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While we often focus on the points or cash back that rewards credit cards offer, they also come with a lot of other benefits that get overlooked, like free shipping on online purchases or extended warranties. Ignoring their value can be a mistake.
If your rewards cards do come with any of these lesser-known benefits, which are often provided by the card network and not the card issuer, then you might need to opt in or sign up to get the full benefit. Otherwise, you risk losing out on the potential value, which can be as wasteful as letting rewards points expire without ever using them.
Here are six hidden benefits of rewards cards to take advantage of today:
1. Free shipping
World Mastercards and American Express cards come with a ShopRunner membership, which offers free two-day shipping (and return shipping) at over a hundred online retailers. In order to get the benefit, you need to create a ShopRunner account; then you can select it as an option when you’re checking out from eligible online stores. Terms apply.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best rewards credit cards
2. Extended warranties and purchase protection
American Express cards offer extended warranties for up to one additional year beyond the original manufacturer’s warranty. They also come with purchase protection, which means you could get your covered purchases reimbursed if they are accidentally damaged, stolen or lost within 90 days of purchase. As with many of these benefits, you need to use the card to make the purchase in order to be protected. Terms apply.
Visa Signature cards also offer extended warranty protection for up to an additional year. (The length of time depends on the manufacturer's warranty.) Visa Infinite cards offer purchase protection; just be sure to file a police report within 48 hours if the item is stolen.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best cash-back credit cards
3. Return assistance
Some Visa, American Express and Mastercards come with return protection, which means you can get some extra help if you’re having trouble getting a retailer to accept your return. Cards vary in the amount of time they give you to make the return and the amount covered. Also, you typically need to try to first make the return with the retailer directly. Terms apply.
Store cards can sometimes offer additional help. The Target REDcard™ Credit Card, for example, gives you an extra 30 days to make returns.
4. Fraud protection
Unlike cash, credit cards come with fraud protection, which means your money is safe even if your credit card is stolen. Many card issuers offer additional protections, too, ranging from the ability to quickly lock your card if needed to credit monitoring and even monitoring the dark web for signs of identity theft.
Card issuers spell out their fraud protection offerings on their websites, making it easy to check if you’re not sure. Search for the name of your card issuer along with “fraud protection.”
In recent years, many card issuers have scaled back some of the secondary benefits they offer, including perks like price protection and rental insurance. If you’re not sure what benefits your card currently offers, you can check online or call your card issuer to ask.
5. Cell phone insurance
A slew of card networks and card issuers offer cell phone insurance, which can come in really handy next time you drop or lose your phone. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card are among those that do. Mastercard also added the benefit for World and World Elite cardholders in 2019.
6. Travel help
Travel insurance, rental car insurance, roadside assistance — these are just some of the popular travel benefits that come with many rewards cards. These perks can help you if your flight gets canceled or baggage gets delayed, or even if you get hurt while traveling. For these trip protection benefits, check out which credit cards provide complimentary travel insurance.
Generally, you have to make your travel purchase with the card that has the benefit in order to receive it, and sometimes you have to opt in to it, too. So, it’s worth checking on which benefits you currently have before booking any travel.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best travel rewards cards
This isn’t an all-inclusive list; cardholder agreements explain other benefits, so it’s always a good idea to check online for updates. While these lesser-known benefits aren’t necessarily the most important factor when choosing the card, they can certainly help you make the decision between two otherwise similar products.