In a little over a week (Aug. 1, 2015), Discover will drop the following benefits from its cards:
- 24/7 Travel Assistance
- Baggage delay insurance
- Emergency roadside assistance
In a statement, the issuer explained it intends to “simplify the suite of cardmember benefits that it provides by eliminating certain benefits in order to provide a better customer experience.”
For those reading along between the lines, however, it seems Discover is cutting benefits to save money. After all, the issuer has to pay third parties to provide these benefits: AXA Assistance for the 24/7 travel assistance, Virginia Surety Company for baggage delay coverage and Road America Motor Club for roadside assistance.
So, should you close your card – or hesitate to apply for a Discover product? Consider the following before making your decision.
1. You probably weren’t going to use these benefits often anyway
A 2013 survey by J.D. Power found that roughly one-third of consumers are unaware of their card’s benefits. Even if you know your benefits guide front to back, these three benefits aren’t ones you’re likely to use often. For one thing, they come in handy only when something goes wrong – you’re stranded on the road, you lost your passport or your baggage is delayed.
Even if you have the opportunity to use these benefits, you still might not:
- If you have a AAA membership, you’re probably not going to reach for your Discover card (which will charge you $69.95 per call) over a flat tire or lock-out.
- When things go haywire with travel, you may turn to your airline, rental car company or the nearest embassy before you think to call Discover’s hotline.
- As for baggage delay coverage, the fine print can be pretty restricting. You must charge the trip to your card to be covered, for example. So if your Discover card is only part of a multi-card strategy, chances are you charged the trip on your designated travel card (which may not be your Discover card). You also have to file a claim for reimbursement after you’ve purchased your delayed travel essentials, a step you might not be willing to go through (or forget to go through) when you return home from a trip. And, of course, there’s a deadline – 180 days after the incident.
Credit cards are loaded with benefits that look good on paper but that you probably won’t use as much as you thought you would. Meanwhile, your card’s rewards are probably something you’re going to benefit from more frequently – and Discover’s rewards aren’t changing at all.
2. The card is still comparable to no-annual-fee rewards cards
It’s not as if dropping these benefits puts Discover miles behind its competitors. The chart below shows other no-annual-fee rewards cards that offer the perks Discover is dropping.
|Compare coverage on other no-annual-fee cards|
|24/7 Travel Assistance||Baggage delay insurance||Emergency roadside assistance|
|Barclaycard Arrival (World MasterCard)||YES||Up to $100/day for 3 days||No|
|Capital One Quicksilver||YES||No||Yes, for $59.95 per service call|
|EveryDay card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner)||YES||NO||Yes. Free hotline, you pay cost of service|
|Chase Freedom (Visa Signature)||NO||NO||Yes, for $59.95 per service call|
As you can see, none of these cards offers all three. Of course, offering none of them might appear to put Discover in last place. But Discover also offers other unique perks that may be more important to you. Its Freeze It feature, for example, allows you to temporarily turn off your card if it’s misplaced. Its Cash at Checkout perk allows you to use the card to withdraw a limited amount of cash at the register at approved stores without paying cash-advance fees.
So look at the whole picture before picking a card. For you, Discover’s rewards and other benefits might outweigh the importance of the jettisoned perks.
The bottom line
The perks Discover is ditching probably aren’t make-or-break benefits for most cardholders. And no single card will provide all the perks you want.
So rather than closing your card, a better strategy might be to think about what role it will now play in your card strategy. If you’re taking a trip for which a delayed bag would be disastrous, use a card that provides baggage delay coverage. If you want your card to provide roadside assistance, make sure you have one in your wallet that does. Plenty of other cards also provide 24/7 travel assistance.
What’s most important is that Discover isn’t downgrading its rewards – and even has a recent history of boosting them. That means its suite of cards is still a good fit for earning cash back on everyday purchases.