5 Pleasant Surprises You'll Find in Your Credit Card's Fine Print

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By Jason Steele

Fine print has a nasty reputation among consumers, and most assume it requires a microscope to read. Many consumers find the details within the fine print surprising, and perhaps even objectionable. But it turns out that sometimes the fine print produces some pleasant surprises.

Here are five fantastic and convenient features we found in the fine print of credit card user agreements and benefit guides.

1. Chase Ink's trip cancellation benefit covers bookings made with points.

Many credit cards come with trip cancellation and trip interruption programs that can cover cardholder expenses when their travel plans go awry. But when travelers use their credit card rewards to book these trips, the expenses are often not covered under these programs.

Thankfully, there is at least one exception. The Ink Plus World MasterCard from Chase offers up to $5,000 of trip delay or cancellation coverage that also applies to travel booked with rewards points or miles. According to this card's full terms and conditions, which are not available electronically, "If any or all of the Covered Trip was paid for using redeemable Rewards, the Company will reimburse the Insured Person for Rewards used." Furthermore, the "reimbursement shall equal the monetary value of the redemption" that appears on the confirmation, or the benefit will reimburse the cardholder at a rate of one cent per point.

2. Citi ThankYou Points can be used for any mortgage or student loan payment.

Citi promotes the fact that its ThankYou rewards points can be redeemed for mortgage and student loan payments, and cardholders might assume that this feature only applies to loans issued by Citi.

In fact, the terms and conditions of this program clearly state that "You can redeem ThankYou Points toward any student loan program or monthly mortgage payment issued in the form of a check made payable to your financial lending institution" which are sent "via USPS 1st Class mail to your shipping address of record." Best of all, Citi offers one cent per point in value towards these checks, the same rate as its points can be redeemed for gift cards or travel reservations. So cardholders can use their rewards to pay down their debts, rather than splurge on a vacation.

3. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall doesn't require a Chase card.

Greg Davis-Kean blogs as The Frequent Miler and has a knack for figuring out what rewards credit card terms and conditions stipulate. One of his finest discoveries is that the terms for the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall do not list a requirement that shoppers actually use a Chase card.

This surprising quirk means that cardholders are free to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points from their purchases while earning bonus points from a different bank's credit card.

4. The American Express Platinum card offers elite status with Starwood hotels.

The American Express Platinum card is so overloaded with travel benefits, that it can be easy to miss one particularly valuable perk. Cardholders are entitled to Gold status in the Starwood hotels Preferred Guest program, but they have to ask for it.

Once requested, cardholders will enjoy welcome gifts, room upgrades, late checkouts, and bonus points when staying at Westins, Sheratons and other Starwood properties. Normally, guests would have to complete either 10 stays or 25 nights in a calendar year to receive this benefit.

5. Bank of America Travel Rewards can be used to cover some very interesting purchases.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card offers 1.5 points for every dollar spent. Like many bank rewards programs, points can then be redeemed for statement credits toward travel expenses. But a close look at this program's terms and conditions reveals that their definition of "travel rewards" goes far beyond airlines, hotels, car rentals and cruises. It also includes carnivals, circuses, fortune tellers, aquariums, dolphinariums, zoos and seaquariums. Now we know that Bank of America cardholders can use their credit card rewards to have their palm read next time they visit their local dolphinarium.

So break out your magnifying glass and take a moment to read through your credit card's terms and conditions one evening. You might find some unexpected benefits, and you certainly won't have any trouble falling asleep.

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