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Editor’s note: Some benefits described in this article have changed since its publication. See the latest version of this story, “Purchase protection benefits: What they are, how to use them.”
If you’re using credit cards to buy holiday gifts, chances are your purchases are protected in one way or another, as 83 percent of credit cards boast benefits that may save you money – and headaches – over the coming months.
A CreditCards.com survey of 100 widely held credit cards finds four common purchase benefits – price protection, purchase security, extended warranty and return protection – are commonplace on many U.S.-issued credit cards. So that new iPhone you bought your son for Christmas using your Chase card that promptly got stolen may qualify for replacement under its purchase security protection benefit.
“I think a lot of people don’t really know what the full menu of additional benefits is on their card,” said Linda Sherry, chief spokeswoman and director of national priorities for Consumer Action. “A lot of us have the paperwork for our cards squirreled away and we don’t exactly know what’s what.”
Here’s what the CreditCards.com study reveals about credit card purchase benefits:
- Purchase benefits are popular. Most credit cards come with at least one additional cardholder perk that protects purchases, so review your card’s terms to see how you can benefit.
- Card benefits vary greatly. While payment networks (Visa, Mastercard, Discover* and American Express) set benefit guidelines, card issuers can pick and choose which benefits to add to their cards, so benefits vary from one card to the next, even if they are from the same bank and on the same network.
*Note: Since publication of this article in 2016, Discover has ceased offering purchase benefits. See “Discover drops 5 benefits for shoppers, travelers.”
- Benefit rules and restrictions apply. To take full advantage of these card perks, you’ll have to read the fine print. All benefits, regardless of the network type or card, come with lists of rules and restrictions about which purchases are eligible for coverage – and how to apply for benefit coverage.
(See survey methodology).
Current benefit offerings
More than 4 in 5 cards (83 percent) offer at least one of the four purchase benefits. Most cards – 59 percent – come with at least two. Some are more common than others:
- 81 percent offer extended warranty protection.
- 57 percent offer purchase security benefits.
- 47 percent offer price protection.
- 26 percent offer return protection.
While most cards boast more than one of these types of card perks, 17 cards surveyed by CreditCards.com offer all four – price protection, purchase security, extended warranty and return guarantee – to cardholders:
CARDS WITH ALL 4 TYPES OF PURCHASE PROTECTION
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard||Barclaycard US|
|Carnival World MasterCard||Barclaycard US|
|Citi AAdvantage Gold World Elite MasterCard||Citibank|
|Citi Diamond Preferred||Citibank|
|Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature||Citibank|
|Citi Prestige card||Citibank|
|Citi Secured Card||Citibank|
|Citi Thank You Preferred card||Citibank|
|Citi Thank You Preferred Card for College Students||Citibank|
|Frontier Airlines World MasterCard||Barclaycard US|
|Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard||Barclaycard US|
|NFL Extra Points card||Barclaycard US|
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature (no annual fee)||Barclaycard US|
To see if your card offers any of these additional benefits, see the full credit card purchase benefits data.
What the perks are and how they work
While benefit policies can vary greatly, here’s a breakdown of each purchase benefit and how they can help cardholders:
- Extended warranty: The extended warranty benefit lengthens the original manufacturer’s repair warranty when eligible items are purchased with the card. This benefit typically extends existing warranties of five years or less up to two additional years. Issuers do cap how much they will reimburse cardholders per warranty claim, usually at $10,000, CreditCards.com found. Annual reimbursement maximums for this benefit are typically $50,000 per account.
- Purchase security: This perk can replace, repair or reimburse cardholders for damaged, lost or stolen eligible items purchased with a credit card. Much like price protection policies, cardholders have to file a claim by a specified time, typically within 90 days after an incident occurred. Again, issuers cap how much they reimburse cardholders per claim, from as little as $500 to as much as $10,000, depending on the policy terms. There is also be an annual reimbursement cap, which is usually $50,000 per account, according to the CreditCards.com survey.
- Price protection: Sometimes referred to as price match, this benefit allows you to get a refund on an already-purchased item if you can find that item at a lower price. Based on the survey, cardholders may have anywhere from 60 to 120 days to file a claim after the initial purchase. However, issuers typically cap how much they reimburse a cardholder per claim – usually between $250 and $500 – and also tack on an annual price protection reimbursement maximum, usually $1,000-$2,500 per account.
- Return protection: Sometimes called “return guarantee,” this less-common card perk is intended to expand a merchant’s existing refund policy. If a cardholder cannot get a refund from a store, the card issuer may provide one. To apply for this benefit, cardholders have to file a claim with their card issuer within 90 days of purchasing the unwanted item, according to the CreditCards.com survey. This benefit has reimbursement limits, too. Most issuers limit refunds to $300, but some may give back as much as $500 per claim, CreditCards.com found. Annual reimbursement limits for this benefit are typically set at $1,000 per account.
Which cards have the best benefits?
Because card issuers can pick which benefits to add to their cards, the selection of benefits on the cards in your wallet may vary greatly.
When you see some cards are different than similar cards from other issuers, those with added benefits are examples of issuers who have hand-picked additional benefits for certain cards, according to Megan Delaney, department head and director of partnership Management at cbsi, a provider of transaction account benefits to Visa USA. Mastercard agrees. “Depending on which Mastercard they sign up for, their issuing bank will decide which type of status and benefits are available on their card,” said Mastercard spokeswoman Beth Kitchener.
In many cases, the high-end or “super prime” cards offer the better selection of benefits. For example, a World Elite-branded Mastercard typically offers more purchase benefits than a standard Mastercard — or a non-cobranded store card. This means consumers with better credit (who are typically eligible for higher-tier network cards) can get more from these additional card perks.
Item exclusions apply
While saving a few extra bucks, replacing a lost item or returning a defective product sounds great, not all purchased products are eligible.
Restrictions and exclusions vary based on the card, the issuer and even the card network, but CreditCards.com found some recurring ineligible items across most cards.
For example, jewelry, antiques, animals, plants, perishables and computer software are all items often noted as “exclusions” for purchase security and extended warranty benefits. As a rule of thumb, if a purchased item isn’t covered by your current renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy, it likely isn’t covered by a credit card purchase benefit, according to Visa.
“It all becomes a balance between risk and opportunity,” Delaney explained. “Could we offer coverage on almost any card purchase? Yeah. But would it be affordable for the issuer? No. It would drive it into an insanely expensive area where there is no return on investment.”
File claims carefully and completely
With these types of card benefits, “the devil is in the details,” said Consumer Action’s Sherry.
And those details can be hard to find. The hard copy of your cardholder benefit guide outlines any programs, but if you tossed it out and are seeking information online, you may have a tough time as not all issuers post benefit details on their websites. CreditCards.com found some issuers disclose card benefits upfront on card pages and others – such as U.S. Bank and Capital One – have direct links to cardholder benefit guides on their websites. Meanwhile, other issuers, such as Barclaycard US, advise cardholders to call customer service or refer back to their paper benefits guide.
Once you find your benefit terms, read through them carefully to determine how to take advantage of them. For example, with price protection, “You may have to tell the issuer that you bought something and now you are going to price match the cheaper price,” Sherry explained. “So it’s not always something that automatically appears on your card statement. You have to do a little legwork.”
If you want to make a claim for any of these four particular card purchase benefits, save your receipts, cardholder statements and copies of any other relevant purchase information, such as merchant advertisements. In some instances, if you are seeking purchase security for a stolen item, you may even need a copy of a filed police report.
For example, financial planner Justin Chidester and his wife bought a set of chairs for their living room, but soon noticed the chairs were selling for a lower price online. Hoping to take advantage of his credit card’s price protection feature, Justin called his issuer to file a claim. The issuer emailed him a claim application, but he quickly learned the benefit rules weren’t going work in his favor.
“Unfortunately, one of the requirements was to attach a saved copy of the advertisement showing the price of the item when I bought it. Sadly, I hadn’t done that,” he explained. “I thought it would be enough to point out the transaction on my credit card statement, and show the advertisement of the new, lower price. But, because the price had changed on the item on the website, there was no way for me to document what the price was.”
Justin’s learned from his mistake and has since used his card’s price protection benefit and had more than $100 credited back to his account. “The lesson I learned was to read the terms and conditions very carefully, because you’re not going to get a price reimbursement if you don’t document things well.”
3 steps to finding, using your card’s perks
- Review your card’s benefit guide.
Know how your card may assist you with pricing or damage issues ahead of time — and what purchases are covered — so you can take advantage of these added perks as much as you can — and at the right time.
- Save receipts.
The more paperwork and evidence you have about the purchase you want help with, the easier your benefit claim process will be. Many protections terms require specific documents to be filed with claims, too.
- File benefit claims ASAP.
Purchase protection benefits are typically only valid on purchases made — and issues that occur with them — within a specified period of time. To ensure your purchase fits the bill, file a benefit claim as soon as you can.
Holiday shopping help
Review your card’s benefits to see if the purchases you’re making – especially any gifts you may be buying this winter – qualify for any of these four card perks. If not, maybe it’s time to find a new card for your seasonal purchases.
If you’ve already been using credit cards to shop for the holidays, see if card benefits can give your already-purchased items a discount or additional protections. For example, maybe the card you used to buy a new flat-screen TV on Black Friday may further protect your purchase
when the manufacturer warranty runs out or it the TV malfunctions.
Alternatively, if you are experiencing buyer’s remorse after scoring a “deal” on Cyber Monday because you’ve now found a better advertised price for the same item, price protection could come to the rescue.
“Return protection might not be as crucial because most retailers usually offer extended return periods during this time of year anyway,” Sherry said. But, if you do run into an issue trying to return a gift you no longer want or need, see if your credit card benefits help out.
These card benefits aren’t just relevant during the holidays, either.
The 2016 Card Benefit Survey of 100 credit cards was conducted in November 2016 by CreditCards.com. The selection of reviewed cards is a representative sampling of cards from all major U.S. card issuers. Benefit information was gathered from card benefit guides, card issuer websites, and calls to issuers.
See related:Purchase protection benefit survey 2016 chart