Got Credit Cards? 5 Little-Known Ways to Take Advantage of Them

If you're not cautious when using your credit card, you can easily end up with significant personal debt. You may already have credit card debt - and while paying it down should be your main priority, it's also important to understand how to get your credit cards to work in your favor. Many credit cards come with benefits that you may not have been aware of. Here are five ways you could benefit from cards you already possess:

1. Price Protection
If, after purchasing an item, you find the same item at a better price, some credit cards will issue a refund for the difference. You need to provide documentation of the cheaper price, and generally must request the refund within 60 or 90 days from the date of purchase. Two of the providers that offer this benefit are Chase and Citi.

2. Additional Product Warranty
Many manufacturers guarantee their products for one year from date of purchase. However, if you purchase an item with the right credit card, you can have the warranty doubled. Many major credit card issuers offer this benefit, although the rules and restrictions vary by provider.

3. Product Protection
Believe it or not, some credit cards will actually protect your purchase if your item is damaged or stolen. Most of the major credit card providers (besides Discover) offer this benefit. However, coverage is often limited to the first 90 days following the purchase.

4. Travel Perks
Many credit cards offer travel benefits, such as free car rental insurance and free hotel concierge services. If you're planning an upcoming vacation, make a quick call to customer service, or use the Internet to determine the exact benefits of your cards.

5. Dispute Process
All credit cards offer a dispute process. If you never received an item you purchased online, were dissatisfied with a certain service, or feel that you were wronged in any way, you can initiate a dispute process. The credit card company will need your full side of the story (including solid documentation including receipts, a written explanation, and photos, if applicable), and if your claim is valid, you may receive a refund. This is especially important when you make larger purchases with your credit card, such as airfare or furniture.

Final Thoughts
One benefit we all know about that credit cards offer is cash back rewards. However, what many people don't understand is the best way to take advantage of this feature. If you're carrying any balances at all, apply these rewards to your statement balances. Much of the merchandise offered by credit card issuers usually aren't things you actually need, especially when you compare it to the money you can save by paying down your balances. In essence, it's free money, so put it towards your statements instead of picking up a new electronic device.

Do you know of any other little known credit card benefits?

David Bakke is a writer for the popular personal finance blog and resource, Money Crashers. He tackles important topics such as credit cards, getting out of debt, budgeting, and investing for retirement.