I pay more than $4,000 a year to take advantage of credit card perks, but there are 5 dream benefits that would immediately make another card irresistible

caroline lupini oahu hawaii oct 2018Caroline Lupini in Oahu, Hawaii, in October 2018.Courtesy of Caroline Lupini

  • I have nearly 30 credit cards that provide me a host of benefits, and I find them so useful I pay more than $4,000 a year to use them.
  • But the perks I do have make me dream about the perks that I wish I had, like worldwide car rental liability insurance and missed flight protection.
  • Although I love my travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, if I could find a card with one of these dream perks it would go right in my wallet.

I have nearly 30 credit cards that provide me a host of benefits including a statement credit of up to $100 as reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years, Priority Pass Select membership offering access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world, and delayed baggage coverage.

In fact, I find those benefits to be so valuable I'm happy to pay more than $4,000 a year to use them.

I get great benefits from the cards I carry, but it doesn't mean that there aren't benefits I wish that I had. It may not be realistic to consider that card issuers would add benefits in a world where many banks are paring back (or even eliminating) valuable benefits. However, card benefits are a truly differentiating factor and the right combination of benefits can make the difference between being the card at the top of my wallet and a card I am calling to cancel.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you're working to earn credit card rewards, it's important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.

Here are the dream credit card benefits I wish I had:

1. Worldwide car rental liability insurance

Most premium and travel credit cards offer at least secondary comprehensive and collision coverage for rental cars. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve (my own go-to travel card) even include primary coverage, so you don't have to claim your own insurance. What's missing? Liability insurance.

If you rent a car in Costa Rica, Mexico, and many other places, you are required to purchase liability insurance at the rental counter. And that's the "gotcha" on international rentals. If a card provided liability insurance, allowing you a credible and worry-free way to decline all insurance at the rental counter, it would be a game changer.

2. Missed flight protection

Airlines used to take care if you if you got to the airport late through no fault of your own. Most had an informal "flat tire rule" where they'd take care of you up to two hours after your flight. Your airline would just put you on standby and you had a good chance of getting on the next flight.

With the advent of basic economy, those days are over. Nowadays, if you miss a flight, your ticket is gone and you're stranded - if you want to travel, you will have to purchase an expensive walk-up fare (if one is even available). Worst of all, if you are traveling on separate tickets, this can happen if your inbound flight was delayed and you missed your onward connection.

And no, the heavily touted trip interruption coverage included with some credit cards does not cover any of this. The first credit card that offers missed flight protection will go to the top of my wallet for airfare spend.

3. No-fee over-the-counter international cash advances

I'd love to see credit card companies enable a long overdue "hack." It can be astonishingly expensive to use ATMs abroad - for example, the ATM fee in Thailand is over $6 and the transaction amounts are set intentionally low so you have to rack up a lot of fees! (Though my favorite Charles Schwab debit card does help with this by reimbursing ATM fees.)

Meanwhile, credit card cash advances made at a bank branch can be taken with no local transaction fees. The problem is, your bank will charge you an arm and a leg (typically a large transaction fee, plus a percentage of the transaction, plus an eye-popping interest rate that starts the day you take the advance).

If I could get around ATM fees by taking no-fee international cash advances from my credit card instead (with repayment on the same terms as a purchase), I would only use this service a couple of times a year - but I'd keep the card that let me do it at the top of my wallet for international trips. This would also come in handy in the case of a lost or eaten-by-the-ATM debit card or in the rare case where done of the ATMs in town seem to like my debit card at all.

4. A Google-powered travel portal

Credit cards that allow you to spend your points directly on travel use partners that often display more limited inventory, more expensive prices, and more restrictive conditions than you can find other places online. Google does a much better job at finding good deals on flights and hotels than any of the credit card companies, so I'd love to see them partner with Google instead. After all, "1.5 cents per point in value" isn't really that if everything costs 10-50% more.

5. Dynamic currency ripoff reversal

If you don't watch carefully when you charge your card overseas, you might get stung by "dynamic currency conversion." What does this mean? Your card will be charged in dollars, at a terrible exchange rate, instead of the local currency. This can cost you 3% or more extra. Dynamic currency ripoff reversal would detect when you were cheated by a dynamic currency conversion scam and automatically credit back the amount you got ripped off.

Talking about new card benefits is probably living in a fantasy world. The trend with banks and card issuers is to remove benefits and become less competitive rather than add them and become more so. However, smaller banks have a real opportunity to move in with truly differentiating benefits. I hope that they do!

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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