SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Consumers may be in for a nasty surprise when trying to use protection plans offered by credit card companies that promise help bills when faced with illness or unemployment.

Don’t expect to collect those benefits every time, according to Jacob Gibson of the credit card comparison website Nerdwallet.

“You have to read the terms and conditions because they will go out of their way to make sure they keep your money,” said Gibson.

Cheryl Gaffner of San Jose found out first-hand how hard it can be to collect. Two years ago, Gaffner signed up for the Account Security Program offered by Care Credit, a medical credit card she enrolled in to finance some plastic surgery. A year later when Gaffner was pink-slipped, Care Credit wouldn’t pay out the unemployment benefit. “They managed to find a loophole that I was not unemployed enough,” Gaffner said.

Care Credit’s Account Security Agreement lists the conditions under which it will and will not pay should a customer lose his or her job. They include a requirement that the customer be “involuntarily” unemployed for at least 90 consecutive days. The policy also does not cover individuals who’ve had more than three months notice they were going to lose their jobs, or people who do seasonal work.

There are numerous other caveats as well, including a requirement that customers reqister for work at a recognized employment agency within 15 days of losing their job.

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