PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Credit cards are everywhere with at least 1.2 billion cards in America alone.
What’s the most common reason we have them?
“More for convenience, instead of carrying cash,” Dan Ashmead, of Steubenville, said while shopping at a local mall.
A few years ago, more than 76 percent of Americans had credit cards. However, since the Great Recession, that number has dropped, forcing credit card companies to offer more incentives to get your business.
Shopping is as American as apple pie, and so is using a credit card.
While some credit card companies charge you a fee and others are free, they almost all offer some kind of hidden benefit.
Why? Because this is an increasingly competitive business.
That’s why it pays for consumers to read the fine print, but few consumers do that when credit card solicitations come in the mail.
“I get a lot of them. They go right in the trash,” Laura Zimmerman, of Sewickley, said.
“We seem to get a credit card advertisement once or twice a week,” Mark Dierdorf, of Hopewell, said. “They go in the trash.”
Point Park University Business School Prof. Elaine Luther says that’s a mistake because credit card companies are desperate for good customers.
“They want people who use it a lot and carry a balance, but never pay late,” Luther told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.
Forget the traditional benefits like Frequent Flyer Miles and Cash Back.
Some credit card companies are offering less visible special perks like price protection.
“If you purchase something with a bank credit card and within a certain period of time, maybe 30 to 90 days, if you find an ad that it was offered at a lower price, they’ll refund the difference,” Luther said.
That may be up to $1,500 in refunds for products you find at lower prices.
Then, there’s return protection.
When you want to return a product bought with a credit card but the seller won’t take it back, that’s when your credit card company will take it back and refund you the cost.
“Now, I think this is really nice,” Luther said.
Here’s another hidden perk. Some credit card companies extend the warranty on something you buy with the card for an extra year.
“Many cards have an automatic extended warranty for a whole list of items,” Luther said.
Here’s one we can all use, especially when you can’t find a no-fee ATM nearby.
“Credit cards are now starting to give you an alternative to an ATM without a fee,” said Luther. “They let you, for every purchase, tack on maybe $40 or $50.”
And this is an attractive perk — credit cards that allow you to buy concert tickets before they go on sale to the public.
“Called a pre-sale, and you will be able to go and get the best choice of seats and also not have to call up and be on hold,” Luther said.
These are just a few of the many secret perks your card may have.
Prof. Luther said consumers should call their credit card company now to find out exactly what they have.
‘It doesn’t hurt to open a negotiation with your credit card companies,” she said.
And if you can’t get what you want, find another credit card company.
“I’m going to be evaluating the whole credit card situation now that you’ve brought it to my attention,” Mary Beth Kelly, of Robinson Township, said.