Secret Credit Card Benefits Ease Your Holiday Shopping

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Secret Credit Card Benefits To Know
As you're looking for deals while holiday shopping, one of the best sources is closer than you think -- in your wallet, actually. Many credit cards have benefits that can help you save money and protect your purchase. Unfortunately, you probably don't realize it.

Features on credit cards from MasterCard (MA), American Express (AXP), Visa (V) and Discover (DFS) include getting money back if you see an item for less, receiving automatic extended warranties or having easier times returning merchandise. Extended warranties and guaranteed product returns are also frequently under-appreciated.

Shhhhh! Not Everyone Knows

While great perks do appear in the disclosure statements for cards, the card companies and issuers may not promote the features heavily. The reason is cost -- they work financially for the provider when not everyone uses them.

For example, American Express used to have a price guarantee that offered the difference between the price consumers paid and lower prices they eventually found, but the company no longer does, according to Harzog. "There is speculation that American Express dropped it because so many people took advantage of it that they couldn't afford to do it anymore," Beverly Harzog, consumer credit expert and author of "Confessions of a Credit Junkie," said in an interview with DailyFinance.

Discover, MasterCard and Citi (C) all offer price guarantees, according to MarketWatch.

Discover will refund the difference up to $500 if you find your item at a lower price within 90 days of making a Discover card purchase, Citi says it will refund the difference in price up to $300 per item if its price-finding service discovers a lower price within 60 days of the purchase, and MasterCard will refund up to $250 within 60 days or 120 days, depending on which type of MasterCard you use.

Visa also has a price guarantee, according to the card company's information.

However, Harzog says that the details can be bedeviling. "MasterCard will offer price protection within 60 days, but whether or not your particular card [issuer] has included that benefit is something you have to find out," she said. The disclosure statement is the place to look. Similarly, Citi's Price Rewind feature is only for consumer credit cards -- not debit or business credit cards.

Visa also has price protection within 60 days but requires a consumer to call a toll-free number within 10 days of seeing an advertisement for a lower price.

For any price protection program, it's up to you to file the claim and any necessary supporting material, which can include the original receipt and dated proof of a lower advertised price. Again, check the disclosure statement and any additional material for the details.

Purchase Protection and Return Protection

Although American Express may no longer have price protection, it does have purchase protection. Buy a covered item (tickets, gift cards, and travelers checks are examples of items that aren't), and if it's lost, stolen or damaged during the first 90 days, you can get a refund. Some cards also offer extended warranties. Instead of shelling out the extra to buy more protection, check if additional coverage comes automatically with the card purchase.

American Express also has return protection, so if a merchant refuses to take an item back within 90 days of purchase, the card company will -- if the item is still in new condition. Visa, MasterCard and Discover all have return protection, purchase protection, and warranty extension, in addition to price protection.

There are limitations for all these perks, so double-check the disclosure statement and remember that you'll have to make the entire purchase with that card. Sorry, you can't pay for half with a MasterCard and the other half with American Express to get a more favorable mix of benefits.
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