While you probably know which of your credit cards gives you the best cash-back rewards and you vaguely recall that you're eligible for car-rental insurance, not everyone truly understands the multitude of benefits offered by their plastic.
"It's easy to forget that you have these perks or not be aware of them in the first place because not a lot of people are going to read every word of their account's disclosure statement," says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and author of "Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made."
Banks have long offered consumers a wide variety of benefits to differentiate their credit cards from competitors' offerings. Perks are often tied to shopping -- say, giving customers extended warranties on purchases -- or travel, such as letting cardholders check an airline bag for free.
"We hear from our cardmembers that these are some of the benefits that they value the most because they provide protection if you get in a bind," says Kimberly Litt, an American Express spokeswoman. "If a cardmember buys a new television, they know they don't need to buy an extended warranty because they'll be protected if something goes wrong."
But experts say customers often don't know they have these benefits because issuers rarely publicize lesser-known programs. Here's a look at some benefits that some credit cards typically offer, but that few consumers realize they qualify for.
Checked airline baggage
Credit cards that are tied to specific airlines often allow you to check one or more bags for free as long as the primary cardholder makes the reservation and pays for the tickets using the card.
Many credit cards will add as much as an extra year to warranties that come with items that you buy with your plastic. Cards typically cover goods worth up to $10,000, although lots of fine print applies. For instance, policies usually exempt cars, boats and other big-ticket products.
How many times have you bought something and seen it go on sale the next week? Many credit cards offer price-protection programs that will refund the difference if that happens with something you charged on your account.
But again, these programs typically have limitations. They'll often only refund $250 or so per item, set a cap on how much you can get back each year, and will generally only cover any price changes that occur within 60 days of purchase.
You splurge on a costly item, then break it while removing it from the box. Don't worry -- if you paid with a credit card, many accounts will reimburse you for damage or theft that occurs within 90 days of the purchase date. As with other card perks, limits apply on item eligibility and maximum payout.
Free credit score
Savvy consumers know that the best credit cards go to people with the highest credit rating, and more and more issuers are helping you monitor your status by including free credit information on your monthly statement. It's worth noting that you can always get your free credit score from WisePiggy.com with no credit card required.
Specials on event tickets
Credit card companies often sponsor concert tours and sporting events, and cardmembers can often buy tickets before they go on sale to the general public, or qualify for discounts or particularly good seats.
Whether you need someone to pick up your dry cleaning or find tickets to a hot Broadway show, many credit cards offer a free concierge service designed to help. While such help is free, expect to pay regular prices for whatever the concierge arranges for you.
When you arrive at your destination but your luggage doesn't, many cards will give you money to purchase replacement items so long as you charged your tickets (airline, boat, bus or train) on your card.
Cards will often reimburse your entire party anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per person (up to maximum amount per incident) if your items are lost, stolen or damaged. Some issuers will also give you up to a couple hundred dollars to buy essentials if your bags are merely delayed for a couple days rather than lost. As always, restrictions apply. For example, many cards won't cover jewelry or other high-end items.
Credit cards often throw in trip insurance that will reimburse you for non-refundable airline tickets or hotel deposits (paid for using your credit card) if you can't travel due to illness or emergencies. This benefit can save you from having to spend your own money on such coverage.
Not everyone belongs to AAA or similar clubs, so many cards will help you arrange emergency roadside assistance if your car breaks down. You'll usually have to pay the mechanic that shows up, but at least the card issuer is doing the legwork of efficiently locating and dispatching that mechanic for you.