During a recent trip, my 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.
Here's how to get started.
Install the app
Sift is available in app form for Android and iPhone, but the company also has a website if you prefer to sign up in a browser. The portal (currently in beta) lacks a number of key features, however, so I definitely recommend using the apps.
By the way, there's no direct cost to using Sift, but if the service is able to save you money (see below), you'll be charged 25 percent of those savings.
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.
If you want to see (and enjoy) the benefits associated with individual purchases -- price protection, return options and so on -- 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. Tap Credit Cards, for example, for a summary of each card's benefits. You can tap any one of them to get more information -- including, in some cases, a link and a phone number for claiming the benefit.
I must admit, I loved seeing all these perks listed in one convenient place. 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 bought via Amazon and your linked credit cards. For any given item, you'll see which price-protection, warranty and return options are available. You can also search for a specific purchase -- helpful for long lists -- and filter the results based on item category.
Tap Drops for an automatically updated list of price changes for your past purchases. (Pro tip: Give the app permission to notify you when it detects one, so you don't miss the window.) Where possible, Sift will actually intervene on your behalf to file a price-drop claim, either with your credit card or the store.
To take advantage of this, however, you'll need to keep a credit card on file so Sift can charge you 25 percent of whatever it's able to save you. (This charge occurs once per month.) So, for example, if the service finds three price drops in a month, and is able to score price-protection refunds totaling $20, that money will be refunded to whichever cards you used to make the purchases -- but you'll also incur a separate charge of $5.
Sure, you could monitor each and every purchase yourself and file individual price-protection claims yourself. Would you catch each and every one? And how much time would that take? Although 25 percent may seem steep, chances are good you'll still come out way ahead. Call it unexpected-cashback-after-the-fact.
Bottom line: Sift rocks. It provides some pretty useful and enlightening data about your credit cards, and if you're willing to provide some personal information, it can save you money as well.
Originally published on Feb. 5, 2018.
Update, Sept. 4: Added new information.