If you own credit cards, you likely use them. But chances are, you aren't aware of all the benefits they provide you as a consumer.
Sure, you realize they're convenient financial products you can use for everyday purchases, but their advantages go deeper than that.
We turned to the experts to get a complete picture of all the perks credit cards offer.
Keep reading to find out how your cards can help you do more than just pay quickly and easily.
12 benefits of using credit cards
- You may get rewards and perks
- Using your cards responsibly can help your credit score
- You can use credit cards to start a business
- Credit cards have built-in fraud protection
- They can help you stay organized
- You can get a card that matches your needs
- Credit cards provide purchase protection
- They may also offer price protection
- Credit cards are a form of ID
- They're a good choice when traveling overseas (just watch out for fees)
- You can pay bills automatically with a credit card
- You need a credit card to rent a car
1. You may get rewards and perks when you use your cards
For Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com, the first thing that comes to mind about credit card benefits is the rewards.
Concierge service is another benefit that comes with some credit cards, Rossman said.
“You could use concierge service to help plan a trip or secure a coveted restaurant reservation or hard-to-find sports or theater tickets,” Rossman added.
2. Using your cards responsibly can help build your credit score
Judith Corprew, executive vice president at Patriot Bank, leads the bank's financial literacy program.
“Using credit cards responsibly and consistently is a good way to build your credit score by charging goods and services that you can afford, then paying off the full statement balance every billing period,” Corprew said.
Your credit score benefits from your record of on-time payments, as well as having available credit that you aren't using (which improves your credit utilization). These two factors make up 65 percent of your credit score.
It's important for your credit score to keep your credit utilization as low as possible.
But there are important considerations to remember, Corprew warned.
If you have credit cards, it makes sense to use them regularly, even if only for minor purchases, and always pay off the full balance.
Credit card interest can build up quickly if you don't pay off the entire balance every billing period.
In addition, credit cards can often encourage overspending, because for many consumers it doesn't feel like they're paying with “real” money, like when they use cash.
“If you have credit cards, it makes sense to use them regularly, even if only for minor purchases, and always pay off the full balance,” Corprew said.
See related: Poll: Half of balance-carrying cardholders clueless about their APRs
3. You can use credit cards to start a business
One of the biggest misconceptions about credit cards is that they're not a good way to fund a startup, according to Brock Blake, founder and CEO of Lendio.
Credit cards not only have perks for personal use, they can also be instrumental in starting or running a business.
Businesses in operation for three or more years may have many options for business financing, but startup business loans can be a lot harder to find, Blake said.
This is where both personal and business credit cards come in — they might be your only real option to get your business off the ground.
And not only can they help you fund the business of your dreams, Blake said, they come with many perks.
For example, if you can qualify for a 0 percent interest credit card, you could purchase a much-needed piece of business equipment and pay it off, interest-free.
Just keep in mind that 0 percent interest deals have a shelf date — for consumer cards, they typically expire in 12 to 15 months, although some issuers offer 18 months of no interest. Many business cards offer 0 percent interest periods of 12 months.
Using credit cards to start your business can also enable you to better manage your cash flow, Blake said.
“This is one of the biggest struggles that business owners face — they know they'll be able to generate sales and grow, but they need money to sustain them in the short term,” Blake noted.
If you're confident in your product market fit and your ability to generate revenue, a credit card can help you purchase the necessary inventory to get things rolling, Blake added.
4. Credit cards have built-in fraud protection
Almost all reputable credit cards offer some form of fraud protection – which means you aren't responsible if your card is stolen and someone runs up big bills, said April Lewis-Parks, director of education for Consolidated Credit.
“Try to get that same protection on a debit card,” she said.
If you suspect your credit card has been stolen or you see suspicious charges on your credit report, your credit card issuer can easily cancel your card and rectify the situation, and it is usually able to cover the fraudulent charges, said Mike Kinane, head of U.S. Bankcard at TD Bank.
The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects customers when fraudulent transactions are made to a credit card account.
Under federal law, if unauthorized charges are made with a credit card, the maximum amount a customer can be liable for is $50.
“As a preventive measure, you can also set up transaction alerts that can help you spot fraud by notifying you when your card is charged over a certain amount,” Kinane noted.
See related: How to report and protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft
5. Credit cards can help you stay organized
Kinane pointed out that using credit cards allows you to track your overall spending through your credit card bill or your online account, which can help you establish a budget and recognize where you should cut back to save money throughout the year.
Some cards, like the Apple Card, even have personal finance management tools you can access on your smartphone or your online account.
“Print out your credit card statements and highlight purchases by category using different color highlighters to see where you spent the most,” Kinane suggested.
6. You can get a card that matches your needs
Another big benefit of credit cards is that you can choose the card that works best for you, Kinane said.
For instance, if you dine out frequently, you may want to consider a card that will reward you a higher amount for restaurants.
Or, if you're a gas guzzler, you may want a card with gas-specific rewards.
7. Credit cards provide purchase protection
While policies may differ, most card issuers offer purchase protection, which allows cardholders to file a claim on eligible damaged or stolen items for a limited time after the date of purchase, Kinane pointed out.
So, if your new iPad comes in more pieces than an IKEA desk, you could be eligible for a refund.
“So, if your new iPad comes in more pieces than an IKEA desk, you could be eligible for a refund,” Kinane added.
See related: Purchase protection benefits: What they are, how to use them
8. Credit cards might also give you price protection
Some card issuers will offer a refund on a purchase if the retailer drops the price of the item within a specified window, according to Kinane.
“For example, if you purchase a TV for $500 and the price drops to $350 a week later, you might be eligible for a refund of the difference,” Kinane said.
Make sure you check with your card issuer to find out what its policy is on price protection because many issuers have dropped this coverage in recent years. For example, Citi, USAA and Barclays all ended their price protection benefits or planned to do so in 2019.
See related: Despite cuts, price protection can still save you money this holiday season
9. Credit cards are a form of ID
A credit card can often serve as a form of identification, said Sandi Webster, co-founder and chief learning officer of Pandi, a business that offers workshops and seminars geared toward empowering women.
“For example, utility companies always ask for two pieces of identification if you have to change your service to another location, and they accept credit cards as one of the options,” Webster said.
10. Credit cards are a good choice when traveling overseas (just watch out for fees)
Webster said using a credit card when you travel overseas is far better than carrying a large amount of cash, which could be lost or stolen.
If you do want to use a card for purchases while you're traveling, however, make sure you choose one that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
“Sometimes you even get a break because the charge takes a few weeks to be processed to your card and by then the currency exchange rate may be in your favor,” Webster added.
See related: 10 credit and money tips for travel abroad
11. You can pay bills automatically with a credit card
For Webster, automatic bill payment is a serious credit card perk.
12. You need a card to rent a car
Many car rental companies will not rent to someone without a credit card.
They require a credit card because they want to have recourse if you damage the car or fail to return it, Webster said.
See related: Earning points when renting a car