Credit Cards Are More Than a Convenient Way to Pay

Price protection, warranty extensions, purchase insurance, automatic recordkeeping -- and, yes, cash-back -- are just a few of the perks physicians get when they use credit cards to make purchases for their practices.

It's not hard to find bad news about credit cards: Consumers weighed down by massive debt with sky-high interest rates, hammered by nuisance fees and shortened grace periods. It's enough to make you want to stop using credit altogether.

But a credit card can be an extremely useful tool for physicians who use credit to make purchases for their practices. Everyone knows that if you make big-ticket purchases, you get what amounts to a discount on whatever you buy if you have a cash-back rewards card -- or you can earn points toward free travel or lodging.

In addition to rewards points or cash-back on purchases, however, credit cards also provide an added layer of protection on large purchases. Card issuers typically will reimburse you if an item bought with a credit card is lost, stolen or damaged. Most cards have reimbursement limits, typically $500 to $1,000 per occurrence and up to $50,000 in a calendar year.

Depending on the card issuer, you may also get an extended warranty on your purchase when you make purchases with your credit card. Many card companies will double an existing warranty period. Return protection is another underused benefit -- most card companies allow you to return unwanted merchandise without charge, even if the vendor doesn’t take returns or the retailer’s pre-determined return period is up.

Price protection, which lets you get the lower price on any item you buy if the price drops after you buy it, is another goodie your credit card may offer.

In addition to a bevy of other commonly offered freebies, like travel delay insurance and car rental insurance, there’s another plus to using a credit card for purchases: recordkeeping. You can track credit-card spending online 24-hours a day and, when tax time rolls around, you can obtain a complete recap of all purchases to provide a log of deductible expenses related to your medical practice.

Finally, using your credit card regularly in your practice will keep card issuers from raising rates on you for using the card too infrequently, another annoying tactic card companies have employed recently to boost revenue. Regular use of your card can also help bolster your credit score -- as long as you keep paying the bills on time.

Remember, no two cards are the same. To determine whether your card offers these types of benefits, contact your card issuer or check your card's terms and conditions online. You can also compare other cards that may provide better benefits than the one you’re currently using at comparison websites such as Bankrate.com, CardRatings.com, and Lowermybills.com.