The biggest benefits of credit cards are interest-free financing, $0 fraud liability, and the opportunity for credit building. There are also so-called “secondary credit card benefits,” which may include things like price protection, rental car insurance, and extended warranty protection. In other words, the right credit card can give a cardholder much more than simple spending power.
Some people find it easier to avoid credit cards out of fear of making credit mistakes. But the more you learn about how credit works, the more you’ll see how credit cards are tools that can help you save money and gain access to great things, as well as make life all-around easier. Here are nine of the best credit card benefits to get you thinking.
9 Top Benefits of Credit Cards
1. Built-In Card Network Perks
The four major card networks – Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express – offer baked-in benefits that many cardholders simply aren’t aware of. Visa and Mastercard have different tiers of benefits for their cards. Visa’s tiers include Visa Platinum, Visa Signature, and Visa Infinite benefits. Mastercard offers Mastercard Platinum, Mastercard World, and Mastercard World Elite benefit tiers.
Here are the card networks’ benefits at the standard level, but keep in mind that more benefits come with higher tiers.
Visa: Emergency card replacement and cash disbursement, rental car insurance, $0 fraud liability, and roadside dispatch.
Mastercard: $0 fraud liability, purchase protection, discounts on car rentals and hotels.
Discover: $0 fraud liability, free overnight card delivery, free credit score, year-end summary, the ability to freeze your credit cards, Social Security number monitoring and new accounts alerts, and the option to get cash over your transaction total during checkout.
American Express: Extended warranty, purchase protection, return protection, baggage insurance, rental car insurance, Global Assist, roadside assistance, trip delay insurance, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
2. Fraud Protection
Credit cards are the safest method of payment when shopping. All major card networks – Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express – offer zero fraud liability, so you can shop knowing you won’t have to pay a single dollar for fraudulent charges. And if you lose your card, it’s easy to cancel or lock it by calling the card issuer. When it comes to theft, stolen cash and debit cards have a much more difficult process, and it may take a long time to track and recover the missing money.
3. Opportunity for Credit Building
Building good credit is essential to opening doors financially. Having better credit demonstrates to lenders that you are a low risk investment, which, in turn, provides access to better interest rates and loan terms. Having good credit can help you get an apartment lease, or even a job, too. If you don’t intend to finance anything, you will still benefit from having good credit available as a backup for when you need it.
4. Peace-of-Mind for Potential Emergency Expenses
Credit cards are great for emergencies when funds are short. They can essentially act as a small loan for when you’re caught off-guard by a car breakdown, emergency trip to the vet, or whatever life throws your way. You can pay a credit card balance on your own timeline as long as you make the monthly minimum payment.
5. Ongoing Rewards & Initial Bonuses
Initial bonuses are a popular perk of signing up for a credit card. You can get a set amount of cash back, miles, or points for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening certain credit card accounts. Many credit cards also reward users with cash back, points, or miles for every purchase they make.
Cash back is typically applied as a statement credit or can sometimes be redeemed as a paper check or bank account deposit. Points can be used for cash back, merchandise, experiences, gift cards, or travel. Miles can be limited to just flights on certain airlines, at least for the best redemption value. Or, they can cover a range of travel purchases like hotels, cabs, cruises and more. For all the purchases you’re making anyway, there’s no reason to not earn a little extra back.
6. Potential for a Flexible Payment Schedule
Being able to carry a balance for a week or two allows for flexible budgeting. You can use credit cards to pay for everyday purchases, or even bigger bills, which lets you hang on to your cash longer. Many credit cards even let you pick your payment due date, which can be great if you sometimes need wiggle room with monthly expenses.
7. Free Credit Score Access
Practically every credit card offers free access to your credit score now. Though the free credit score services offered by card issuers aren’t updated as often as WalletHub’s free credit score – and they don’t give personalized credit advice – it’s still nice to see your credit score when you log into your credit card account.
8. Possibility of Interest-Free Financing
When you get a new credit card with a 0% APR period, you have the freedom to make large purchases and not worry about interest for a while. The average intro APR lasts roughly 11 months, ranging from 6 to 21 months. Balance transfers are also an option with most credit cards. This allows you to pay down debt faster by transferring at least some of what you owe to a credit card with a better interest rate.
9. International Acceptance
It’s a no-brainer to take a credit card on an international trip. Credit cards are accepted everywhere. And when your credit card has no foreign transaction fee, you’ll save up to 9% in fees and currency exchange costs. Credit cards are also a good way to keep your funds safe, and they’re a solid backup source of money if something goes wrong. Plus, hotels and car rental agencies often require temporary holds on funds as deposits, so using a credit card for these expenses leaves your real money available when you need it.
Credit cards open the door to convenience and savings, especially as you build better and better credit. The flipside is that if you’re not careful with your finances, it’s easy to get into debt and pay extra with interest. So, again, credit is a tool that can make your life easier, but your best bet to succeed with credit cards is to learn how they work and how to use them responsibly.
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