No matter how far in advance we get started, it's easy for holiday plans to get derailed with the logistical challenges of gift buying, especially when cross-country shipping is involved.
First, there's making your holiday budget. Then there's researching, finding, buying and wrapping the perfect gift. Last, there's delivering it, either in person or — more likely this year — through the mail. The look on our loved ones' faces might make it all worth it, but there's no doubt that holiday shopping can add to both the stress and the magic of the season.
That's why I like to keep it simple. I normally take a DIY approach when it comes to Christmas gifting, making handmade gifts like lotions, candles and lip butters from low-cost and/or local ingredients. And when I opt to buy gifts, I try to plan well in advance and buy things early so that I don't have to rush.
But if I ever do get in a pinch, I also like to know I'm covered. Both my Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer Visa Signature concierge service to help customers locate hard-to-find gifts and arrange to ship them wherever they need to go.
With just three days until Christmas, I decided to test out my Capital One Venture card's concierge service to see if I could get help delivering a gift to my parents who live several states away. Here's how it went down.
To get started, I called the number listed in my Capital One Visa Signature benefits guide. (Note this is different than the number you call to check your balance/rewards and ask general questions.)
The initial message I got was disheartening: Due to higher than expected call volume, U.S. customers may experience higher wait times.
But after less than five seconds I was prompted to press 3 for the concierge. I then had to enter my 16-digit credit card number and wait for the next menu to prompt me to press 1 for travel assistance, 2 for dining assistance or 3 entertainment assistance (i.e. exclusive events, concerts, etc.). For all other inquiries, the prompt told me to press 4.
I pressed 4.
A friendly representative got on the line and asked me what I needed help with. The rep explained that Visa Concierge is a free benefit to any Visa Signature cardholder, though by asking concierges to purchase items on your behalf you are authorizing Visa to charge your card.
Concierges can't expedite shipping on your behalf, but they can do research and help you find high-demand or rare Christmas presents (such as a PlayStation 5 or the new Xbox Series X).
"I personally helped a dad find a hard-to-find Lego set for his son this year," the concierge assured me.
I explained that I was trying to decide on a gift for my parents, who just bought property and are building their retirement home. They live several states away, and I won't be able to travel to see them this year.
Then I answered a series of questions meant to help the concierge do some research on my behalf.
I kept worrying that my requests would be too demanding, my needs too outlandish for my concierge. But not at all — we went into such great detail that I soon felt appreciative for the support. Just talking over my gift ideas with my concierge helped me figure out exactly what I needed. Shopping with a concierge definitely beat sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic outside the local mall.
Question: What kind of gift are you thinking about getting your parents?
Question: What is your preferred delivery day? (Christmas Day? The day before? The day after? Flexible?)
Question: What is your budget?
Question: What is the recipients' address? What are their names?
Question: What kind of features are you looking for in both gifts?
Question: Do you want to include a special message with the gift(s)?
Question: Do you want to include a gift receipt?
Question: Are there any barriers to entry (such as a coded gate) for the delivery?
Question: Do you want to compare both local/regional hardware retailers in addition to major chains? We will send you the best prices and shipping options from any source.
The last step is the research phase, which was handled completely by the concierge. After we hung up, the concierge went to work, scouring the local businesses where my parents live for the perfect gift.
I was told I'd get an email within 24 hours with the information I asked for compiled in one, convenient document.
If I like any of the options, I can simply authorize a purchase, and the concierge will arrange for the item to be paid for and delivered. Depending on which items are in stock, there still may be time to get my gifts delivered same-day to my parents before Christmas.
However, the concierge noted that delivery charges are determined by the third-party businesses, and rush fees can often apply.
Less than 24-hours later, I got an email from Visa Signature Concierge with a four-page PDF attachment outlining options for three tool sets and three dishwashers. Each option included a photo of the item, a description, the price plus taxes as well as the price for same-day and next-day delivery. (Some had free shipping, others had a rush fee.)
Now, I can easily forward the details onto my brother so he can decide if he wants to go in on the gift with me this year.
While the tool sets were not exactly what I had in mind, I was excited about the countertop dishwasher recommendations. Before calling the concierge, I didn't know anything about portable dishwashers (how affordable are they? how practical are they?) Now, I have a clear idea of what I want to get my parents, even if I ultimately go with a different choice.
(Note that the images, prices and descriptions above were given as a courtesy and the final product details may change.)
I may have been too late to guarantee delivery before Christmas (at least not for every option), but it still felt nice to get the royal treatment while shopping for presents. Though I normally like to pick out my own Christmas gifts, it saves a lot of time to let someone else handle the research. All it took was a 30-minute phone call.
Concierge service is just one of the many Visa Signature perks that comes with cards such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, the United℠ Business Card and others (this may vary depending on your history with your cad issuer, terms apply).
After what I learned about concierge service, I'll probably save the number and keep it in mind for Christmases to come.