During a recent trip, my late-evening return flight was canceled due to weather. That meant I was going to need a hotel, but because the cancellation wasn't due to a mechanical issue, the airline wasn't going to foot the bill. I was stuck with it.
What I didn't know was that my credit-card bank, Chase, would have stepped in to cover that expense. Like many (most?) folks, I'm woefully unaware of the various benefits afforded me as a cardholder. Sure, I knew about the points I was earning with each purchase, and I was pretty sure I could get an extended warranty on certain product purchases. But travel insurance? I had no idea.
Enter Sift, a service that catalogs every perk offered by a wide variety of credit cards, with complete descriptions of each one and instructions for how to access it.
That's already quite useful, but Sift also tracks your purchases and notifies you of price drops, return options, warranty coverage and more. It can even automatically get you a refund if there's an applicable price-protection policy from the store or credit card.
Here's how to get started with Sift:
Install the app (or don't)
Sift is currently available for iOS only (an Android version is in the works), but the company recently added a web portal. That means you can sign up in a browser if you don't have an iOS device and/or find it easier to input your credentials via laptop or PC.
Link your cards and accounts
To make the most of Sift, you'll need to add at least one credit card. Fortunately, that doesn't mean sharing your actual card number; you can add one or more cards just by browsing or searching the list and selecting them by name.
However, if you want to see (and leverage) the benefits associated with individual purchases (price protection, return options, etc.), add the last four digits of your card number. That'll allow Sift to match your purchase receipts to the correct card.
Finally, in another stab at freaking out the privacy-minded, Sift asks you to link your Amazon account -- again for purposes of price protection, return help and the like.
Review your benefits and purchases
Once you've completed these Sift-profile steps, you can start investigating the various benefits. Click/tap Credit Cards, for example, for a summary of each card's annual fee, reward options (if applicable) and any particularly good benefits (such as "24/7 access to a customer service specialist").
Below that, you'll find a complete list of shopping, travel and other benefits, along with phone numbers and/or web addresses needed to claim those benefits. Click the Learn More button to get a detailed description.
I must admit, I loved seeing all these perks listed in one convenient place. As noted, most of them were news to me. It's not like they're listed anywhere in my Chase app, and even poking around the Chase site wasn't particularly fruitful. I actually had to do some Googling to find the bank's card benefits, and even then they weren't presented as completely or efficiently as they were here.
Next, check out Purchases to see items you've purchased via Amazon and/or your linked credit card(s). For any given item, you'll see what price-protection, warranty and/or return options are available. You can also search for a specific purchase (helpful for long lists) and filter the results based on item category.
Finally, there's Notifications: Sift can also let you know when purchases are out for delivery and have been delivered.
All this amounts to some pretty useful and enlightening data, to say nothing of potentially money-saving. Alas, I wasn't able to test Sift's automated price-protection option, in part because two of the cards I use most -- a PayPal debit card and Chase business card -- aren't currently supported.
Even so, this is a tool I can definitely see myself using, because when it comes to shopping, knowledge is power -- and there's a lot of heretofore-unknown knowledge packed into Sift.