Published on June 17th, 2014 | by William Charles11
A Complete Guide To Visa Benefits: Signature & Basic
In this post we’re going to be looking at the benefits that come with credit cards that use Visa as their processing network. We’ve previously looked at the benefits offered by MasterCard, we’ll soon have a post on Discover & AmEx benefits and then an easy way to compare these.
This post will be split up into two sections: basic benefits & Visa signature benefits. Basic benefits are for all card holders that have the Visa logo, whilst Visa signature benefits are for signature card holders only. We also let you know the requirements that Visa has for signature cards.
- 1 Basic
- 2 Visa Signature
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Visa’s collision damage waiver (auto rental CDW) provides collision and theft coverage on auto rentals. It must be activated to be valid, for it to be active the complete rental transaction must be put on an eligible Visa card and you must deny CDW insurance if the rental company offers it.
It covers the primary renter of the vehicle and any additional drivers that are permitted to drive the car by the rental car company. It will cover amounts up to the cash value of the rental car on the following:
- Theft or damage expenses
- Reasonable towing expenses
- Loss-of-use charges from the auto rental company
- Administrative costs from the auto rental company
- Only provides coverage on expenses that are not cover able by any other valid and collectible insurance source (e.g if your car insurance has a provision for rental cars the Visa insurance will only cover charges that this does not cover)
- Only covers vehicle rental periods of 15 consecutive days or less within your country of residence or 31 days or less outside your country of residence
- You must make every reasonable effort to protect the rental vehicle from theft or damage
- Coverage is not included on cars rented in the following countries: Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
- Coverage is not included on “expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain vans, vechicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks, motorcycles, mopeds and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles”
If you need to use this coverage you should contact Visa about this immediately on 1-800-847-2911 or alternatively call one of their toll free numbers from outside the United States. Claims for this insurance can be filed online here. This must be reported within 45 days of the theft or damage, it will also not cover any charges that would not have been charged if they were notified earlier.
The full auto CDW can be viewed by clicking here.
Before you make any decisions on rental car insurance, I’d recommend reading through your personal car insurance to see what they do and don’t cover. Most plans come with coverage for rentals which is much more comprehensive than Visa’s, because of this you’ll never actually deal with Visa (because they only cover what your primary insurance doesn’t cover)
Zero liability (often referred to zero liability fraud insurance) protects consumers in the event that their credit card, or card data is stolen and then used for fraudulent purchases. The easiest way to explain this is through the use of an example.
Example: Your wallet is stolen and the thieves use your credit card to purchase $500 worth of electronics using a fake signature. You report your credit card stolen as soon as you realize and dispute the charges with the credit card issuer. You are not held liable for these charges due to your zero liability protection that Visa offers.
There are some key exclusions though and they are:
- Coverage is for U.S-issued cards only (other countries usually have similar but slightly different terms)
- Does not apply to ATM transactions
- Certain commercial transactions
- Transactions that involve a PIN being used
- Transactions not processed by Visa
- The card issuer/financial institution must be notified immediately of any suspicious
The main differences between this and the policies that MasterCard, American Express & Discover offer is that PIN & ATM transactions are not covered (MasterCard will start covering this transactions from October 2014 onwards).
Example: You use your card at an ATM that has a card reader subtly attached to it. The thieves use this to reproduce your credit card and now have your PIN as well. They use this to withdraw $200 worth of electronics. You are held liable for this transaction as a PIN was used at an ATM and as such it’s not covered under the zero fraud liability guarantee from Visa.
Visa has been pushing financial institutions to adopt EMV chip technology due to it reducing fraud rates. Having a PIN enabled is the preferred option as it allows people to use their cards internationally at unmanned terminals (e.g train ticketing). Unfortunately Visa has not changed the conditions of their fraud liability insurance to include PIN & ATM transactions to further encourage the EMV chip adoption.
We believe they will make this change at some point in the future as countries that do have widespread EMV chip use have had this clause taken out. For example: Australia. In the mean time it’s important to remember that you’re not covered for PIN/ATM transactions.
Visa splits up a number of it’s basic customer service benefits into separate items on it’s benefits page. We won’t be doing this with our review as it’s really nothing special and something all card issuers offer. All of these can be accessed anywhere in the world using one of these toll-free numbers.
- Cardholder inquiry service
You can call Visa 24 hours a day anywhere in the world and they will provide you information regarding your account or other benefit questions. This is all done through a toll free number and you can communicate with Visa in all major languages.
- Emergency card replacement & emergency cash disbursement
If you need an emergency card replacement Visa will help you work with the financial institution that issued you your card and get another one sent out. They can also arrange for an emergency cash to be given to you at a convenient location.
- Lost/Stolen card report
If your card is lost or stolen you can contact Visa directly and one of their representatives will work with you to notify your financial institution.
Both the lost/stolen & cardholder inquiry benefits are extremely basic. You shouldn’t have any issue contacting the financial institution that issued your card directly, this should prove much easier than dealing with Visa who will then deal with the financial institution. Although I can see how it would be useful for those banking at small institutions that don’t have international toll free numbers.
Some people also recommend contacting Visa directly as they’ve had issues dealing with their financial institutions in the past. This will really depend on who the card is issued by, but it’s good to know that you always have Visa as a back up.
In terms of emergency cash, here is what we found out after doing some research:
- If you contact your financial institution directly,
- You should be able to get emergency funds immediately if they have a branch near to you (or a partner branch)
- Some card provide you with an emergency cash code which can be used at their ATMs (or ATMs owned by their international partners)
- If you contact VISA directly,
- You should be able to get emergency funds immediately if they do not have a Visa office in the country you’re in (funds will be sent via WesternUnion/MoneyGram)
- If there is a Visa office in the country you should be able to access funds within 24 hours (pick up at office or WesternUnion/MoneyGram). Not sure why it’s sometimes slower when they have a presence in the country you’re in.
- This service is not free. You’ll be charged whatever cash advance fees your card comes with. This is usually an upfront fee and higher than normal APR with no grace period (you also won’t have the grace period on additional purchases until the card has been repaid). Make sure you make yourself familiar with the charges before using this service as it can be quite expensive. They might also charge you additional fees for delivery of this money (e.g WesternUnion fees), make sure you ask about it.
- Normal limits apply. You can ask for more cash than your credit limit and usually they’ll only give you the minimum necessary to tide you over until a replacement card arrives. This can sometimes be an issue if a fraudster has maxed out your credit limit (these charges should be covered under zero fraud liability and Visa should extend you additional credit until it’s sorted out).
[Read: How does a grace period work?]
MasterCard & American Express both offer similar services. American Express does not charge a fee on some of their more premium products (e.g Platinum/Centurion)
Visa Signature cards are not issued unless the credit limit on a card is $5,000 or greater. Visa Signature cards have no pre-set spending limit, which caused some consumers to worry about their credit scores dropping (due to a higher credit utilization, as their available credit would drop. You can read more about how FICO scores are calculated here). Thankfully the majority of card issuers still assign a credit limit to these cards, the major exception is Bank of America (and by association Fidelity – as they are handled by Bank of America) who don’t report a credit limit for Visa Signature cards.
The card issuer is also responsible for setting the credit limit on individual cards. If you have an existing card it may be possible to request a credit limit increase to get your limit over this $5,000 threshold, be warned this may result in a hard pull depending on the issuer. After your limit is above $5,000, there may also be a waiting period as the card issuer will not instantly report this to Visa (e.g Chase will take up to a year after you hit the $5,000 minimum requirement). You may be able to speed this up by sending Chase a secured message.
If you’re not sure if your card is a regular Visa or Signature card look in the bottom right corner, below the Visa logo you should see the words “Signature”. If this text does not appear then your card is not a Visa signature card.
The benefits for Visa signature cards are constantly changing and can be viewed here.
Visa offers a concierge service to all Visa signature card holders. You can call this number toll-free 24 hours a day 7 days a week: 1-800-953-7392. You can also contact them online via e-mail at www.visasignatureconcierge.com. When you make a request they’ll either answer it immediately, if more research is needed (which happens in the majority of cases) you can choose to have them e-mail you the information or call you back. You can use this service in English or French.
There are no limits on the amount of times you can use this service, but you must have at least one open Visa signature card. Any purchases that are made as a result of the Visa signature concierge service will be automatically billed to the Visa signature card associated with the concierge account (this is required at sign up).
How useful this concierge useful is will really depend on what you’re using it for. They are generally not price sensitive unless your request particularly mentions price. E.g, if you ask them to find you a popular toy item around Christmas they’ll let you know the locations near you that have it in stock but pay little to no attention to price. Whereas if you ask a question such as “find me X toy for under $80” you’ll have a list which is much more price sensitive.
From my experiences they also don’t have any relationships with top restaurants in popular cities, meaning it cannot be used for getting reservations (unless they have open reservations). My recommendation would be to use this service for when you’re looking to save time and not money.
E.g, I wouldn’t use this service to help make flight reservations as they are unlikely to find the best price. I would use this service to compile a list of stores that have stock of a sold out item (e.g newest gaming console or apple item). They are also extremely helpful in dealing with companies that operate in a language other than English (e.g foreign rail companies that don’t have easy to use websites).
Other reviews of the concierge service:
- Four hour work week: Various different “experiments”, including the bath tub filled with cheese.
- Hackthesystem: Using the service to get an item that was left at an airport back
- Milevalue: Using the service for a restaurant recommendation with specific requirements (within an area, under $15 entrees & split-able bill for up to 15 persons)
Year End Summary Statement
This is also offered on a lot of basic Visa cards as well. This is a full summary of your credit card spend broken down into categories (e.g Travel & Entertainment, Restaurants, Gas). It also shows a transaction detail report which has a chronological listing of all credit transactions in the previous year with the date, type, location & amount.
These year end summary statements are incredibly useful in finding out what categories you’re spending the most in. Once you’re armed with this information you can sign up for credit cards that earn high category bonuses for categories that you spend the most in (hopefully you have a detailed budget and already have this information, but merchant category codes aren’t always what you expect). You might also find these posts helpful in working out which cards are the right fit for your spending patterns, these are the best credit cards for the following purchases:
Visa has arrangements with a number of companies that provide discounts in the following categories:
These offers are similar to AmEx offers, but usually not as good. We haven’t found any that would be profitable for reselling. These deals also regularly change, because of this we won’t be listing these here. You can view all of them by navigating here. If there are any of particular interest we will be posting them on the blog.
Not Offered On All Cards
There are also a number of benefits that apply to a lot of Visa signature cards, but not all of them. We’ve listed them below but you should contact your card issuer to see if they offer this and what the terms and conditions are.
- Purchase security
- Warranty manager service
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Roadside dispatch
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel & emergency assistant services