Secret credit card perks anybody can score

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We admit we can be pretty harsh on credit cards sometimes here at WalletPop. After all, there's a whole slew of sneaky moves and dirty tricks credit card companies can pull to separate you from your hard-earned dollars. Which is why we always tell you to read the fine print on anything your issuer sends you. But sometimes -- just occasionally -- that fine print can yield some pleasant surprises and tip you off to some unexpected benefits.

While we don't condone profligate credit card use or running a balance to pay for everyday expenses, if you're financially responsible, a credit card doesn't have to be a financial sinkhole. In fact, having a credit card can be a good thing when certain situations arise. For instance, if you want to rent a car or book a hotel stay, you won't have a significant sum of your money tied up by the "hold" policy many travel-related companies implement. And if you have an unexpected car repair, if a major appliance breaks down or if any other big expense surprises you, a credit card can be a lifesaver.

So how do you choose the card that will give you the most bang for your buck? That's where reading the fine print comes in. As this article points out, certain issuers offer everything from rental car insurance to hard-to-get event tickets. Some cards will even cover the cost of a new cell phone if yours gets stolen, or a vacation if you have to cancel your trip. But again, you have to read the fine print. One Citi-issued card mentioned in the article, for instance, will give you up to $200 if your cell phone gets stolen. But the flip side of that is there's a $50 deductible and you'll have to go to the trouble of reporting the phone stolen to the police. (And if you just leave the phone somewhere, you're out of luck.)



Wading through all the fine print can be a chore, but you could find a real gem of a perk if you persevere. If you already have a credit card (or several), go online and search for the cardholder benefits to see what you might be entitled to. And if you're thinking of getting a card for emergencies, don't just fill out any old form that comes in the mail. Go online to a site like CreditCards.com or CardRatings.com, where you can look for a card with a low interest rate, reward points or miles, or any number of other criteria. Narrow your search to a few that look promising, then go to the sites of those issuers to find out what other, fine-print benefits you'd be eligible for if you got the card.
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