By Beth Pinsker
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Want to save a few quick bucks on your holiday shopping? Your credit card may offer some little-known perks that could save you money both upfront and after the purchase.
Of the 100 most popular credit cards, 81 offered some kind of extended warranty, according to a study released on Wednesday from Creditcards.com, a card rating website run by Bankrate.com <RATE.N>.
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Just over half had purchase security, useful if your item is lost or stolen and the retailer or shipping company does not make good on the loss. Forty-seven cards had price protection, meaning the credit card issuer will match the price if it drops within a certain amount of time, and 26 guaranteed returns even when the merchant does not.
Of the cards studied, 17 offered all four of these protections.
To take advantage, you first have to know what is available on your card. Then you have to jump through the many required hoops.
“These perks can really help in certain circumstances, but most people don’t know that they are there to be taken,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at creditcards.com. He added that the credit card issuers declined to provide usage numbers for his study.
One quick way to check if your card has hearty protections is to look at the bottom right-hand corner, said Sean McQuay, credit card expert at Nerdwallet.com. A Visa card with the “Signature” or “Infinite” tag will likely have the best protections. For MasterCard, look for “World Elite.”
American Express and Discover offer the same protections at all levels, McQuay said.
THE FINE PRINT
Extended warranty coverage, while the most common type of protection offered, is probably used sparingly by consumers because few know about it, said Schulz.
But this is the perk that could save consumers real money, because they can decline the extended warranty offered by retailers. It is akin to knowing that if your credit card offers insurance protection for rental cars, you can decline expensive add-on coverage.
AJ Saleem, who works for a tutoring company in Houston, did not find it too daunting to use his extended warranty coverage to get $60 to fix a broken iPhone speaker three months after the manufacturer’s one-year warranty ended. He sent his card company a copy of the warranty document, the repair quote and the original purchase statement and it sent him a check.
The other credit card protections require more documentation. Refunds for stolen items may require police reports, for instance, said McQuay.
“These perks are best applied to big-ticket items,” said Schulz. “They'll be worth the time and effort to find the paperwork and make the phone calls, because the money you get back is real and impactful.”
Curtis Arnold, editor in chief of Cardratings.com, used one of his cards for reimbursement for a stolen lawn mower after his shed was burglarized. "It really soothed my despair," he said.
Card issuers are moving to an easier system that will require less legwork, at least for price matching, said Schulz.
Citigroup Inc <C.N> already has its Citi Rewind feature, which enables users to register a purchase; the system will then check automatically for price drops. Citi keeps a running tally of savings on its promotional page (https://www.citipricerewind.com/), which claims that so far, more than 200,000 payments have been issued to the tune of almost $5.5 million.
Schulz said Capital One<COF.N> just acquired a company that could allow it to offer something similar, and he thinks more will follow.
For now, the savvy consumer has to learn a few tricks in order to save. Justin Chidester, a financial planner in Logan, Utah, did not have much luck at first with the price matching. When he tried to use it to get money back on some chairs he bought, the card company wanted not just the original receipt and proof of the new lower price offer, but also a screen shot of the original price he paid for the items. “I got tripped up,” said Chidester.
Wiser on his second attempt, he bought a new TV for $450 and saved a screen shot of the original offer. When the price dropped shortly afterward to $300, he was prepared and quickly got a $150 statement credit for his effort.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)