I often hear people list the evils of credit cards, and blame them for financial problems. In some cases, credit card abuse is the reason for the problems. In other cases, credit card debt gets out of hand due to hard times.
If neither applies to you, and you have the cash on hand to purchase an item, sometimes it’s beneficial to use a credit card and then pay the bill immediately. When used correctly, credit cards have some surprising benefits. I’m not promoting reckless use of credit just to get rewards, but I do support smart shopping. If there are features that can benefit you, why not take advantage of them? Here are some perks you may not be aware of:
1. Breakage, theft, and loss protection. Your iPad is always with you—then one day it isn’t. If your beloved tech gadget has fallen into the hands of a sneaky crook, not to worry. If you used your credit card to buy an item that is now broken, stolen, or lost, you might be able to get a replacement or receive your money back. You’ll have to file your claim within a certain time period, and some restrictions might apply. Call and ask for details.
2. Return protection. You bought an outfit for your cousin’s wedding, but when you get home and try it on again, it’s not as flattering as it appeared in the store’s magical body-slimming mirrors and theatrical lighting. Most of the time, you can make a return without a problem. However, if your purchase was discontinued or it was a final sale item, you might be out of luck. That’s where return protection comes in. Return protection may help you recover some or all of your payment. Note that this benefit might not be available on all credit cards, so read your credit card agreement or call the issuer to see if you’re covered.
3. Price protection. You got what you thought was the best deal on a digital camera. Just one week later, you see the same camera on sale for 20% off. Luckily, price protection comes to the rescue (if you used your credit card to buy the item). If your card has this feature, you can request that the issuer refund the difference between the price of the item you purchased and the price of the discounted item. Again, call the issuer for details. There might be a cap on the amount of the refund and grace periods vary.
So now that you know about these perks, use them!
Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise and a certified credit counselor. Get more consumer tips when you go to @SheiresaNgo.