|by Jason Steele|
Although not technically a reward, credit cards offer many benefits that don’t accrue with each purchase, they come standard. Here are some examples.
Museums For Free
Bank of America has a great program called Museums on Us where one weekend a month you can use your card to get into a museum for free. For example, great museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be free this weekend, November 1st and 2d. The complete list is available at their web site, although sadly it does not include any of the great museums near my home in Denver.
Rental Car Insurance
A credit card is pretty much required to rent a car, however if you could rent without one, you would be crazy. Almost all credit cards offer some sort of car rental insurance, although American Express tends to have the best. The real benefit is that you can decline the rental companies aggressively pitched and over priced insurance. The problem with the insurance you get from your credit card is that it is filled with exclusions. Pickup trucks, SUV’s, sports cars, and almost anything other than a Ford Taurus may be excluded in the fine print. Most policies exclude “off road” driving, even when you are on a dirt or gravel road. Furthermore, many countries are excluded. I am not talking about renting a car in Baghdad Iraq or Kabul Afghanistan, but seemingly safe business and leisure destinations such as Ireland and Mexico are often excluded. Again check the fine print.
After my last trip overseas, I received a $500 charge on my credit card from my rental company several weeks after I had returned. The rental car company had claimed that I damaged a motorcycle in a hotel garage. Only then did I remember that I had in fact accidentally backed into an old, beat up motorcycle in a dark hotel parking garage. I had picked up the bike, and examined it for damage. Their was no visible damage to either my vehicle or the bike, so I did not think anything of it. Apparently, someone had witnessed it and took down the license plate of my rental. Thankfully, American Express stood by me, and I was never held responsible for any “damages” to the bike, real or otherwise.
This is my favorite benefit, yet I almost never use it. If I order a product, and I don’t receive it, I can always threaten to chargeback. I once was charged a surprise ticketing fee when using a voucher from United airlines. They had never told me of the charge, yet my credit card statement showed a “ticket by mail” fee. They refused to return my money, offering me only more vouchers. When I threatened to charge back the fee to my credit card, only then did they then send me a check. I also used this against Airtran when I did not receive my paid seat upgrade after my flight was canceled. I refused their voucher’s and told them I would charge back the upgrade fee for services not received. I had a credit added to my account the next day.
More often, chargebacks are used when a merchant goes out of business. When my previous telephone provider, Sunrocket, failed I easily recieved my money back. Airline tickets are routinely refunded by credit card companies when the airline goes out of business. People who paid by cash, check, or debit card rarely receive adequate compensation in bankruptcy court.
Airline Lounge Access
Frequent travelers appreciate the benefits of business lounge access. Such perks include internet service, showers, priority customer service desks, food, and most importantly, peace and quiet. Lounge access is free for holders of First and Business class tickets, and airlines sell lounge access passes for several hundred dollars a year. Fortunately, some credit cards offer lounge access as a benefit. Check out cards such as Citibank Platinum Amex, American Express Platinum, the American Express Delta Reserve card, and even the Saks World Elite Mastercard.
Many cards offer travel services such as lost card replacement, traveler’s checks, and reservations. Some people even book their entire vacations through their credit card company. American Express has always been the leader in travel services, although the other major companies have some worthwile offerings you might not be aware of.