If you have excellent credit and no consumer debt, your ideal credit card probably has a robust rewards program and solid benefits.
But many people don’t know that “rewards” and “benefits” are often offered by separate financial institutions. For instance, you may have a card with rewards from Citibank, but many of the benefits come from MasterCard.
We’ll explain where rewards and benefits come from and give the lowdown on MasterCard benefits program. We’ll also recommend some of our favorite MasterCards if you’re in the market for new plastic.
Networks vs. issuers: Where rewards and benefits come from
MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are all payment networks. Networks handle the processing of your card transactions. Whenever you use your card, the network sends the transaction along to the bank, verifies that you have sufficient credit or funds and makes sure the merchant gets paid. Networks may also offer many of your card’s benefits, such as rental car insurance, price protection and extended warranty coverage.
Networks don’t issue your card, however. Issuers are banks, like Chase or Citi. The bank determines your rewards rate and interest rate, as well as logistical issues such as ATM access and customer service. If you get 1% rewards on a card, it’s because your issuer says so.
Nerd note: American Express and Discover are payments networks and issuers. Visa and MasterCard are exclusively networks.
What you should know about MasterCard benefits
MasterCard has different card levels, from standard non-rewards debit cards to premium credit cards. Non-rewards debit cards don’t make much money for you or MasterCard, so they aren’t heavily incentivized. However, premium cards are lucrative for MasterCard and therefore include perks beyond a standard 1% rewards rate.
MasterCard has three rewards levels: Standard, World and World Elite. The higher the level, the better the protections, discounts and perks. While your issuing bank determines the rewards you’ll earn on your purchases, MasterCard’s perks aren’t contingent on the amount you spend each year.
With a standard MasterCard, you’ll enjoy valuable shopping benefits and perks designed to give you peace of mind. Standard cards give users zero liability for fraudulent transactions, identity theft resolution services and identity theft alerts, as well as Global Service for 24/7 emergency assistance. They also include 60-day price protection and an extended warranty benefit — which doubles manufacturers’ warranties up to 12 months — plus access to the Fuel Rewards Network for additional savings on gas.
World MasterCards offer improved standard benefits, like 120-day price protection and 24-month extended-warranty protection. They also offer useful travel benefits. World MasterCard cardholders enjoy 24/7 concierge services, as well as airport concierges. There are also hotel and resort perks, including free upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, breakfast for two and more.
World Elite MasterCard
For even more perks, the World Elite MasterCards have you covered. Aside from the standard and World perks, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:
- Upgrades and discounts on flights through the World Elite air program
- Cruise benefits and savings through the World Elite cruise program
- Savings on vacation and tour packages with the World Elite tours and vacations program
- Reimbursement on qualified nonrefundable travel fees via trip cancellation insurance
- Complimentary elite status, savings and upgrades on car rentals with the World Elite car rental program
- Savings on limousines and chauffeured cars through the World Elite chauffeured car service
- Exclusive savings and benefits on private jet flights from the World Elite private jet program
- 24/7 access to personal travel advisors
- Same price protection and extended warranty benefits as World MasterCards
- Exclusive offers, experiences and opportunities to shop cities around the world through Priceless Cities
Sports and entertainment
- Exclusive golf offers and experiences via Priceless Golf
- Exclusive sports offers and experiences through Priceless Cities
- Exclusive dining offers and experiences from Priceless Cities
Nerd note: Some issuers — such as Citi and Chase — also offer non-rewards perks. Look at your card’s benefits guide for more information.
Our favorite MasterCards
If you’re looking for a new card with great benefits, check out these MasterCards. Here are our top picks for cash-back rewards, balance transfers and bad credit.
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
A longtime favorite of the Nerds for its great rewards rate, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer gives 1% cash back when you make a purchase, and another 1% back when you pay it off. The card has an annual fee of $0 and an introductory APR of 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR.
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever gets a nod from Nerds because of its industry-leading introductory APR period: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 21 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. The card’s annual fee is $0, and there’s a balance transfer fee of 3%.
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the few secured cards on the market with a $0 annual fee. Your current credit score will determine how big your deposit is. For a credit limit of $200, your deposit maybe be $49, $99 or $200. The ongoing APR is 24.99% Variable APR.
Image via iStock.