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Why Vanishing Credit Card Benefits Aren’t Cause for Panic

Dec. 10, 2019
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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Two years ago, Discover announced it would cut some credit card benefits, including extended warranties, purchase protection, return guarantees and even auto rental coverage. Over the past two years, Citi, Barclays and others have also announced the removal of several long-time benefits.

While it may seem like the end of credit card benefits is near, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Here’s why:

1. Many cardholders don’t use these benefits

I’ve been researching and writing about credit cards for over a decade; if anyone would take advantage of these benefits, you’d think it would be me. And yet I’ve used price protection and return protection one time each, and I’ve never filed an extended warranty claim. In fact, several of the major credit card issuers that cut these benefits cited lack of consumer use as their reason.

2. For those who did use them, it wasn’t easy

The one time I tried to use a purchase protection claim was when a plastic part of my refrigerator broke. However, the card issuer’s benefits administrator wouldn’t consider the claim until I got an estimate from an authorized repair center.

I repeatedly attempted to explain via online forms that it was a broken piece of plastic that couldn’t be repaired, but it seemed as if the system had been designed to automatically deny claims until cardholders got frustrated and quit. I’ve had similar experiences when attempting to use other benefits as well.

3. It’s still easy to get insurance protection

I was quite troubled to hear that Discover had eliminated car rental insurance benefits from all of its cards and that Citi had cut it from most of its products. That’s always been the most useful credit card benefit, as it allows you to decline the expensive optional coverage offered by the rental car companies.

But life will go on, as most other major credit card issuers continue to offer this benefit, including the banks that offer the most popular travel rewards cards (such as Chase, American Express and Capital One).

If you do rent cars regularly, make sure you have a credit card that offers this benefit — or, alternatively, you could skip rentals entirely in favor of rideshare services.

» Learn more: Why I always pay for rental cars with this credit card

4. The remaining perks are more exciting

I don’t blame credit card issuers for realizing their existing offerings weren’t that exciting. No one looks forward to filling out paperwork to try to receive a few dollars back when the price drops on one of their purchases.

But we are impressed with true money-saving perks, like a free checked bag on an airline credit card, or things like room upgrades and free breakfast benefits from rewards credit cards.

I also love it when a card offers me credit toward elite status in an airline or a hotel program, which can be incredibly valuable. Other emerging benefits include statement credits toward travel purchases, airport lounge access and exclusive access to cardmember events.

Several credit cards offer a $100 credit toward TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees. Meanwhile, the American Express® Green Card offers $100 a year toward a Clear membership, which gives you quick access to the front of the Precheck line. Terms apply.

» Learn more: AmEx Green review: Triple points on dining and travel, plus credits

5. Valuable benefits are still available

Last year, smoke started spewing out of the hood of my car — a strong indication of an oil leak. I was able to get it towed to a mechanic for free using my premium roadside assistance benefit of The Platinum Card® from American Express. When my car was fixed and I didn’t have the time to pick it up, I just used the benefit again to have it towed home.

» Learn more: American Express Platinum review: Luxury isn’t cheap

In fact, I also have this benefit on my American Express® Gold Card and my Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Another example is the airport restaurant benefit offered by some cards that offer Priority Pass Select membership (excluding AmEx). My family avoids having to purchase overpriced food from airport restaurants, as there are about 30 restaurants in the U.S. for which qualifying Priority Pass members receive a $28 credit per person, per visit. I save hundreds of dollars in food costs each year this way.

In short, the benefits I have are still worth far more to me than anything I lost.

» Learn more: Chase Sapphire Reserve review: A first-class premium travel card

The bottom line

Some major credit card issuers have announced major cuts to their benefits … and that’s OK. The industry remains incredibly competitive, and you can still get the benefits you really need (like rental car insurance) from other card issuers. And with the growth of benefits that are more valuable and useful than most of those that were cut, credit cards will continue to be the best method of payment for most people.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Credit cards with airport lounge access
4 best credit cards for travel insurance benefits
Find the best travel credit card for you

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