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Here's the difference between Visa Traditional, Signature and Infinite cards

Each Visa card is assigned a certain tier — Traditional, Signature and Infinite — providing different levels of added benefits. CNBC Select breaks down perks of each.

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Choosing a new credit card is a big undertaking since there are hundreds of cards available and numerous rewards, benefits and fees to consider. One way you can narrow down your search is to compare perks provided by credit card networks, such as Visa.

Every Visa-backed credit card is designated a certain tier — Traditional, Signature and Infinite — and each tier offers a variety of added benefits and coverage levels. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a Visa Infinite card, which comes with the highest level of benefits, including travel insurance and Priority Pass lounge access.

Typically in order to get higher-tier benefits, you'll need to pay a steep annual fee — as shown by the Reserve card's $550 annual fee. However, there are instances where you may be upgraded to a more elite tier based on your credit history and relationship with your card issuer.

While Visa cards provide many of the benefits listed below, the exact perks and terms you receive vary by card issuer. As a result, you may not receive every Visa Signature perk even if your card is that tier. Check with your issuer for complete benefit coverage and the exact terms and conditions. Once you confirm coverage, you'll need to pay with your eligible Visa credit card to take advantage of the benefits and in some circumstances activation may be required.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the benefits that may come with Traditional, Signature and Infinite Visa credit cards.

Visa Traditional benefits

The entry-level tier, Visa Traditional, provides basic purchase protections and access to various experiences. Here are the benefits you may get:

  • Emergency card replacement and emergency cash disbursement: Get assistance for reporting a lost or stolen card, getting a replacement card within one to three business days and cash to be available at a location near you typically within hours of your bank's approval.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: If your eligible rental car is damaged or stolen, you may receive coverage. You need to decline the rental company's collision damage waiver to activate this coverage.
  • Zero liability protection: You won't be held responsible for any unauthorized purchases made with your credit card, waiving the $50 maximum liability under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
  • Roadside dispatch: If you have a flat tire, need a jump start or are locked out of your car, Visa will assist you in arranging help from a local service provider at a pre-negotiated rate.
  • Visa Offers: Receive special offers and discounts on food and wine, shopping, sports, entertainment and more.

Visa Signature benefits

Visa Signature cards include the features offered with Traditional cards, plus over 20 additional perks. Here are the benefits you may receive:

  • Price protection: You may receive reimbursement for purchases that drop in price.
  • Return protection: If you try to return an eligible item (up to $250) within 90 days from the date you bought it and the merchant won't accept it back, you may receive a credit.
  • Extended warranty protection: Doubles the original manufacturer's warranty for up to 12 months on eligible items you purchase.
  • Purchase security: Receive coverage for items that are stolen or damaged due to a covered circumstance for the first 90 days you own them.
  • Cell phone protection: If you drop your phone or it's stolen, you may get reimbursed for the damage after paying a $50 deductible. (Check out CNBC Select's list of the best credit cards with cell phone protection.)
  • Lounge access: Complimentary Priority Pass membership with VIP access at over 850 airport lounges worldwide.
  • Global Entry statement credit: Receive a $100 statement credit for the Global Entry application fee cost. This benefit and the frequency you receive it varies by card issuer.
  • Airline fee credit: Some cards may offer an annual credit to cover airline incidentals, such as checked-luggage fees, in-flight food and more.
  • Baggage delay insurance: If your checked baggage is delayed or misdirected for over four hours, you can be reimbursed for necessities you buy, up to $300.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: If your luggage is lost or stolen, you may receive reimbursement for your checked luggage or carry-on baggage when you pay for the airline or common carrier ticket with your card.
  • Travel and emergency assistance services: When you're traveling anywhere in the world, you'll have 24/7 access to multilingual representatives who can answer questions that may arise and provide referrals to various services, such as medical referral assistance, emergency transportation service and lost luggage assistance. You're responsible for the cost of any services.
  • Trip delay reimbursement: If your trip is delayed more than 12 hours from a covered incident, you can receive up to $300.
  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance: If you need to cancel or shorten a trip, this benefit can help reimburse you for the non-refundable cost of an airline, ferry, rail, bus or cruise ship ticket.
  • Travel accident insurance: Purchase an airline ticket with your card to receive reimbursement for covered accidents that occur when you travel.
  • Hotel theft protection: If your personal belongings are stolen from your hotel room, you may receive reimbursement.
  • Emergency evacuation: This benefit can help transport you to the nearest medical facility for treatment if you are sick or injured while traveling ($10,000 maximum).
  • Emergency medical or dental insurance: Receive reimbursement for emergency medical or dental expenses that result from covered incidents during travel ($2,500 maximum).
  • Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection: Receive guest status at over 900 Visa Signature Luxury Hotel properties worldwide, allowing you to benefit from free nights, discounts, complimentary breakfast and other premium perks.
  • Rental car service discounts: Receive discounts when you book car rentals with Silvercar by Audi.
  • Sonoma Wine Country: Get discounts on wine purchases, tastings and more at participating Sonoma wineries.
  • Troon Rewards: Receive savings at over 95 golf courses worldwide.
  • Concierge services: This complimentary service provides representatives who can help with travel needs, purchasing a gift, booking a reservation and more.

Visa Infinite benefits

Visa Infinite is the highest tier you can get and comes with all of the benefits from Traditional and Signature. Many of the Visa Infinite perks offer higher levels of protection compared to the Visa Signature version of the benefits.

For instance, Signature cardholders receive return protection on eligible items up to $250, while Infinite cardholders receive coverage on items up to $300. And both tiers provide trip delay reimbursement up to $300, but Signature cardholders qualify for coverage on trips that are delayed more than 12 hours while Infinite cardholders only have to wait six hours.

Check with your card issuer to verify the coverage details.

Bottom line

Now that you know the different perks you can receive with the three tiers of Visa credit cards, you can fine-tune your credit card search to include the benefits that matter the most to you. While the terms differ by card, you can message or call card issuers to verify which perks they offer prior to applying for a card. Plus, you'll always be able to benefit from standard Visa perks, such as zero liability protection and shopping discounts, regardless of your card's tier.

Take note: Due to the coronavirus, many in-person events have been paused. However, certain states may have access to bookings.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.