Surprising debit card benefits

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One of my favorite things about getting in “the game” with credit cards is the incredible benefits. I clearly remember the first time I went into an airport lounge (thanks to a Priority Pass membership). I previously had no idea that something like that existed. I had been totally oblivious. But between the absolute tranquility (there was almost no one else around in the lounge) and the food that wasn’t costing me half the price of my flight to eat, I was hooked on what cards could do for me. In the years since, I’ve enjoyed the peace of mind of primary rental car coverage, price protection, extended warranty coverage, and more just by paying with the right credit card. But how many of these things can you get without a credit card? It turns out you can get a lot of them with debit cards. Let me be clear: primarily using debit cards is a horrible idea in my opinion given the risk of exposing your bank account dollars (even if you ultimately aren’t held liable for fraudulent charges, you could be in for the inconvenience of a drained bank account in the short-term). However, I found it interesting to learn that many benefits I had assumed to be unique to credit cards really aren’t.

The Guide to Benefits: You never know what you might find

The original impetus for this post was that I had opened a Bank of America business checking account and I actually read the guide to benefits that came with my debit card. You know that little paper pamphlet that comes with your new card? Don’t throw that out! It might be worth a quick look.

And in fact, I would tell you that it may be worth filing in a cabinet somewhere because it turns out that many banks make it quite difficult to find the information found within that booklet without the paper copy. I spent hours chatting and messaging and requesting copies from a number of banks (because I hadn’t kept my debit card guides to benefits!), mostly to no avail. Over and over I was told to refer to the guide to benefits I’d received with my card and that they don’t maintain any digital copy for cardholder reference (obviously some banks keep their guides online as linked below, but most do not).

At any rate, had I not seen the words “Purchase Security and Extended Protection” at the top of that business debit card guide to benefits, I likely wouldn’t have wondered much about which benefits were offered on my debit cards. Every now and then it’s worth reading the fine print that comes with your card!

Purchase Protection / Purchase Security

Indeed, my Bank of America Business Debit card comes with several interesting perks, one of which is what they call “purchase security”.

The terms spell out that this benefit means that the benefit provider will replace, repair or reimburse you for theft or damage to eligible items of personal property within 90 days of purchase. I was particularly surprised by the limits of this coverage: up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per cardholder.

There are obviously exclusions – like items purchased for resale, vehicles, animals, etc.

Still, I had no idea that a debit card would cover theft or damage to purchases – and certainly not up to those limits. In fact, when I bought a new treadmill a few years ago, I put it on my Business Platinum card specifically for the fact that it covered higher purchase protection limits than my other credit cards (many of which didn’t cover an individual claim up to the price of the treadmill).

This type of benefit also showed up on my World Debit Mastercards, albeit with a lower limit of $1K per claim.

Satisfaction Guarantee (return protection)

In yet another perk that I never imagined I would find on a debit card, I realized that at least one (and probably two) of my debit cards actually come with return protection. Billed as a “Satisfaction Guarantee”, the benefit is described this way in the Guide to Benefits of my SoFi Money World Debit Mastercard:

• Purchases you make entirely with your covered card are
covered for sixty (60) days from the date of purchase as
indicated on your receipt for a full refund in the event that
you are dissatisfied with your purchase and the store will not
accept the item for return

• Coverage is limited to the actual cost of the item (excluding
taxes, storage, shipping, and handling costs), up to $250 per
claim. In no event will we pay more than the purchase price of
the item.
• Items must be returned undamaged, in good working condition,
and in its original and

Again, this benefit comes with its share of exclusions as one would expect — but at the heart of it, making a purchase on some debit cards offers surprising protections.

In Greg’s post “Best Credit Card Purchase Protections” he actually notes this about return protection:

I find it interesting that Chase and Amex offer return protection only on their most expensive cards while Synchrony offers return protection on their fee-free Rakuten Visa.

In other words, he’d also probably find it interesting that you don’t even need a credit card to get this benefit!

I linked above to the SoFi Money World Debit Mastercard, but I initially found this “Satisfaction Gaurantee” benefit because I had noticed that my HSBC Premier debit card is also a “World” Mastercard. I couldn’t get HSBC to provide me with the guide to benefits, but I did find this page which spells out World Debit Mastercard benefits. This satisfaction guarantee is listed in the benefits, so it is my guess that it likely comes with the HSBC debit card as well.

Extended warranty: up to EIGHT YEARS

This one blew my mind. In that same post above about Best Credit Card Purchase Protections, Greg notes this about extended warranty coverage:

While most banks offer 12 months, Citibank offers 24 month extended warranties on their cards that still offer this perk.

While I thought that 24 months was as generous as it gets, it turns out that you can do even better with some debit cards!

For example, my Bank of America Visa Business Debit Card “doubles” the original warranty if the original warranty is 3 years or less. This isn’t necessarily better than Citibank’s credit cards in some scenarios and I put “doubles” in parenthesis because the benefit is worded in a misleading way — it says it “doubles” the original warranty up to one year as long as the original warranty is 3 years or less. Effectively, this provides the same maximum term limit as a Citi card (3 years original warranty + 1 extra year = 4 years), but it covers items with an original warranty of 3 years, whereas a Citibank credit card wouldn’t extend the warranty at all on an item with an original warranty period of 3 years.

But much better yet is the SoFi Money debit card. It matches Citi’s 24 months above (that is to say that if the item you buy has a manufacturer warranty of 24 months or less, the card will double that coverage up to a max of 24 months). However, I found the next bullet point in the guide to benefits really surprising (I’ve added the bold print for emphasis):

• If the item purchased has a service contract or an optional
extended warranty of twenty-four (24) months or less and the
total length of coverage (original manufacturer warranty plus
the service contract or extended warranty) is less than fortyeight (48) months, Extended Warranty will double the original
manufacturer warranty plus the service contract or extended
warranty up to forty-eight (48) months.
• In no event will coverage exceed ninety-six (96) months from
the purchase date.

I had to do a double-take. If you purchase a service contract / extended warranty from the store, the SoFi Money debit card will also double that provided that neither the original manufacturer warranty nor the extended warranty/service contract are more than 24 months separately. Ordinarily, I’d say that buying the extended warranty coverage with your TV is a terrible idea, but if you could get eight total years of warranty coverage, that would be pretty amazing. The max benefit “shall not exceed the actual amount charged on your covered card or $10,000” — so you’re covered even for very expensive purchases (subject to the exclusions in the fine print — I’m summarizing here).

Interestingly, I think the language and coverage above may be a World Debit Mastercard thing that applies to other World Debit Mastercards as well. I find the same exact coverage detailed in the SunTrust World Debit Mastercard Guide to Benefits.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

This was another one of the benefits that originally made me do a double-take: My Bank of America Visa Business debit card covers CDW. And it’s not secondary CDW – it’s primary CDW coverage as long as you are renting for business reasons (the coverage is clear that if the rental is for personal reasons, it is secondary). I remember when credit cards that covered primary CDW were notable just a few years ago. I never expected I’d see that on a debit card.

To be clear, I think it would be a horrible idea to rent a car with your debit card. In addition to the fact that the rental company will likely want a large deposit if they’re even willing to rent to you with a debit card, in the case of an accident I imagine that they may demand to be paid up front / charge your debit card for the value of the vehicle.

As is typically the case with cards that offer primary CDW, you have to decline the rental car company’s coverage at the counter. They do list a phone number to call – even a collect number to call when outside the United States – if the rental company insists that you buy their insurance.

I’ll also note that a Fidelity Visa debit card offers CDW coverage as well, though it is secondary in your country of residence (and only covers rentals of 15 days or less in your country of residence or 31 days or less abroad).

Price Protection

Most credit card issuers have slashed price protection benefits (this benefit covers you if you buy an eligible item and later find a better price).

However, I found that it is still listed as a benefit in the Schwab Visa debit card’s guide to benefits, covering claims made within 60 days of purchase for up to $250 per claim and up to $1,000 per year. Again, given that this type of benefit has been removed from most credit cards, I was shocked to see it available on a debit card.

Cell phone insurance

While cell phone insurance has become a somewhat trendy benefit added to some rewards credit cards, it is also available via the SoFi Money debit card. We wrote about the launch of this benefit earlier this year. As a reminder, here was a summary of the details:

  • Cell phone protection: When you pay your cell phone bill with SoFi Mastercard, receive up to $200 per claim, $25 deductible, up to 2 claims per year. Unlimited lines associated with the cell phone bill.

The coverage limit here is low, but so is the deductible. If you don’t carry a high-end flagship phone, this can certainly be a better deal than the coverage offered by some credit cards. For instance, I’ve recently made a claim via the Chase Ink Business Preferred. While that card covers up to $600 per claim, the $100 deductible could really eat into any money you see if your phone is repairable / not very expensive.

Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle Services

A final interesting benefit is that World Debit Mastercards get access to Mastercard Travel and Lifestyle Services. A few months ago, Bougie Miles called this the “Best World Elite Mastercard Benefit”. This essentially gives you access to a program sort of similar to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts or Chase Luxury Hotel Collection with some other benefits sprinkled in (Bethany goes into some depth about why she loves it, so see her post). This is listed as a World Debit Mastercard benefit and I can confirm that my wife was able to register with her HSBC Premier World Debit Mastercard and she has access to the same benefits as a credit card holder — including benefits at some hotels like free breakfast for two and a $100 hotel credit.

Bottom line

Frankly, I was really surprised when I started reading guides to benefits and finding that some of the best consumer protections — like return protection, price protection, primary CDW, and cell phone insurance — are available not only on credit cards, but also on some debit cards. I wish I had kept more of those guides that come in the mail with the cards as I am now curious about all of the debit cards in my household.

All that said, I’m curious from a purely academic standpoint. The truth is that I wouldn’t give up on credit card rewards for what boils down to insurance coverage on items that I can afford to replace fairly easily. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to be in the habit of using my debit card for purchases for the inconvenience that could occur if the card is hacked / stolen. While I think that in most cases you likely won’t be liable for fraudulent charges (the same as with credit cards), the fact is that you may end up living with an empty bank account for an extended period while that gets sorted out (indeed I once dealt with this when one of our debit cards was stolen in South America and the thieves drained the account entirely before we realized what happened).

Still, I find it interesting to see what benefits you can get not only without an annual fee but without a credit card at all. I’m willing to bet that most of the debit-card-only crowd is unaware of the benefits they may have available in their wallets. Furthermore, it makes me question how expensive these benefits are to offer if they can be offered on debit cards — and why in the world Citi had to remove most of these types of benefits from its credit cards last year.

I’m curious to hear from readers on this one: have you found any other interesting debit card benefits? Much like that first lounge experience, I wonder what’s out there that I didn’t even know existed until I found it.

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[…] Surprising debit card benefits […]

toomanybooks

Great post, thanks.

Has anyone ever studied Metabank and similar $200/$500 etc. V/MC/Amex debit GC terms for this sort of thing?

NK3

“Citibank credit card wouldn’t extend the warranty at all on an item with an original warranty period of 3 years.”

This is not correct. For the Citi cards that still have extended warranty, it adds 2 years up to a maximum of 7 years of total coverage. I checked the benefits guide to confirm this. Citi adds 2 years to a warranty that is 5 years or less in length.

Troy

Post Roast time! Many Citi cards add 24 months to warranties of 5 years or less – and even extend beyond a purchased warranty as long as it’s bought at the same time and paid for with the card. For example, I bought a Thinkpad from Lenovo, paid for the 3 year warranty, and my Citi AT&T Access More will add 2 years onto the end of that for 5 years total. Also grabbed a cheap third party 5 year warranty for a 65″ TV during checkout from Amazon, turning it into a 7 year warranty with my Citi card…I’m actually HOPING it breaks within 7 years so I can get an up to date replacement TV for close to free from Citi. Cards include: AT&T Access More, TY Premier, TY Rewards+, & Expedia Voyager. My only current Citi personal card without this feature is the Dividend with 5% rotating categories.
I will say – outstanding post none the less!

Johnny

The chase Disney debit card gives you all the perks of the Disney credit card.

askmrlee

MasterCard business card products including debit cards (i.e. like the original PayPal and the Diners Club Professional) have long had primary CDW car rental coverage. T&C on business debit cards allow you to do the deposit on a credit card and still be covered for debit card as long as the car rental bill is settled with the debit card. How that would happen if you have a claim during the rental and need to pay a “final bill” is beyond me.

toomanybooks

I cannot get the Diners Club/BMO Harris people to respond to me about my Diners card. I have had the Professional card sitting here unused for years. Not even sure if it is active or can be resurrected. That used to be a fantastic niche card in the old days. Pretty much the only one with primary car insurance, which is why I kept it. You could also save up the points and dump them at the exact time of your closing for Southwest credits for the CP. Best technique available then. Long obsolete.

Ryan del Mundo

To minimize the risk of fraud, call your bank and set the debit card limit (the “visa” portion) to $1 or something more reasonable if you need to purchase something. I keep my ATM cards this way to avoid any fraud if they’re stolen.

cov

The Schwab price protection benefit blew my mind when I first read about it.

I would guess these benefits are used even less on debit cards than on credit cards. In spite of this, I noticed on my recent Chase statement that all such benefits are being removed soon.

Grant

Yes, I noticed that too on my Chase checking account the other day and wrote a blog post about that yesterday. Like Nick stated, finding the benefits guide for debit cards is nearly impossible.

Nicholas

Do you think the exclusion for “advertisements found on the internet” is enforced?
It’s going to be hard to price match without the internet…