Rare credit card perks and where to find them

Some credit card perks are now so common that they’ve become routine for credit card connoisseurs. Concierge service is pretty much obligatory (even among no-annual-fee cards). Travel insurance, rental car insurance and purchase protections (while incredibly useful) are practically standard these days.

Yet some cards stand out by offering perks that almost no others do.

Rewards at the ATM

Cards that offer it: Cards that participate in the Wells Fargo Rewards Program (such as the Propel cards, the Wells Fargo Cash Back card and the Wells Fargo Rewards card).

How it works: Wells Fargo announced this perk in February 2015. At Wells-Fargo ATMs, you can withdraw your rewards in cash, deposit them into a checking or savings account, or use them to pay your mortgage or personal loan. All these options require you to redeem in $20 increments.

Cellphone protection

broken-iphoneCards that offer it: Cards from Fifth Third Bank, First Citizens Bank and Wells Fargo (personal cards only). The Citi Forward card used to offer it, but that card is no longer available.

How it works: If you pay your cellphone bill with your credit card, you receive a certain amount of protection (usually a couple hundred dollars, although Wells Fargo’s protection is particularly robust at $600). If your phone is damaged or stolen under covered circumstances, you can file a claim and get the money (minus a deductible).

Restrictions apply, of course, including whether the protection extends to additional phones on the contract. Phones that are “mysteriously” lost, rather than stolen, are generally not covered.

Roadside assistance

Cards that offer it: The Premier Rewards Gold card and Platinum card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner)

How it works: Don’t mistake this benefit for one that’s actually pretty common on credit cards: access to a hotline to request roadside assistance services that you’ll have to pay for. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold and Platinum cards give you complimentary roadside assistance for towing up to 10 miles, flat-tire changes (if you have a working spare), jumpstarts, lockout service and delivery of fuel (up to 2 gallons). You can get these services at no additional cost four times per year.

Whether this service can replace your AAA membership is debatable, but it’s something you might be relieved you have.

Cash at the register

Cards that offer it: Discover cards

How it works: Usually, if you want to use your credit card to get cash at the register, it counts as a cash advance, and you’ll get hit with all the fees and instantaneous interest charges associated with that.

Discover, however, lets you take out cash (with a purchase) at these locations. You can take out up to $120 every 24 hours.

International phone rental

Cards that offer it: Diners Club Carte Blanche card

How it works: You get complimentary cellphone rentals (including delivery) when you travel abroad to more than 140 countries. Call minutes you use will be charged to your card. Depending on the cost of purchasing international coverage from your own carrier, this could save you money.

Free shipping

Cards that offer it: Various American Express cards, various retail cards (learn about some of your options here).

How it works: That depends on the card. Certain American Express cards (most recently the Blue Cash cards and the Everyday card) sometimes offer complimentary Amazon Prime subscriptions to new cardholders for a limited time.

Meanwhile, other American Express cards offer free subscriptions to ShopRunner.

While American Express cards have the most versatile free-shipping options, a number of retail cards (including the Target REDcard) give free shipping on the co-branded retailer’s website. Other cards frequently offer free-shipping deals on certain merchandise via their online shopping portals.

TSA PreCheck/Global Entry

Cards that offer it: American Express Platinumman using Global Entry

How it works: All that time spent taking off shoes at security and waiting in processing lines at customs can add up for frequent travelers. If you’d like to save time, you can apply for TSA PreCheck ($85) and the Global Entry Program ($100). The American Express Platinum will reimburse you for one or the other if you pay for it with the card.

Customizable rewards

Cards that offer it: U.S. Bank Cash+ card

How it works: In most cases, the issuer will pick the bonus categories for you. Don’t plan on spending a lot on gas stations during your card’s gas quarter? Too bad. The Cash+ card from U.S. Bank, though, has an interesting twist: Each quarter, you get to pick your own bonus spending categories. Two of those categories will earn 5 percent back (up to $2,000 a quarter) and one will earn an unlimited 2 percent back. Current 5 percent categories include clothing stores, furniture stores and car rentals, so you can customize your categories to fit with your vacations and large planned purchases.

Complimentary rounds of golf

Cards the offer it: Citi Prestige

How it works: Via the Citi Prestige International Golf Benefit, you get three free rounds each year at various courses around the world (if you book them with your Citi Prestige card). If the course participates in the program (more than 2,400 do, according to Citi’s website), the charge will be cancelled out automatically. You will, however, have to pay for caddy fees and any necessary taxes. For most properties, you’ll need to book at least three days in advance, although bookings in some regions require you to book as many as eight days ahead of time. Cancellation fees apply.

Some of these perks may be enticing. However, while free rounds of golf or international cellphone rental may pique your interest, they may end up being a benefit you don’t use that much. So make sure the card has a transparent and lucrative reward system that matches your spending habits. That way, you’re getting value out of the card – and that unique perk is just icing on the cake.

Updated Feb. 4, 2015

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