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2015’s Credit Cards With The Best Benefits

2015-STUDYCREDIT-CARD-BENEFITSCredit cards bring a lot more to the table than convenience, rewards and financing capabilities. They also provide a host of unheralded ancillary services that, in many cases, are touted as major selling points or actually sold separately to consumers by various merchants. This includes extended warranties, price matching, travel insurance and rental car insurance, just to name a handful of plastic-based perks. But despite the money-saving potential that these policies provide, far too few consumers either know about or understand these features well enough to truly take advantage of them.

The inconsistency of credit card issuer policies is one important reason for that. Not only do benefit terms vary by financial institution, but issuers typically apply each benefit only to certain offers in their card portfolios. When you further consider the loopholes and fine print typical of many such policies and factor in lingering consumer distrust which dates back to pre-CARD Act chicanery, it’s perhaps even more understandable why ancillary credit card benefits aren’t as popular as they could be.

With that in mind, CardHub decided to evaluate which individual credit cards offer the best combination of benefits in order to help consumers save money and better protect their finances using features that might already reside in their wallets. We compared the quality of six different types of credit card benefits for all of the non-co-branded consumer cards offered by the 10 largest issuers by purchase volume, ultimately arriving at an overall benefits score for each card.

Main Findings

  • The credit cards with the best benefits are:
    1. Chase Sapphire Preferred (85.06% overall score )
    2. Chase Freedom (81.70%)
    3. Citi Prestige Card (80.15%)
  • Price Protection and Return Extension are the benefits that are most likely to be missing from a given credit card offer, as 47% and 45% of cards evaluated in this report do not have them, respectively.
  • In most cases, benefits are automatically provided to eligible cardholders without the need to sign up. Citi cards are the notable exception, as users must register on an annual basis for certain benefits.
  • Each policy comes with its own exclusions:
    • Jewelry is most common exclusion under Return Extension and Price Protection policies;
    • Refurbished items often are not covered by a credit card’s Extended Warranty;
    • Items stolen from a vehicle and electronic components damaged by an electrical current might not qualify for Purchase Protection;
    • Certain SUV’s, international rentals and accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads might not be eligible for coverage under a credit card’s Rental Car Insurance policy;
    • Lost or delayed luggage might not be covered by your card’s Travel Insurance, as only 45% and 23% of cards cover such occurrences, respectively.
  • In order to make a claim, users typically must provide an itemized receipt and a credit card statement as proof that the particular charge or service qualifies for coverage.

The Coverage You Can Expect

 
The following table compares the coverage provided by the credit card with the best overall combination of benefits to that offered by a card with a benefits package representative of the market average. Some individual cards may offer better terms in individual benefit categories.
 

Benefit Best Card Average Card
Return Extension Up to $1,000 in annual refunds for items purchased with your credit card that are not eligible to be returned to the retailer within 90 days of being purchased None
Rental Car Insurance Reimburses a cardholder for costs stemming from damage to or theft of a rental car for rental periods of up to 15 days Reimburses a cardholder for costs stemming from damage to or theft of a rental car for rental periods of up to 15 days in your country of residence and up to 31 days otherwise
Extended Warranty Extends the terms of the original warranty on eligible items for up to 1  year Extends the terms of the original warranty on eligible items for up to 1 year
Travel Insurance Up to $500,000  in the event of death or dismemberment, $3,000 for lost luggage and $500 for delayed luggage Up to $100,000  in the event of death or dismemberment and $3,000 for lost luggage
Price Protection Up to $2,500 in annual refunds for the price difference on items whose prices drop in the 90  days after being purchased with a credit card Up to $1,000 in annual refunds for the price difference on items whose prices drop within 60 of being purchased with a credit card
Purchase Protection Up to $50,000 in annual refunds, repairs or replacements for items stolen or accidentally damaged within 60 days of being purchased with a credit card Up to $50,000 in annual refunds, repairs or replacements for items stolen or accidentally damaged within 90 days of being purchased with a credit card  
Cards Offering This Type Of Policy Chase Sapphire Preferred Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa Signature

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Detailed Scoring

 

Card Name Return Extension Rental Car Insurance Extended Warranty Travel Insurance Price Protection Purchase Protection Total
Weight 20.00% 15.00% 20.00% 15.00% 20.00% 10.00% 100.00%
Chase Sapphire Preferred 17.50% 12.97% 15.50% 13.94% 17.30% 7.85% 85.06%
Chase Freedom 15.70% 12.97% 15.50% 12.38% 17.30% 7.85% 81.70%
Citi Prestige Card 16.00% 13.50% 15.25% 12.90% 14.40% 8.10% 80.15%
Barclaycard Arrival 15.70% 12.53% 16.00% 11.36% 15.50% 6.85% 77.94%
Barclaycard Arrival Plus 15.70% 12.53% 16.00% 10.82% 15.50% 6.85% 77.40%
Discover it 19.30% 12.00% 15.25% 7.35% 16.70% 6.05% 76.65%
Discover it Miles 19.30% 12.00% 15.25% 7.35% 16.70% 6.05% 76.65%
Citi ThankYou Premier Card 12.40% 13.50% 15.25% 11.61% 14.40% 7.80% 74.96%
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card 12.40% 13.50% 15.25% 10.05% 14.40% 7.80% 73.40%
Citi Double Cash 12.40% 13.50% 15.25% 9.26% 14.40% 7.80% 72.61%
Citi Diamond Preferred Card 12.40% 13.50% 15.25% 9.26% 14.40% 7.80% 72.61%
USAA Preferred Cash Rewards World MasterCard 13.00% 12.44% 16.75% 11.78% 15.60% 0.00% 69.57%
USAA Cash Rewards World MasterCard 13.00% 12.44% 16.75% 11.78% 15.60% 0.00% 69.57%
Wells Fargo Propel 365 15.60% 12.26% 18.25% 12.93% 0.00% 8.70% 67.74%
Wells Fargo Propel World 15.60% 12.26% 18.25% 12.38% 0.00% 8.70% 67.20%
USAA Rate Advantage Platinum MasterCard 13.00% 12.44% 15.25% 10.17% 15.60% 0.00% 66.46%
USAA Cash Rewards Visa 13.00% 12.71% 15.25% 11.78% 13.60% 0.00% 66.34%
USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa 13.00% 13.41% 15.25% 10.17% 13.60% 0.00% 65.43%
Platinum From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 9.71% 0.00% 9.00% 64.77%
EveryDay Preferred From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 9.58% 0.00% 8.70% 64.33%
Green Card From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 9.58% 0.00% 8.70% 64.33%
Premier Rewards Gold Card From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 9.30% 0.00% 8.70% 64.06%
Gold Card From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 9.04% 0.00% 8.70% 63.79%
Citi Simplicity 12.40% 13.50% 15.25% 0.00% 14.40% 7.80% 63.35%
Blue Sky From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 7.65% 0.00% 8.70% 62.41%
Blue Cash Everyday From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 7.65% 0.00% 8.70% 62.41%
EveryDay From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 7.65% 0.00% 8.70% 62.41%
Blue From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 7.65% 0.00% 8.70% 62.41%
Blue Cash Preferred From American Express 15.60% 12.71% 17.75% 7.11% 0.00% 8.70% 61.87%
Wells Fargo Cash Back 0.00% 13.06% 15.50% 12.11% 14.20% 6.70% 61.57%
Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa Signature 0.00% 13.06% 15.50% 12.11% 14.20% 6.70% 61.57%
Wells Fargo Visa Signature 0.00% 13.06% 15.50% 7.88% 14.20% 6.70% 57.33%
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express 0.00% 12.71% 16.75% 11.78% 15.60% 0.00% 56.84%
USAA Cash Rewards American Express 0.00% 12.71% 16.75% 11.78% 15.60% 0.00% 56.84%
Chase Slate 0.00% 12.97% 15.50% 0.00% 17.30% 7.85% 53.62%
Capital One QuicksilverOne 0.00% 12.44% 14.00% 10.76% 13.60% 0.00% 50.80%
Barclaycard Rewards 0.00% 12.18% 14.50% 0.00% 15.50% 6.85% 49.03%
Barclaycard Ring 0.00% 12.18% 14.50% 0.00% 15.50% 6.85% 49.03%
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express 0.00% 11.56% 18.25% 10.80% 0.00% 8.05% 48.66%
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select+ American Express 0.00% 11.56% 18.25% 10.80% 0.00% 8.05% 48.66%
Capital One Platinum 0.00% 12.44% 14.00% 7.88% 13.60% 0.00% 47.92%
Capital One VentureOne 0.00% 12.71% 15.50% 11.03% 0.00% 6.70% 45.93%
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature 0.00% 11.91% 15.50% 12.26% 0.00% 6.05% 45.72%
Capital One Venture 0.00% 12.71% 15.50% 10.49% 0.00% 6.70% 45.39%
U.S. Bank Cash+ 0.00% 11.91% 15.50% 11.06% 0.00% 6.05% 44.52%
U.S. Bank Perks+ 0.00% 11.91% 15.50% 11.06% 0.00% 6.05% 44.52%
Bank of America Travel Rewards 0.00% 11.56% 15.50% 10.80% 0.00% 6.05% 43.91%
Bank of America Cash Rewards 0.00% 11.56% 15.50% 10.80% 0.00% 6.05% 43.91%
Capital One Quicksilver 0.00% 12.71% 15.50% 7.88% 0.00% 6.70% 42.78%
Bank of America Better Balance Rewards 0.00% 11.29% 14.00% 0.00% 12.50% 0.00% 37.79%
U.S. Bank Platinum 0.00% 11.91% 15.50% 0.00% 0.00% 6.05% 33.46%
Wells Fargo Rewards 0.00% 13.06% 0.00% 12.11% 0.00% 0.00% 25.17%
Wells Fargo Home Rebate Visa 0.00% 13.06% 0.00% 10.01% 0.00% 0.00% 23.07%
BankAmericard 0.00% 11.56% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 6.05% 17.61%

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Ask The Experts: Assessing The Value Of Credit Card Benefits

 
Ancillary credit card benefits can be quite helpful, but they also tend to be complex and under-utilized. For more insight into how consumers can better take advantage of these account features and what such perks may look like in the future, we consulted a panel of leading experts in the fields of personal finance, marketing and consumer studies. You can check out their bios and responses to the following questions below.

  1. Which credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?
  2. Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it’s more with card issuers or card networks?
  3. What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?
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Julie Irwin

Professor of Marketing in the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas at AustinWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

I think that it is likely that the benefits related to purchases (credit card return extension, credit card extended warranty, and credit card purchase protection) are by far the most used. The others are probably used less, because price protection is more difficult to use (and prices are somewhat constant), and people do not often have the need for travel insurance and rental insurance. It is likely people forgo the insurance at the rental counter if they have a card with this benefit (I do), but on the other hand I am not sure that many people buy that insurance anyway. If you think of forgoing the insurance as using the benefit, then I guess many people do use it.

It is likely that all of these benefits are underutilized. As I understand it, people tend to pick cards for the benefits and then do not use them very much or use them but also carry a balance and thus negate them in terms of interest rates that they are paying. In general, people probably overestimate the extent to which they are going to use credit card benefits: there is always a time element involved when it comes time to use the benefits, and that time and effort element looms larger when you are in the moment than when you are thinking forward to what you will use and not use. We all expect to be more organized and to have more time in the future than we do now.

Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

I think that the benefits get people to pick the cards, and then the primary driver of loyalty is inertia. It is too much of a pain to change cards, so people keep the one they have.

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

Lowering the interest rate if you pay on time a set amount of months.
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Prentiss Cox

Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Law in Practice Program at University of Minnesota Law SchoolWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

My two general observations are as follows:

1. Many of these products (e.g., extended warranties) are sold to consumers at vastly inflated prices relative to cost/risk by merchants and third parties, and the fact that card issuers offer these benefits for free confirms that consumers vastly overpay for such products in the market. So the offer of such products by card issuers is a much more cost-effective means for consumers to obtain these protections.

2. My experience in this area leads to me an intuition that few consumers understand, and thus few consumers effectively use, these benefits. The terms and conditions of credit card use overwhelm consumers with information, and thus I suspect that far more people would use these benefits if they were more salient.
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Nancy Y. Wong

Professor of Consumer Science in the School of Human Ecology and Faculty Director of the Center of Retailing Excellence at University Of Wisconsin-MadisonWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

Credit Card Rental Car Insurance.

Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

All cards seem to offer similar benefits, so more with card networks and issuers.

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

Foreign currencies exchange fees reduced.



Professor Wong's opinions do not endorse this study.
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Rajesh Srivastava

Associate Professor of Marketing in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State UniversityDo you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

Yes, it does increase consumer loyalty. It is more with card networks as consumers do not know who the card issuers are.

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

More widespread usable loyalty points.
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Sugato Chakravarty

Professor of Consumer Science and Director of the Center for Excellence in Leadership in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Purdue UniversityWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

They are all very useful for consumers and are all underutilized by folks… My favorite is the price protection program offered by a lot of credit cards, such as Citi Price Rewind. Citi Price Rewind is offered on all consumer credit cards issued by Citi. You have to make purchases with your Citi card and register them online. Citi will then search for better prices, and if it finds one within 60 days, you’ll get a refund for the difference.

Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

They do increase loyalty and there is research to support that and the loyalty is more with the specific card than the network.

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

One cool feature to add to credit cards would be to offer prescription eye glass protection (for breakage) for glasses purchased with the card within a certain dollar limit.
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Peter Nigro

Associate Professor of Finance at Bryant UniversityWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

It depends on the consumer and the types of purchases made. That said, 99% of decision should go towards primary reason.

If you carry a balance - the best card is the one with the lowest APR. If not - get best cash back or miles.

Note -- Credit card rental car insurance is fairly universal among most cards - so I would not pick that one (in addition to some coverage from regular auto policy).

Other ones might be beneficial for big ticket items -- but really not great for every day convenience purchases (food, gas) which are the bulk of most people credit card purchases.

Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

I don't believe the secondary benefits increase loyalty -- but the primary ones definitely do! Consumers are more likely to spend on a card - with cash back or use a card because of the frequent flier mileage benefits.

It has more to do with the cards than the networks (AMEX / VISA are irrelevant in most consumer minds).

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

How about a First Time No Fault Late Policy?

Allow consumers to be late x days 1 time each year on paying their credit card bill.

Things can spiral out of control sometimes -- give the consumer a break on late fees or interest payment -- basically offer 1 month with no accruing interest.

This could change your customer demographics a bit -- but people carrying balances are the most profitable -- throw them a bone!
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Timothy R. Graeff

Professor of Marketing and Director of the Office of Consumer Research at Middle Tennessee State University Which secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

I know that cash back is a huge benefit that draws many consumers to use one card over another.

Beyond that, I would expect that the secondary benefits that provide the most direct, tangible benefits to card users would be preferred. For example, return extension, price protection, and extended warranties would seem to have the most direct, noticeable, and usable benefits for consumers.

And yes, I do believe that the more benefits - that consumers can see themselves actually taking advantage of on a frequent basis - the more motivated a consumer is to using that card. However, consumers can be very habitual. They often end up using the same card for all purchases. So, infrequent benefits such as rental car insurance might might not end up being used or taken advantage of if consumers routinely use the same card for every purchase (they might simply forget to use the card that offers a specific benefit for a specific type of purchase).
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Nathalie Martin

Professor and Frederick M. Hart Chair in Consumer and Clinical Law at University of New Mexico School of LawWhich secondary credit card benefits do you think are most advantageous for users? Which do you think are most underutilized?

Secondary credit card benefits, such as return extensions, extended warranties, price protection, purchase protection, travel insurance, and car rental insurance are only valuable to the extent that consumers know about them, that the benefits are easy to access.

The secondary benefit I use the most myself is car rental insurance and it saves me a bundle on the car company’s insurance though I can’t say I have ever tried to recover on any of it. I am also pretty sure most people who rent cars know about this benefit, making this a high value benefit. I don’t shop for cards on the basis of this benefit, however, because pretty much all of the cards offer it.

Now that I am aware of it, purchase protection is something I will actually shop for, though again, I am pretty sure the average consumer has no idea this this exists. I have a consumer lawyer friend who just got $700 for a stolen bike through one of these policies, so I do know they work. Pretty awesome!

Considering travel insurance, the most valuable thing would be the trip interruption insurance. Trip insurance that you buy is super-expensive and usually excludes most things that could happen, so recovering is next to impossible. I think if this type of trip insurance were provided (and did not contain a boatload of exclusions) I would definitely shop for cards on this basis, of course still taking into account miles, cash back, and all that.

I rarely return things and when I do the store almost always obliges, often without a receipt if you have the card you bought it on, so I see little benefit for me in return extension benefit. Ditto for price protection. Would anyone ever follow through with this? You’d have to be very vigilant and have plenty of time on your hands. Wouldn’t the people who could benefit from this be the same people that shop around in the first place? I guess the main thing this benefit could be useful for is large purchases, and perhaps large purchases bought in a hurry due to some emergency, such as a refrigerator. I wonder how hard it is to collect and am considering trying it to find out. Do you not need to try to get a good price the first time? Where does the differential come from? I hope it does not somehow get charged back to back to the merchant, which could be unfair to the little guy.

Extended warranties? It seems to me that these free extended warranties have some of the same down sides as the extended warranties that one purchases, such as plenty of discretion in whether to pay on a claim and an obvious disincentive to do so. However, at least these warranties are free. Since you have to save your receipt for the item, I really question the practical value since the extended warranty offered will be used long after the purchase of the item. Only the organized really win.

Do you believe such benefits increase consumer loyalty? If so, do you think it's more with card issuers or card networks?

It depends upon the benefit. If a customer knows about these, then these would build loyalty, assuming the card companies don’t change the terms on you, eliminate the benefit, and give you notice in some buried lengthy disclosure.

What benefit that credit cards do not currently offer would you like to see added?

It’s not really a secondary benefits, but good disclosures in clear bullet points about what is actually offered (including secondary benefits) with each card, and then perhaps on a topic unrelated to secondary benefits, issuers’ support of more secure technology like EMV, and support for new standards like Apple Pay would be appreciated. Another unrelated thing might be lower interest rates after a certain number of on-time payments, without being forced by law to offer these. That is what I call a real perk and would certainly build customer loyalty.

Methodology

 
This report was intended to help consumers more easily determine which individual credit cards provide the best combination of benefits so they can better target card comparison and application efforts, ultimately ending up with a better result. After all, comparing credit cards based on fees, interest rates and rewards has become easier in recent years, following the Great Recession and CARD Act, but ancillary benefits are still relatively misunderstood and difficult to distinguish across issuers.

With that in mind, CardHub evaluated the benefits offered by all non-co-branded consumer credit cards (excluding student and business card offers) from the 10 largest issuers by purchase volume. We first analyzed the major types of ancillary credit card benefits in a series of six individual reports: Return Extension, Extended Warranty, Price Protection, Purchase Protection, Travel Insurance and Rental Car Insurance. For the purpose of this report, we determined each card’s score by multiplying its scores in the previous six reports by the weights listed below. All of the reports were originally completed at the individual card level, with the exception of Extended Warranty and Rental Car Insurance, which were done at the card network level. As a result, we scored each individual card using the same methodology as these two reports, excluding the “Card Ubiquity” category. We did this for two reasons: policies can differ between cards on the same network, and a card ultimately has the benefit or does not.

  1. 2016 Return Extension20% Weight
  2. 2014 Extended Warranty20% Weight
  3. 2015 Price Protection20% Weight
  4. 2015 Purchase Protection10% Weight
  5. 2015 Travel Insurance15% Weight
  6. 2015 Rental Car Insurance15% Weight

Based on the above methodology, we determined not only whether each card offers a given benefit, but also the amount of coverage it provides and how that coverage compares to an ideal policy, according to our subjective opinion of what a consumer would expect based on commonsense, rather than an unlikely in-depth review of the card’s terms and conditions.

Editorial Disclaimer: Editorial content is not provided or commissioned by financial institutions. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been approved or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution, including those that are CardHub advertising partners. Our content is intended for general educational purposes and should not be relied upon as the sole basis for managing your finances. Furthermore, the materials on this website do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Ad Disclosure: Offers originating from paying advertisers are noted as “Sponsored” on the offer's details page. Advertising may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At CardHub we try to list as many offers as possible but we don't make any representation of listing all available offers.

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