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Mastercard-branded credit cards offer an array of benefits, but the most important features of a Mastercard credit card aren't actually provided by Mastercard. That's because Mastercard is a payment network rather than a card issuer. The bank that issues a credit card — such as Citi, Capital One or your local community bank — provides most of the benefits on that card. Mastercard just processes the transactions.
Even so, Mastercard does provide some cardholder benefits. Those benefits come in three levels:
The biggest jump in value comes at the World tier; World Elite just tacks on a few additional benefits from more merchants.
The benefits below are those listed as available for Mastercard-branded cards as of October 2020. Two things are important to note, though:
While Mastercard makes these benefits available for cards that carry the Mastercard logo, issuers have some discretion on which benefits are actually included on a particular card. Mastercard's benefits website warns: "Additional terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Contact your issuing financial institution for complete coverage terms and conditions."
Many issuers offer benefits of their own on top of (or in place of) those offered by Mastercard.
Zero fraud liability. You won't be held responsible for fraudulent use of your card.
Mastercard Global Service. This is a hotline you can call worldwide. If your card is lost or stolen, you can call Mastercard and it will work with your issuer to quickly get you a replacement. Mastercard can also arrange with your issuer for an emergency cash advance until you get your card.
ID theft protection. You get free identity-theft prevention and response services. The company monitors websites to see if your personal information is being trafficked. If you experience ID theft, you can call Mastercard 24 hours a day, and you'll be assigned a specialist to handle your case. If you lose your wallet, you can call and get help canceling and reordering all your cards and ID documents, including your driver's license.
Prior to July 2019, standard Mastercard benefits also included price protection (which refunded the difference when something you bought went on sale at a lower price somewhere else) and extended warranty coverage (which doubled certain product warranties). Both of these perks were eliminated July 1, 2019.
Nerd tip: Through March 31, 2021, cardholders who sign up for a new annual Instacart Express membership (not a renewal) and set an eligible Mastercard as their default payment method are eligible for two free months of the service. An annual membership costs $99; Mastercard says the two free months are worth about $20.
All Standard-level benefits. Everything from the basic benefits tier also applies to World cards.
Cell phone insurance. Pay your monthly cell bill with your card and get coverage against damage or theft for up to $600 per claim (maximum $1,000 per year). There's a $50 deductible.
Mastercard Travel & Lifestyle Services. This suite of benefits includes:
Trip planning assistance. You can work directly with a planner by phone or go online. Get access to discounts on travel packages.
Lowest hotel rate guarantee. If you book a prepaid hotel stay through Mastercard and find your exact stay (same property, room type, dates, number of guests, etc.) advertised for a lower price before you check in, Mastercard may refund you the difference.
Hotel satisfaction guarantee. "If your 3-star or higher-rated hotel is not working out, a Lifestyle Manager will work to make it right." This applies only to certain stays booked through Mastercard.
Luxury hotel benefits. Upgrades, early check-in/late checkout and other benefits at more than 2,000 properties worldwide.
Airport concierge. Get an escort or assistance at 700-plus destinations worldwide.
Discounts and memberships. You get special benefits with:
Shoprunner. Free two-day shipping and free return shipping with more than 140 online merchants.
Onefinestay. Get 10% off home rentals in cities worldwide. Onefinestay presents itself as an upmarket version of Airbnb, focusing on luxury and distinctive homes.
Golf. Enjoy "exclusive golf offers and experiences with the PGA TOUR® for World Mastercard cardholders. You can also use Golf Concierge Services to access some amazing golf benefits available only from Mastercard."
World Elite benefits
All Standard- and World-level benefits. Everything from the bottom two tiers also applies to World Elite cards.
Higher cell phone insurance claim limit. You're covered for up to $800 per claim, but the same $1,000 annual limit and $50 deductible apply.
Concierge service. Help with getting tickets, making dinner reservations and other tasks is available by phone.
Fandango. Get $5 off future movie tickets or at-home purchases for every two movie tickets you buy.
Lyft. Earn a $10 Lyft credit when you take at least five Lyft rides in a calendar month and pay with your card. The credit expires after 30 days and is good only for future rides. (It's not a credit for the cost of past rides.)
Boxed. Earn 5% "cash rewards" on purchases from this online wholesale club. Rewards apply only to the price of goods, not including such things as taxes, fees, shipping and handling. Rewards can be used for future Boxed purchases.
What kind of Mastercard is my card?
If your card is a World- or World Elite-level card, you'll usually see it identified as such right on the card. If all you see is the Mastercard logo and not the words "World" or "World Elite," it's probably Standard.
To double-check, you can go to the website of the bank that issued the card and find its page for the card. If it's a World or World Elite, it'll tell you. This is a good exercise even if you know your Mastercard benefit level, because as the network itself notes, it's up to the issuer to decide specific benefits.