3 Credit Card Benefits That Are Often Overlooked

·5 min read

Credit cards often come with money-saving perks, but you might not know that you have them or be clear about how they work.

Here's what you need to know about hidden -- and sometimes not-so-hidden -- credit card perks that could be slipping away.

[Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards.]

3 Credit Card Perks You Could Be Missing Out On

1. Bonus Category Cash Back Rewards

Bonus rewards in specific purchase categories, such as gas stations, drugstores or grocery stores, are among the most often missed credit card benefits.

With rewards cards that offer quarterly rotating bonuses, you may need to track bonus categories, activate them and monitor category spending on cards. Even if you carry cards with fixed cash back bonus categories, you have to make sure you have right card at checkout.

If you spend a lot in a bonus category, "say grocery stores, but hold a credit card that doesn't provide any bonuses on spend at groceries, you're leaving money on the table," Alex Miller, founder and CEO of points and miles website Upgraded Points.

How to avoid missing out: Use a color-coded system, such as small stickers applied directly to your credit cards. The stickers can remind you which card to use for your purchase. A red sticker could represent gas purchases, and a blue sticker could indicate grocery stores.

If you use a digital wallet, consider creating a cheat sheet at the start of the month for an at-a-glance view of your bonus categories.

2. Special Offers and Credits

Some rewards card programs provide special monthly offers or recurring credits.

Retail offers

Certain rewards credit cards earn more rewards for each dollar you spend with specific retailer partners.

You must log into your credit card account online and add the offer you want to your card before you make the purchase. Activating the offer is a hurdle that keeps cardholders from taking advantage of this card benefit.

"Offers and credits are a lucrative way to earn accelerated rewards but are often underused," says Gina DeCorla, senior research analyst at data provider Curinos. "An example of an offer could be 10% cash back at CVS on up to $20. This could be a great deal if you have to pick up a couple things from the pharmacy."

Free offers

Certain card benefits don't require you to opt in but do call for a little strategic planning.

"Some providers -- most notably Bank of America and Merrill Lynch -- offer free admission to participating museums and cultural exhibits across the U.S.," DeCorla says. "Knowing what options are available can definitely help a cardholder make plans for the weekend."

Typically, these offers are available for a specific period. Bank of America's Museums on Us program, for example, is available to cardholders only on the first full weekend of each month.

Credits

If your credit card offers annual credits, those are dollars you could be leaving behind. Some examples might be a Lyft credit, a fixed travel credit or a credit toward another service, such as food delivery.

You can easily miss this card benefit if you link the wrong credit card to your ride-hailing account or if you don't have eligible transactions during the credit window.

How to avoid missing out: "A good way to remember these benefits is by setting a calendar reminder for yourself to log in once a month and add these deals to your credit card," DeCorla says. "It is always beneficial to log in regularly to keep track of account activity, and adding merchant offers can be a valuable task to do while checking in on overall account health."

Once you've logged in to review offers, create a calendar event for them on your phone or in your physical planner to know when they expire.

[Read: Best Grocery Credit Cards.]

3. Trip Interruption Insurance

If you've purchased a trip on a credit card that offers trip interruption insurance, this card benefit should be top of mind. Trip interruption insurance will reimburse you for unused, prepaid nonrefundable trip expenses when you can't take your trip for a covered reason.

"If used correctly, trip interruption insurance can be monumental in 2022," Miller says. "With so many flight delays and cancellations thanks to weather and COVID, filing for these insurance claims can benefit consumers big time and result in hundreds or thousands of dollars paid out for a simple delay."

Terms to claim trip interruption insurance vary by card issuer.

How to avoid missing out: Check whether any of your credit cards offer trip interruption protections before you book travel on a card. Put your travel expenses on the card with trip insurance coverage and other credit card perks, such as bonus rewards categories.

[Read: Best Cash Back Credit Cards.]

The Bottom Line

Your card's hidden credit card perks can bring you added value, as long as you stay mindful about spending within your budget. Credit card rewards quickly become less valuable if you're charged interest for carrying a balance into the next month, for instance.

Lastly, don't sign up for a credit card to get these rewards only to forget about them. Many credit card perks that are overlooked require planning or timing. If you develop the habit of staying on top of your credit card perks, you can get your card to work harder for you instead of the other way around.

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