Consumers who ignored the flurry of “update” notices sent by a number of credit card issuers this summer may be in for a rude surprise this fall when some longstanding benefits disappear from popular credit cards.
For example, collision damage waiver, and half a dozen other travel and purchase benefits including 2-5% back in points at Sears and Kmart will be removed from the Sears platinum MasterCard issued by Citi as of October 1. Bank of America is eliminating five benefits on its Better Balance Rewards MasterCards as of November 1. And Discover, as of last month, removed from its cards benefits for lost or delayed luggage, travel insurance, and emergency roadside service. (See chart below.)
“Credit card issuers have used a host of benefits to attract customers to their cards, but now they are quietly removing many of them,” explained Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “Some customers may be in for quite a surprise when they go to use one of these benefits but only then discover that it no longer exists.”
Most of the MasterCard changes were made by the card company itself last year for their standard, gold, and platinum cards, but the cuts are only being implemented now by some individual banks. MasterCard says it evaluated which benefits cardholders preferred and actually put to use for everyday transactions in deciding what set of core benefits to offer and which to drop. For these basic cards, the new core benefits funded by MasterCard only include Extended Warranty, Price Protection, Identify Theft Resolution, and lost card services. Individual banks can supplement the core benefits with other perks, or even buy back deleted ones.
A Visa spokesperson said it had no plans to reduce benefits on its cards. AMEX did not respond to inquiries.
At the same time that they are reducing benefits, some of the card issuers say they are adding or improving some perks. For example, FIA Card Services, a unit of Bank of America that issues credit cards for Fidelity Investments, is expanding its “extended warranty” benefit on certain cards. Starting in November, it will double a manufacturer’s warranty up to two additional years (up from one year) for warranties of 24 months or less.
Sears MasterCard claims that as of October 1 it is improving “Extended Warranty” and “Price Protection” on its platinum cards, but PR representatives at neither MasterCard nor Citi could provide any details of the enhancements.
Before making a critical purchase, cardholders are urged to check with their card issuer to ensure that a particular benefit traditionally associated with their card is still in effect. For example, don’t assume you still have automatic collision damage waiver protection when renting a car, counseled Consumer World.
Upper tier cards like World MasterCard, World Elite MasterCard, and Visa Signature tend to offer more benefits than basic cards. Many of the eliminated benefits are still available on them and on many basic cards that have opted not to adopt the changes (yet).