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You’re cruising along the highway wondering how the driver next to you can text and eat without driving off the road. Next thing you know your engine light comes on and your car sputters. Oh well, time to call your credit card company and use that roadside assistance coverage, right? Hold your horses.
Although many credit cards come with roadside assistance coverage, it may not be all that it appears to be. Does your card offer roadside assistance? What does each program entail? What should you watch out for?
1. Roadside Assistance With American Express
The following American Express cards offer roadside assistance:
- Platinum card
- Delta Reserve card
- Premier Rewards Gold card
- Green card
- Gold card
- ZYNC card
If you own one of these cards, you’re not completely out of the woods if something goes wrong. There are limitations attached to the roadside assistance features that are offered with each card.
For example, with each card, you’ll get a maximum of either 4 or 5 service calls each year, depending on the card that you have. That should work well unless you are a road warrior or drive over 30 potholes each day.
Also, there is a limit of 1 call over 7 days for the same cause. So, if your engine blows up twice next week, American Express will only help out once.
Most cards also qualify for a maximum tow of 10 miles. This should work fine for most people, but it could be a problem if you are stuck in a rural area.
Important Note: American Express will cover a maximum of $50 per service call. This will fully cover a lot of minor issues, but could be insufficient for some tow calls.
Also, note that coverage applies in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, which means that you should seek alternative coverage if you travel outside of those countries frequently.
2. Roadside Assistance With Visa
Visa does not offer a free roadside assistance program. However, you can get a discount on such service through Visa.
Visa offers all cardholders the Visa Dispatch program. This allows you to call their hotline and arrange for roadside assistance. For a flat fee of $59.95 per call, you’ll be eligible for the following:
- Towing (up to 5 miles)
- Tire change (must have your own spare)
- Lockout service
- Fuel delivery (cost of fuel is added to total)
- Winching (within 100 feet of maintained roads only)
It can’t hurt to have this benefit, as you’ll only incur a fee if you actually have a problem. Also, for tows of even just a few miles, the fee can be quite expensive, making the flat $59.95 well worth it in some cases. However, it may be best to do a brief calculation to determine whether or not it is worthwhile, depending on the incident.
3. Roadside Assistance With MasterCard
Only some MasterCard-issued credit cards come with roadside assistance. To determine whether or not your card does so, contact MasterCard at 1-800-MC-ASSIST.
MasterCard’s roadside assistance is very similar to that of Visa’s. You’ll have some basic coverage in the event that things go wrong, but will have to pay out of pocket if something happens. Rates vary from $70 to $95 per call.
4. Roadside Assistance With Discover
Many Discover cards do not come with roadside assistance. A few cards come with this feature, but you’ll have to pay out of pocket for it at rates that are similar to those of MasterCard and Visa.
The services that are offered are similar to those that the other mentioned issuers offer. Basically, if your vehicle breaks down, you’ll almost always have some form of help if you have roadside assistance on your card.
Know The Benefits of Your Card & Always Read The Fine Print!
Be sure to contact your credit card issuer to verify whether or not your card comes with roadside assistance. Being stuck on the side of the road during a snowstorm won’t be much fun in general, let alone if you realize that your card doesn’t have coverage.
Other than verifying your coverage, remember that you’ll often have to pay out of pocket for your service. Also, keep mileage limitations in mind, as your tow may not be fully covered if you get stuck in a rural area. That has all the recipe for a low-budget horror film, doesn’t it?
Of the major credit card issuers, American Express easily has the best roadside assistance program. You won’t have to pay a dime out of pocket if your fees come in at $50 or less per call. With the rest, you’ll have to pay a fee for roadside assistance on every call.
Consider a traditional roadside assistance provider such as AAA if you don’t have one of the mentioned American Express cards. You’ll have to pay a set amount, but one call with Discover, MasterCard or Visa would just about equal a year’s worth of coverage on some AAA plans.