers will dispatch help, but you'll pay all related fees when that help arrives. Others, such as American Express' Premium Roadside Assistance, will cover the costs of towing up to 10 miles, delivery of up to 2 gallons of fuel and more.

If your dream cruise is delayed, check your card's trip cancellation protection. Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the cards offering this. And when you're in exotic ports of call, not paying foreign transaction fees is something you'll be thankful for when you get back home.

Tip: If you're renting a car, compare the benefits of your various cards. One card may have more coverage, such as a collision damage waiver, says Hopper.

5. Free credit scores and credit tracking

Several cards now offer cardholders access to their FICO scores to help people better manage their credit. For example, Discover lets cardholders track their FICO scores for free on monthly statements and online. Capital One offers Credit Tracker for its cardholders.

There are all sorts of credit and money management resources that give “consumers the tools to manage their financial lives — both to stay within their means and to get the most out of their cards,” says Hopper.
“You can monitor your accounts more frequently than just your statement once a month. And you can set up alerts for email and text, so you get immediate notifications if something is changing,” says Foguth.

Tip: Cardholders now have more access to tools to help them become smarter credit users. And if questions come up, answers are just a phone call or email away.

There are indeed a lot of credit perks to be thankful for, but you might not know about them if you don't ask — or check your card's benefits online. Look into your card's perks now so you can take advantage of them when you need them.

SEE ALSO: 4 travel perks your card might have

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