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4 free, underused card perks

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Cashing In
Cashing In columnist Cathleen McCarthy
Cathleen McCarthy is a journalist whose articles on travel, commerce and consumer topics have appeared in dozens of publications. She writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Cashing In,
I just found your article about Museums on Us and saved a bundle last weekend visiting museums in Chicago. Now I'm wondering if I'm carrying a free pass to other things in the form of my credit cards. Do other cards offer this kind of benefit? -- Looking for Deals

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Looking for Deals,
That deal you mentioned is something Bank of America and Merrill Lynch offer with all credit and debit cards they issue. You may already know about the accident insurance included when you use certain credit cards to rent a car, and the free checked bags that come with airline credit cards, but there are other free perks like the one you mentioned.

Here are four freebies and money-savers built into credit cards: 

1. Free travel perks. MasterCard was offering a free 24-hour pass this month to try out the new Citi Bike program introduced a few months ago in New York City, but they got such a huge response, they just rescinded the offer. Everyone wants to try the spiffy blue bikes now parked all over Manhattan and Brooklyn and quite a few ended up downloading the code allowing them to swipe a MasterCard at the docking station kiosks. Too late for that one, but you can still use your MasterCard to get a free upgrade at Hertz through the end of the year -- and that one's good anywhere, not just NYC.

2. Free refunds. This  freebie can save you some money if you take advantage of it, and it works with all Citi cards. Citi Price Rewind is a price-comparison tool that lets you search for lower prices when you buy an item, either online or in store with a Citi credit card, and register it online. If Citi finds your item at least $25 lower than what you paid within 30 days of purchase, you can get back up to $250 per item and up to $1,000 annually. You don't have to sign up for Rewind, just register for an online account and log in. 

3. Free companion tickets. Some cards offer free companion tickets as part of a sign-up bonus, others (usually of the $400-plus annual fee variety) offer it as an annual bonus. The Platinum Delta Skymiles card will give you a free domestic companion ticket each year you pay the annual fee of $150. Given the many other benefits of this card, including the ability to earn elite-qualifying miles, some would say that perk pays for itself.

4. Free museum admission. There is no time limit on this one and, as you discovered, it works with any credit or debit card issued by Bank of America -- but only on the first weekend of the month. Just show your card at the reception desk and museum admission is waived. It's worth repeating since people are always pleasantly surprised, even though it's been around for years. Museums on Us now works at more than 150 cultural institutions in 93 cities nationwide. You can find a complete list by state here. The next eligible weekends are Oct. 5-6, Nov. 2-3, and Dec. 7-8, 2013.

See related: 11 hidden credit card perks, Walmart gift cards best use of your Bank of America Worldpoints? , Booking via travel website may affect reward miles, perks

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Published: September 17, 2013



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