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Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Card?

By Allan Kunigis

  • PUBLISHED April 10
  • |
  • 8 MINUTE READ

Are you getting all of the potential perks when you use your credit card?
 
Points and cash back are major benefits, but most cards offer perks above and beyond rewards based on your spending. You may have access to offerings that will help you get more of what you want—especially if what you want is luxury travel, presale concert tickets and the occasional free drink. In many cases, all you need to do is ask. Here’s where to start.
 
Find the Right Rewards
Cash back is a universally appreciated benefit, and most cards allow you to seamlessly pay off your balance with the cash. That explains why cash-back rewards cards are nearly three times more popular than airline or hotel rewards programs. Even if you travel frequently, you can still use that cash back to pay for plane tickets or hotel stays.
 
But remember that rewards cards offer a wide range of diverse rewards besides cash back. Are you a frequent traveler? Using an airline miles reward card may get you better deals on flights when you are booking them. Do you shop at a particular store often? Using a particular store’s credit card may provide more perks—from basic benefits like free shipping to more store-specific ones, like free monogramming for your shirts.
 
Personal Assistant Included
If you are about to go on a trip and are dreading an extended layover in a city that you don’t really know, you can actually plan ahead with your credit card. You could spend your 15 hours in the airport or, if you have a credit card that offers concierge services, you can call them and get some guidance on things to do. Concierge is essentially a personal assistant hotline—you can call them and ask for help or research and they will work on it and get back to you.
 
Looking to stash your luggage at O’Hare for a few hours while you get a deep dish pizza? Concierge is a virtual assistant who will call around to find you both a place for your luggage and a recommendation for the best or closest pizza joint.
 
Not all credit card concierge services are created equal, but some can help you book restaurant reservations, arrange for local or long-distance travel, track down your briefcase after you left it in a taxi or get you access to events—sometimes even when they are sold out. If you don’t know if you have concierge service for your card, call the number on the back of your card and ask.
 
Be the First to Get Tickets
You may be able to say goodbye to the days of waiting until concert tickets go on sale and refreshing your browser until you get seats. Whatever the entertainment you’re looking for—from sporting events to the opera—you may be able to purchase presale tickets or get VIP access by buying the tickets with a little help from your credit card company. 
 
Some card companies keep blocks of tickets to specific events available only to card holders for a certain amount of time, even after the rest of the tickets go on sale. Depending on your specific card, you may be able to access your perks directly through major ticketing websites, like Ticketmaster. Many companies also have their own ticketing websites that you can log into from your credit card account.
 
Don’t Double Up Insurance
If you rent cars when you’re out of town, you should know what insurance your credit card covers. One of the most annoying situations can involve renting a car on vacation or a business trip when a car rental clerk pushes the rental company’s collision damage waiver insurance, which can add 25% to the total cost of the car rental. Are you already covered? You may be—and if you’re not sure you can usually call your bank and confirm. Finding out ahead of time will save you time.
 
Some credit cards also cover theft, damage to the rental car and more, but coverage could vary based on whether you have personal auto insurance. And the insurance coverage could vary from one credit card issuer to another. Some will automatically offer coverage even if you have your own car insurance. So, be a smart consumer and take the time to learn what your credit card covers.
 
Travel in Style
An airport lounge can feel like an oasis in an airport—a private area where you can have a complimentary coffee or cocktail, read a free newspaper and charge your laptop without fighting over outlets.
 
Not only that, but lounges often feature agents from your airline who are not as stressed as the agents at the boarding gates. Talking about changing your seat with them may be easier than someone who is trying to make announcements. If you have an airline travel card, you likely already have access to the lounge for that airline.
 
Looking for other perks while you travel? Some airline credit cards offer complimentary drinks on flights or priority boarding for cardholders. With travel cards, weigh these benefits of the card carefully against the sometimes-hefty annual membership fee to hold the card.
 
Always Look at the Net Cost
Just as you’d shop around for the best deal on a car, a vacation or another large purchase, take the time to compare your rewards card with others. Compare similar types of cards online and review the fine print on any rewards cards you currently carry.
 
Compare annual fees, interest rates and other terms. Sure, it’s a rewards card, but look at the bottom line. Make sure the rewards are worth it to you.
 
Based in Shelburne, VT, Allan Kunigis has written about banking, insurance and investments for more than two decades.

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