The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Protection and How to Use It

By Anna Davies · March 13, 2024 · 13 minute read

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The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Protection and How to Use It

Beyond making purchases more convenient, credit cards can provide a number of additional and valuable layers of protections. For instance, they can help cover you if you are traveling abroad, buying something pricey or if you were to lose your job or otherwise become unable to pay your bills. Some credit card protections, like travel insurance, are perks of the card included in the annual fee. For others, like credit card payment protection, you may have to opt in and pay an additional fee.

Read on to learn more about the types of credit card protection that are available, how they work, and when they may be worth it.

What Is Credit Card Protection?

Credit cards may offer various forms of protection in their perks and benefits. These protections can help protect your purchases and ensure you don’t pay for charges that aren’t yours.

They can also help you in a dispute with a vendor. For example, if you ordered an item that never made it to you and the merchant won’t give you a refund, you could invoke a credit card chargeback with your credit card company.

Perhaps the most common form of protection associated with the term “credit card protection” is credit card payment protection insurance. This is an insurance plan that you can opt into for a monthly fee that would offer protection if something were to happen that prevented you from paying your bills.

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Types of Credit Card Protection

Read on for more details on the various forms of credit card protection.

Fraud Protection

One basic benefit of a credit card is typically fraud protection, and this can be why people use credit cards over debit cards or cash. If someone were to steal your credit card number or your physical card, fraud protection shields you from being responsible or liable for charges.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), creditors cannot “take actions that adversely affect the consumer’s credit standing until an investigation is completed.” This means that all credit card companies will launch an investigation if fraud occurs. During this time, you will not be held liable for the charge in question (though make sure to make your credit card minimum payment so you don’t incur late fees or ding to your credit during the investigation).

Some credit card companies may go beyond that and offer even more fraud protection, including $0 liability. (The FCBA caps liability in case of fraud at $50 if the thief presents the card. The liability is $0 if the card is not physically present, as in the case of someone stealing a credit card number and using it online).

While fraud protection can offer peace of mind, it’s also important to be proactive about recognizing fraud. If you lose your credit card, call your issuer to have the card frozen. And always let your issuer know ASAP if you notice a charge that isn’t yours.

Return Protection

Return protection is another form of purchase protection offered by some credit cards. It allows you to return an item for a set period of time defined in your membership agreement. This return window may offer more leeway than that of the merchant you made the purchase from (for example, 90 days instead of 30 days.)

There are exclusions to what can and can’t be returned. Further, there also may be a cap on the cost of the item being returned, as well as an annual cap per card, though it depends on how your credit card works specifically.

Price Protection

Have you ever bought something, only to see the item go on sale a week later? That’s where credit card price protection comes in. With this perk, you may be able to receive a refund for the difference in price if you purchased the item with your card.

Generally, it’s your responsibility to track price drops. And your issuer may have certain terms, such as limiting the protection to price drops within a set time period. Price protection also may exclude certain types of purchases, such as tickets to sporting events or concerts.

Purchase Protection

Similar to return protection, purchase protection can help protect you if purchases are lost or damaged or if services aren’t rendered or delivered as expected. Generally, you would bring the issue up with the merchant or service provider. But if they don’t initiate a refund, then you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. This process initiates what’s called a credit card chargeback.

There may be limitations and exceptions to purchase protection. It can be a good idea to talk directly with the merchant before reaching out to your credit card company.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can be a big reason to put a trip on a credit card. In fact, some card issuers offer insurance as a perk for using the card.

The specifics of credit card travel insurance depend on the card issuer, but it may include insurance for lost luggage or coverage for trip interruption or cancellation. In general, these insurance policies may not be as comprehensive as a standalone policy, but they can provide some peace of mind when planning a trip.

Car Rental Insurance

Car rental insurance is another type of insurance offered as a credit card perk. If you rent a car with the credit card, the card may provide insurance protection in case of damage. Generally, this includes collision/loss damage waiver coverage.

Car rental insurance through your credit card may allow you to forego the (sometimes pricey) insurance options offered by the car rental agency. However, as with any insurance policy, it’s a good idea to read the fine print to know exactly what is and is not covered.

How Credit Card Protection Works

Most protections are part of the overall perks and benefits of the card. But credit card payment protection is a little bit different. It’s generally an opt-in program that offers protection if you are no longer able to pay your credit card bill. The protection offered can be short term, such as for a life event like a change in employment, or long term, extending for 12 to 24 months in the event of a job loss or hospital stay.

Usually, credit card payment protection carries an additional monthly fee. Also note that payment protection doesn’t let you off the hook from paying the bill down the road. Rather, for a set period of time, your credit card issuer would offer a break on making payments or lower your minimum payments due, as well as pause any fees. Your issuer will continue to report your account in good standing during that time.

Tips to Keep Your Credit Card Safe

Protection programs can give you peace of mind. But losing a credit card or dealing with fraudulent activity can be stressful regardless of what protections you have in place. It can also potentially open the door to identity theft, which could potentially harm your credit.

That’s why it’s smart to set up some smart security behaviors. Read on for some tips for how to keep your credit card safe.

Practice Credit Card Protection From Day One

When you’ve applied for a credit card, keep an eye out for the card to arrive in the mail. It should come in between five and 14 days; your issuer may provide a timeline.

If you don’t receive your card within that time period, call your issuer. They will issue you a new one. And as soon as you do get your card, follow the steps to set it up for use.

Keep Your Account Number Private

Don’t write down your credit card account number, expiration date, and CVV. Don’t share this information with anyone else. Also consider whether or not you want to save payment information online. While it can be convenient, it could leave your information vulnerable. If you are using your credit card to make a payment, make sure that you are doing so through an encrypted service.

Keep Your Information Current

Make sure that the email address, mailing address, and telephone number on file with your card issuer are up to date. By doing so, you will be aware of any communication between you and your card issuer. Further, this will prevent a new card from being delivered to the wrong address.

Be Careful With Your Receipts

While federal law prohibits how much credit card information is on receipts, this may not be true in other countries. If you’re traveling abroad, it may make sense to be even more mindful about how you dispose of receipts. Don’t leave them lying around.

Secure Your Devices and Networks

Being mindful of how and when you use your credit card online can help you avoid fraud. Using your own network, rather than public WiFi, can be one security step. It can also be helpful to check that a website uses encryption for payment and that it’s a secure site.

Protect Yourself Online

When you’re using a credit card for payment, it’s important to be cyber-savvy. Credit card scams to try to obtain your information or your credit card number are not uncommon.

You’ll want to be on the lookout for phishing attempts. If a merchant or bank asks you to email your credit card number, call the merchant directly. Know that banks will never ask for sensitive information over email. Also be on the lookout for requests to “verify” your information via email or text. Again, these may well be scams designed to get your account information.

Additionally, pay attention to any odd links, misspellings (such as Citii for Citi), or emails that include a link. Instead of following the link within the email, consider manually typing in the URL of a website.

Check Your Account Often

It can be good to get in the habit of regularly checking your credit card balance. Doing so a few times a week, instead of just waiting for a statement to come out, can alert you to fraud as soon as it happens. And remember, a fraudster could steal your information even if your physical card has always been in your possession.

Report Lost Cards and Fraudulent Activity Right Away

If you see something odd on your credit card balance, let your card issuer know right away. The same goes if you can’t find your credit card.

Even if you’re 99% sure your card is somewhere in your house or car, it can be a wise idea to contact your card issuer. In some cases, they can freeze your card. This means that you’ll be able to unfreeze it once you’ve found it, without getting a new card and a new card number.

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What Does Credit Card Payment Protection Cover?

In general, credit card payment protection insurance has restrictions regarding when it applies, and it may require documentation.

Some reasons you may be able to request long-term credit card payment protection may include:

•   Job loss

•   Disability

•   Hospitalization

•   Death of a child, spouse, or domestic partner

•   Leave of absence (for family or child care, or for military duty)

•   Federal or state disaster

Meanwhile, you may be able to get short-term protection for the following reasons:

•   Marriage

•   Divorce

•   Graduation

•   Childbirth

•   Adoption

•   Retirement

•   New job and job promotion

•   A move to a new residence

Situations that may not qualify for payment protection include incarceration or voluntarily leaving your job, such as to pursue higher education.

Pros and Cons of Payment Protection

Is payment protection right for you? That depends. The opt-in program usually costs an additional fee. Plus, while paying your full balance each month is ideal, you could potentially pay the credit card minimum payment if you were going through hard times to keep your account in good standing, though your annual percentage rate (APR) would still apply.

In many cases, it may make sense to focus on bringing down your balance so your minimum payment is relatively low. That way, if the worst were to happen, you might still have enough room in your budget to manage minimum payments.

Pros of Payment Protection Cons of Payment Protection
Gives you a breath on monthly payments Will incur an additional monthly fee, adding to your balance
Offers peace of mind May be other assistance options with no added cost
Helps protect your credit in the event you can’t make payments Generally limited to two years of assistance
Pauses your credit card’s fees Limits on what qualifies for protection insurance to kick in

Is Credit Card Payment Protection Worth It?

Weighing the pros and cons of credit card payment can help you assess whether it makes sense for you. If you carry a very high balance and are in the process of paying it down, payment protection may give you peace of mind — especially if you don’t have a good APR for a credit card. But keep in mind that you could potentially switch to minimum payments during a hard time and still maintain your payment history.

To decide if credit card payment protection is right for you, it’s important to read the fine print and assess how these credit card fees would impact your overall financial outlook. Also take into consideration your current financial situation, your savings account balance, and the general stability and security of your job and lifestyle.

Credit Card Protection Scams and How to Avoid Them

As credit cards offer protection, scammers see opportunities — and these can be tailored, beyond just credit card skimming. There are several credit card protection scams that may target card holders, including:

•   Phone scams offering loss protection for a fee. Some scammers have been calling people and telling them they may be liable for charges beyond $50 on their credit card. They then try to get people to buy loss protection and insurance programs. If you get this call, know that credit cards include fraud protection at no additional fee — plus, your liability is limited to $50 by law. Call your credit card company if you have any questions about its fraud protection programs.

•   Scams claiming your account has been compromised. In this case, the scammer will ask you to provide personal details, such as your credit card number, claiming your account has been compromised. Don’t ever give sensitive credit information over text or via email. If someone calls claiming to be your credit card company, call the company directly from the number on the back of the card. Scammers can mask their true phone number and make it appear as if they are legit.

•   Fraudulent text alerts. Scammers also may send text messages asking for your CVV number on a credit card to “fix” a security problem or “verify” or “update” your account. A real credit card company would never ask for this information nor send text messages like this.

•   Fake account protection offers. Any account protection should come directly from your credit card company, not from a third party. If you receive these offers, don’t take them up on it.

The Takeaway

Credit card protection can be one of the great benefits of using a credit card. While some credit card protections are standard, including fraud protection, it can be helpful to consider what protection offers are most important to you before paying for additional services.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


Are there limits to credit card payment protection?

There may be limits on what qualifies for credit card payment protection, and your issuer may need to see proof of hardship. Further, there may be a time limit on how long credit card payment protection is offered.

Is there a time limit on credit card payment protection?

Generally, issuers have a time limit for credit card protection policies. These vary between issuers, but may be as short as several months or as long as two years, depending on the circumstances.

Should I get credit card payment protection insurance?

Credit card protection insurance may incur an additional fee, unlike other protection options offered as part of your overall perks and benefits within your card. That fee can add to your balance. If your credit card balance is at or near $0, credit card payment protection insurance may not be necessary.

Photo credit: iStock/9dreamstudio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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