September 16th, 2010
13 Reasons To Love (And Use) Your Credit Card Again
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This may be one of the only times you’ll hear this from a personal finance, pro-consumer site… but there are lots of reasons to love using your credit card again.
While its customary to condemn credit cards for running us deep into debt, don’t blame the plastic for the times we overspend and undermanage our cards. Credit cards are actually remarkably helpful financial tools when managed responsibly.
Credit cards are more convenient than lugging around checks and cash, pays back in cash and rewards, has more protections than debit, and comes with built-in benefits cardholders should take advantage of more often.
For card-holding consumers who are confidant in their credit card know-how and know how to avoid debt like the plague, here are
13 reasons to love and use your credit card more:
- Price protection – Just as some stores will match prices, some issuers will refund the price difference if your recent purchase is cheaper at another store or goes on sale.
- Purchase protection – Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, your credit card issuer is required by law to cover damaged goods and undelivered products so you are not liable and will reimburse you up to certain limitations.
- Unauthorized charges – One of the best perks of using a credit card is that they offer generous protection against fraudulent and unauthorized charges. Issuers typically pick up a big chunk or the whole tab for these types of charges.
- Return guarantees – This little known protection helps when you get stuck with an unwanted purchase because you lost the recipt or missed the store’s return policy period. Issuers may accept the item and refund you, as long as you can prove you purchased the item on your credit card statement and that the original store rejected the return. For example, many Visa Platinum cards offer up to $250 back per item for up to 90 days after purchase date.
- Delayed payments – Unlike debit cards and checks, credit cards float your purchases for the 30-40 day cycle before your payment is due. With this ability to delay payments, you can reverse a transaction or, for example, be reimbursed by your company, without it ever affecting your bank account.
- Stolen and damaged goods – Some issuers will reimburse damaged or stolen purchases within 90 days of purchase date. Citbank cards offer as much as $500-$1,000 back per item in the event of theft or damage. It’s like having temporary insurance on your credit card purchases.
- Rental insurance policy – Major issuers offer auto rental collision damage waiver, covering basic auto insurance on your rental car for free. In the event of loss or damage, even if you have auto insurance, the card may cover the deductible. So you don’t have to sign up for the extra rental car insurance; you can get it for free!
- Rewards – While some debit cards, like PerkStreet or Chase Real Cash, offer cash back rewards, credit cards are king when it comes to rewards programs. Travel points, airline miles, gift cards, cash back—you name it, and you can rack it up with a credit card. However, this is also the dangerous aspect of credit cards that can lure you into debt.
- Extended warranties – Your credit card may offer extended warranties you don’t even know about. Before you pay extra for a warranty, check if your card offers warranty extension for free. For example, American Express and World MasterCard doubles most warranty periods (extensions max out at one year).
- ID theft and fraud protection – Credit card issuers provide ID theft and fraud protection, from monitoring your account for potentially fraudulent activity to providing fraud expense reimbursement at no cost if ID theft happens to you. Be familiar with your card so you’re better protected from ID theft and fraud.
- Travel assistance – Credit cards offer a variety of travel assistance services, such as flight insurance, baggage protection, roadside assistance, 24/7 emergency assistance and more. Many rewards and travels card have extensive travel protections. Check your credit card to see how your plastic covers you next time you’re on the road or abroad.
- Money management help – More and more issuers are beginning to offer personal finance programs, along with their credit card, to help consumers better track their spending and manage their money. For example, Chase Blueprint has key features to help consumers plan how to pay off debt and allocate their spending.
- Builds credit – Using a credit card is the only payment option that builds your credit and contributes to a healthy credit score. Be vigilant about your spending habits, and if you pay off your balance in full and on-time each month, your credit card can be your strongest tool to building great credit.
*Note: Credit card benefits vary between cards; check with your issuer to see what protections and coverage you can take advantage of.
These credit card benefits are advantageous to protecting you when you purchase a product or service, but it can’t protect you from yourself. The biggest issue with credit cards is that the awesome advantage of spending on credit is also a terrible disadvantage when it amounts to debt quickly and easily.
Bottom line: Credit cards have more benefits that other payment alternatives, but if the risk outweighs the benefits, you’re better off spending cash with no perks than charging yourself into debt.