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You’re headed out of town, just to escape work and stress for the weekend. You’ve just reached the open road and are feeling your stress melt away when your car starts to steam. You’re now miles from any service station and there’s no friend’s to call to pick you up.
This is the opening scene to so many scary movies and TV shows, but it doesn’t have to be your worst nightmare. There are lots of ways to find help in this scenario, and one that most people don’t think of is the credit card residing in your wallet. Many credit cards have road assistance benefits that you can take advantage of if you’re in trouble.
My credit card offers what?
Some credit cards (keep in mind, not all, but we’ll get there) have a benefit that offers you as the cardholder discounted or free access to roadside assistance when you find yourself stuck on the side of the road. Though this might seem like a nice benefit, it never should be the deciding factor for why you sign up for that specific card. We’ll also do a little price comparing to see how worthy these benefits are of our praise. For some of these cards, you’ll find this is a nice added bonus, for others, you may decide the you aren’t getting your money’s worth for the service you’re receiving. But let’s get started talking about which cards carry these benefits and which cards don’t.
Visa has what’s titled Roadside Dispatch service and is offered on the Visa Signature cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and many others. What this means is that Visa has a special phone number that you can call and they’ll connect you to someone in your area who can come out and fix your tire, bring you gas, or tow your to the nearest mechanic. But, there is a cost and there are restrictions. This service is good for any car, including rental cars. The rates are pre-negotiated by Visa and therefore may or may not save you money. For the flat rate of $59.95 per call, you can be towed for 5 miles, get a tire changed, get a jump start, get into your car if you’ve been locked out, or have up to 5 gallons of fuel delivered.
For many break downs, a five mile tow may not get you very far and that’s going to cost you extra. Just be sure to think about what you need and price compare before calling. And sometimes, the convenience of a 24/7 number where someone will just handle it when you’re stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night is exactly what you want, no matter the cost. Charges incurred will automatically be placed on your card.
Similarly to Visa, Discover Card offers roadside assistance to drivers, but for $10 more at $69.95. Again, it’s important with these benefits that you make sure it’s worth your time and money. In certain locations and at certain times, it might be cheaper to use an existing AAA membership or to just call a friend who has a tow truck and help you out of the situation.
Like Visa and Discover Card, if you call the roadside assistance phone number, your card will be charged a pre-negotiated fee. When taking advantage of these services, consider the pre-negotiated fee and don’t jump in blindly. It’s possible that the fee you’ll be charged by your credit card company will be much higher than if you just called the locksmith yourself.
The Citi Prestige and AAdvantage cards both offer the cardholder a Roadside Assistance Dispatch Service. When you call the designated phone number, the operator will connect you with someone who can fix your problem and will coordinate your location. Your tow will only take you 10 miles and there are some other restrictions in the fine print, but you can access this service four times a year without charge.
The Premium Roadside Assistance from American Express is a slightly beefier plan than some of the others on this list. This service is included on the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card and the American Express Platinum Card. Just give the 24/7 phone number a call and the operator can help you find someone to get a jumpstart for your car battery, change a flat tire and a tow for up to 10 miles. You can get any of these services up to four times a year for free. This is definitely one of those benefits that you should remember during your times of need and it could easily save you money.
The roadside assistance benefits are not a reason to get a credit card, nor are they a magic wand. Choose the card you want because it has numerous benefits that will fit with your current lifestyle. If that includes roadside assistance benefits, be sure to make use out of them. As well, realize that this is a convenient service, but that doesn’t always mean a faster service. There are stories online from cardholders who were stranded far away from civilization and it took hours to find tow trucks and for the trucks to get to them, understandably, of course.
I actually used my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card when I had a flat tire and dead battery on separate occasions both happened to be on HWY 35. Those traveling between Dallas and Austin know the pain in dealing with HWY 35. For $59.95 someone came out in the less than an hour and fixed both issues.
Once you’ve reviewed your card’s policy, think about whether or not you need your AAA membership. If you have a new car that’s unlikely to break down and your card offers free help, why pay the AAA membership for something you’ll never use? On the other hand, your card may offer very little help and your AAA membership fee is cheaper for the amount of times you use it and the limited coverage your card offers. No matter what card you have, it’s good to periodically review what benefits each of your cards has to make sure that you’re always making the most out of the benefits that are just sitting in your pocket.