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The average American currently carries approximately $7,000 in credit card debt. This results in a good chunk of money that is simply wasted on monthly interest charges. While many people know how to use credit cards effectively, many do not, and in addition to racking up high interest, also neglect to utilize all of the benefits that many credit cards come with.
Above all else, it is important to get all credit card debt eliminated from your life. However, as you work toward that goal, you can also take advantage of some of the benefits credit cards offer, such as these five:
1. Free Money
Many credit cards have cash back rewards programs - but do you have the best one for you? The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offered by American Express offer tons of bonus cash back on gas and groceries. Even though it has a $95 annual fee, you can easily offset this with your rewards. You can also consider the Chase Freedom® card or a Discover it® Cashback Match™, which offers 5% cash back on a rotating set of categories, including restaurants, movies, gas, and more. *Terms and limitations apply.
2. Travel Benefits
A wide variety of credit cards offer travel perks, including free car rental insurance and concierge series. If you vacation frequently, make sure you're using the right card when booking your travel plans. One of the better cards to consider is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which could earn you a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, equal to $400 in travel! Furthermore, there are no foreign transaction fees and you earn 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. You can use your miles to fly on any airline with no blackout dates.
3. Dispute Options
If you make a purchase for a service or product that you're just not satisfied with, you may have options at your disposal. The dispute process is fairly complex and you need documentation, such as your receipt, a copy of a complaint letter sent to the merchant, and photographs, if applicable. If your evidence is solid, credit card companies often respond in your favor. Virtually all credit cards come with this benefit.
4. Automatic Extended Warranty Coverage
Depending on the card, you may be able to extend the standard manufacturer's warranty of one year up to an additional year. Just keep in mind that you need your receipt and in some cases, you must notify your credit card company within 60 days of your product breaking down. American Express features this benefit on all of its cards, as does Discover.
5. Refund Options for Damaged or Stolen Merchandise
Believe it or not, some credit cards offer to pay for an item that was either damaged or stolen. However, most of these policies contain extensive restrictions and exclusions and not all cards come with this benefit. A quick call to customer service should be able to get you the answer for your particular card. All Discover cardholders are covered on any damaged or stolen merchandise up to $500 in value.
Remember, you can enjoy all of these credit card benefits, but until you start paying off your entire balance every month, you won't be making any significant progress regarding your finances. Paying off your debts should be your main priority.
Do you know of any other little known benefits to credit cards?
About the Author: David Bakke is a frequent contributor for the blog MoneyCrashers.com. He writes about tips and strategies for budgeting, getting out of debt, utilizing the best financial tools, and more.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.