There may actually be some good news buried in the fine print of your credit card agreement, says Ramit Sethi, bestselling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
Here are five perks (beyond the typical seasonal ones, like additional points/rebates) that Sethi suggests you ask your issuer about (speak to a benefits manager; ask them for a booklet of benefits), as they could save you several hundred dollars over the holiday shopping season alone:
Extended warranty coverage
We're expected to spend over a billion dollars on extended warranties for electronics and appliances this holiday season, and we could be wasting our money. Many credit cards offer warranty protection. Some of the higher-end cards even double the standard warranty period at no extra cost to you. And there are other reasons to JUST SAY NO when you get the aggressive sales pitch in the checkout line: not only are some repairs already covered by the standard manufacturer's warranty (which covers parts for one year; labor for 90 days), but Consumer Reports research shows that most products don't break within the period the extended warranty covers, and when-and if-they do break, the cost is about the same as the extended warranty.
If you use your credit card to buy something only to find that same item at a lower price (whether at the same retailer or elsewhere) within a specific time frame (usually within 30 or 60 days), your issuer may refund the difference. All you need to do is submit evidence (merchant receipt, credit card statement, and advertisement with the lower price). Refund limits, set by the issuer, are generally capped at $250 per item (and up to a maximum of $1,000 per cardholder per year).
If you bought something and are dissatisfied with it (say, for example, the bike you bought for your niece is too big), but the merchant won't take it back because you've lost the receipt or missed their return deadline, your issuer may be able to help. American Express, for example, will refund the full purchase plus up to $300 per item; $1,000 annually per card account. To claim the refund, you have to submit your original receipt and your credit card statement showing the purchase; you also have to mail the item, in like-new condition, to Amex (effectively "returning" it), but you're covered for 90 days from the date of purchase, and this perk is available to even basic cardholders.
Many cards offer free protection against damage on rental cars; some offer trip cancellation coverage and protection against travel delays; others even offer emergency travel assistance (everything from translation services to help finding a doctor). The caveat: these types of cards DO often come with an annual fee, but there are numerous instances where a card pays for itself (and then some). For example, Continental's OnePass Plus ($85 fee; waived the first year) cardholders can check for one bag for free one on every Continental flight, for a savings of $50 per round trip. "After just two flights, you've more than offset the annual fee," says Tom Parsons, CEO of BestFares.com. Delta's Gold Sky Miles Amex card ($95 annual fee; waived the first year) offers the same perk -- and even extends the baggage fee waiver -- to up to nine people total in the same reservation! -- so a family of four would save up to $200 per round trip.
Want preferred seating tickets to hard-to-get into concerts and sporting events? See what your issuer can do for you. "A lot of cards, even the no-fee ones, offer these kinds of perks nowadays," says Curtis Arnold, founder of cardratings.com. Citi, for example, is currently offering select cardmembers pre-sale tickets for Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour in 2011.
Credit card perks that can save you money