Most of us think of cash back or free flights when we consider the benefits of using credit cards.
But many of them offer unique, often hidden, benefits outside their traditional rewards programs, perks that can save cardholders money and time. Often, the benefits are offered for simply having the card — no purchase required.
“The credit-card marketplace is so competitive that banks are trying to bend over backwards to keep their customers and attract new ones,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “And out-of-the-box perks are what they are doing to stand out.”
Several of these credit cards are giving cardholders exclusive deals such as access to events, free museum admission or the chance to hang out with Disney characters.
“Cool, unique experiences are what customers want right now,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub. “They want to share their experiences on Instagram and other social media channels.”
But consumers weighing credit-card offers should not base their card decision solely on these out-of-the-box perks. People should focus on other factors, such as the interest rate on purchases, annual fees and whether the ongoing perks match a consumer’s overall needs and spending habits, said Lars Holmquist, senior vice president of the Americas for the Collinson Group, which consults credit-card issuers on loyalty programs and card benefits.
“Those are the larger decisions, and you should really prioritize those before you get into some of the other convenience and fun-factor benefits,” Holmquist said.
Here are some of the unique perks that are being offered by various cards. Some of them might even help with your weekend plans:
Special access to events
Chase cardholders have special access to exclusive events, celebrities and experiences through the company’s Inside Access program. These experiences include private evenings with Michelin-starred chefs, athletic experiences with all-star athletes and rounds of golf at exclusive golf courses throughout the country.
Planning a trip to Disneyland and Disney World? Then you may want to check out the Disney Visa card, which provides a private location for cardholders to meet and pose with some of their favorite Disney and “Star Wars” characters at both theme parks.
If you like visiting museums, and you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card owner, then you’re in luck. Bank of America’s Museums on Us program allows cardholders to visit museums for free during the “first full weekend of every month.” Cardholders just have to show their Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit card along with a photo ID to gain free admission to any participating institution.
There are also perks for avid golfers. The MasterCard Golf Program offers access to private club tee times across the country, access to the PGA Tour Player Experience and complimentary hospitality tickets to high-profile golf tournaments nationwide.
American Express cardholders get complimentary enrollment in ShopRunner, a $79-a-year service offering free two-day shipping and free returns on certain items from thousands of brands at more than 140 stores. Partnering retailers include Neiman Marcus, Drugstore.com, Kate Spade, Staples and PetSmart.
Some credit-card perks can lead to savings on services you’re already using. For instance, people who use the Capital One Quicksilver card to pay for their Uber rides can receive every 10th ride free up to $15. The number of rides are tracked under the “payment” section of the Uber app, and the credits are applied automatically when Uber collects payment for that 10th ride. (So if the ride costs less than $15, the charge would be zero.) The promotion lasts through March 2017.
Correction: An earlier version misspelled Matt Schulz’s name. This version has been corrected.