Finding a $20 bill in your coat pocket is something you’ve just got to love when it happens! But even though that is great news and a surprise, it is probably just your very own $20 bill that you forgot about and misplaced, so it really doesn’t give you a real “something for nothing” win. Wouldn’t it be much better if the “money fairy” just left it in your pocket for fun? Well, that is actually the case, sort of, when you take a look at some of the free perks you have and didn’t know you already have!
Free, Free, Free…Did I Say Free?
Some companies actually do give you free stuff and benefits and maybe you just don’t ever even know about it! One of my mentors, back in the day, told me something that has stuck with me through the years and its so true. He told me:
If you ever do something nice for your customers, then you need to tell them about it! After all, if they don’t know, then you have wasted all of your good intentions and the credit for it.
No credit for it and well, it is really a wasted effort, isn’t it?
Why Is It Free?
So a good question is this one: Why do companies give away something they could sell? The answer depends somewhat on the type of business giving it away. In some cases, like say the credit card companies, competition for new credit card customers is so intense that banks often advertise features and benefits to present themselves as unique from the other plastic options.
Or, you can get some freebies simply because you belong to a special group (like AAA or a credit union) with which businesses want to partner to gain access to millions more of potential customers. Most health insurance plans offer free or discounted stuff that promotes healthy lifestyles like gym memberships or free home health care check-up visits that can reduce your medical cost and more importantly to them—theirs too.
But once a business has you as a customer, it might not worry so much about reminding you of what you can get for free. Sometimes organizations and companies do a really lousy job of telling its members about partner deals, or have so many partnerships it’s difficult to market them all and make you totally aware! You just may not keep track of them.
Is It Worth It?
Of course, sometimes even “free” isn’t worth the bother. Free trials often come with not-at-all-free monthly charges if you don’t cancel and renewals may be “automatic”.
Sometimes it’s a hassle to trigger a freebie for you the member. You probably won’t, for example, want to spend an hour jumping through a bunch of hoops to exercise a “lowest-price guarantee” program offered by your credit card just to save $5. And you aren’t going to pick a credit card based solely on getting a 10% discount on tickets at Disney World where you may never go actually visit.
But there are some things that your money “can” buy that you don’t actually have to! Here are a few of those things you probably already “own” and may not already know!
Credit Card Freebies
There are some reasons to pay with a credit or debit card (responsibly that is). Many offer points toward free travel or merchandise or cash back. It’s a really cool way to save money and I get some of that every month of the year.
Did you also know that federal laws and the policies of credit card companies let you easily get your money back if you use a credit or debit card to pay for something that turns out to be a lousy service or lousy product? Many cards also come with other purchase-protection perks, most of which kick in when you use your card to buy something such as:
- Extended warranties: I usually advise against paying for them, but free is a different story. Many credit cards double the manufacturer’s warranty for stuff you charge, or provide an extended warranty.
- Roadside assistance: Lots of cards provide not just free towing, but also tire changes, jump starts, and rescues from lockouts and gas runouts. I have eliminated my auto club membership because of it.
- Free shipping: American Express cardholders for example, can join ShopRunner (an Amazon Prime competitor that offers two-day shipping for more than 140 stores) and skip out on paying its $79 annual fee.
- Price protection: Many cards let you apply to receive a refund if you find you could have bought it for less within the qualifying time frame. You usually have to show receipts and proof, but before you jump through all these hoops, check whether your retailer has a price-matching policy. It’s very easy to get a price match either at the time you buy or a refund of the difference later on.
- Travel insurance: Cards offer a wide range of plans. Some refund fares if you have to cancel a trip due to illness, or, if weather cancels a trip for you, refund prepaid charges for hotel rooms and the like. Some reimburse for lost baggage or pay out if there’s an accident and you are injured or worse, die. Like extended warranties, these policies are bad buys unless they’re free.
- Think outside the box office: Many cards offer access to special seating options, presales, and other insider benefits for concerts, theater, and more. You often see that advertised and feel a bit jealous if you want those great seats and aren’t a cardholder.
- Museum passes: Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders can visit a long list of museums for free on the first weekend of each month. The list includes the American Visionary Art Museum in Washington D.C, The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland and also the Philadelphia Museum of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art just to name a few.
What About Other Kinds of Free Perks?
Although I don’t belong myself, many warehouse clubs deliver more than just their low prices and reputations for 10-year supplies of paper products, 48 packs of tuna, and free samples, samples, and more samples! How about free:
- Tech support: At the end of your rope trying to program or hook up a new TV? Can’t get your new tablet to find your Wi-Fi network? Can’t configure that new computer? If you bought at a warehouse club, you can call on free tech support for help. (BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club)
- Travel deals: Include your club when checking prices for your next vacay. We’ve found good deals on airfare, hotel rooms, cruises, and car rentals through travel services offered by warehouse clubs. (BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club)
- Get entertained for less: The clubs include ways to get discounts on theme park passes, all kinds of exclusive movie tickets, and restaurant and company gift cards. (BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club)
- Printer cartridge refills. Costco will refill your ink-cartridge empties for a fraction of the cost of new ones. Staples will pay you a store discount credit for recycling any used printer cartridges with them. Feel-good bonus: The reduced waste is better for the planet.
- Tire care: If you need new tires, you’ll likely save enough by buying at warehouse clubs to pay the annual membership fee. You’ll also get free tire-related services that most other outlets charge for: flat-tire fixes, rotation and balancing, and inflation. Costco will even replace punctured tires it can’t fix. (BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club)
There Are Plenty More You May Not Be Aware Of
Many other businesses you use offer perks that you already have and may not know about. Things like health insurers offering free or discounted products and services that promote healthy habits—or, if you’re a cynic, to attract a large pool of health-conscious customers who are less likely to run up huge medical bills. Either way, you win.
Besides the gym discounts and freebies you can get free smoking cessation courses, free weight loss programs, and even free breast pumping supplies for nursing a new born (yep, it’s free under the Affordable Care Act).
If you already belong to an auto club like AAA for example, along with your towing, tire changes, and battery-replacement services, AAA memberships come with additional freebies like car seat loaners, travel planning help with maps, discounted or free passport photos, waived car rental fees for young-driver surcharges, avoiding a wait in long lines at the DMV and discounted services. Members also get free notary services for vehicle-related documents. They even provide free CARFAX reports, used-car background reports usually costing about $40, but AAA’s Premier members can get one for free each year.
And if you work for a large employer, check out what benefits they offer beyond the traditional ones. At my wife’s last job, she got discounts on wireless service, free legal consultations, and much more.
No matter how much you try to save your money, there may be some money already in your pocket! Just like that $20 bill you can sometimes find hidden, perks you already have may be right in your pocket. Make yourself a smarter consumer and shopper by knowing all of these free perks and asking all the right questions so you know. While surprises are awesome, finding out about those perks just after you spent money and miss out on one of them is a huge clunker. Don’t ever let that happen to you.
What perks have you discovered that you can share with everyone? Are you finding out about new ones or are you in the dark about them? How much does it matter to you to find out?