You have many factors to consider when choosing a credit card — interest charges, rewards programs, security measures, and the like — but do you ever consider the price-matching perk? Are you even aware that credit cards can offer price matching?
Price matching may go by different names such as "price guarantee" or "price protection", but the basic principle is the same. If you purchase an item using that card and find the item for a lower price within a certain period of time, the card will refund the difference up to a specific dollar-value limit.
You'll need to check with your card issuer to verify whether price matching is offered and how the system works for that card. Each card will have a limit on the amount of reimbursement, a set period for which price matching applies, and lists of excluded items. Typical exclusions include jewelry, motorized vehicles, event tickets, food/perishable items, and animals.
For most cards, you must initiate the process by contacting the card issuer's customer service department, making a claim on the price difference that you found, and requesting a form to fill out and return with your supporting documentation. The documentation to send along with the claim form varies with each card, but generally, you will need your receipt for proof of purchase, a properly dated ad showing the lower price, and your credit card statement.
Cards from Citi operate a bit differently. Instead of searching for the price difference yourself, you simply register your purchase with Citi and they will search multiple online retailers for a lower price and initiate the refund process. Citi's search is not comprehensive, and if you independently find a lower price on a registered item, you are able to initiate the process in the same fashion as with the other card issuers.
Price matching is extremely useful during the holiday season, especially on hectic shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It typically works well for moderately big-ticket items that fall outside the exclusions and are frequently put on sale — for example, high-end televisions, furniture, and intermediate-size appliances. Check the exclusions list for limitations on "doorbuster" prices or other limited stock sales before making your claim.
Consider the words of Sean McQuay, former Credit and Banking Expert with NerdWallet: "I recommend the cards that help you use your money effectively and responsibly." Price matching certainly meets that criteria, and it falls into the category of low-hanging fruit for saving money — if your credit card has such a plan, all you have to do is take the time and put out the effort to use it. Price matching alone is not a reason to choose or reject a particular card, but it is a factor to consider when card shopping. If you want more credit, check out our list of credit card offers.
Is it worth your time to use price matching? You'll have to decide how much your time is worth, but note that savings can be in the hundreds of dollars per item. Typical refund limits range between $200 and $250 on individual purchases and $1,000-$2,500 for annual limits. Citi claims to have paid out more than $10 million in the first half of 2018, with 344,450 payments issued for an average of $29.67 apiece. Sadly, they have cut the maximum benefit per item from $500 to $300, and the annual limit from $2500 to $1000. Many cards have curtailed or eliminated the benefit. Determine your own cutoff on whether the potential savings is worth your invested time.
How can the credit card companies make such a good offer? The main reason is that the program is used so infrequently. Ben Woolsey of CreditCardForum.com suggests that less than 1% of cardholders who have the perk even know it exists. If you have the price-matching perk, you might as well use it until everyone catches on (it'll be our little secret).
Your credit score may also determine which rewards cards you qualify for and what the value of those rewards may be. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.