Personal Finance
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11 Hidden Perks of Owning Stocks

By Michael McDonald

The main reason investors buy stocks is to make money. Returns on stocks generally come in two forms: dividends and capital gains. For a small group of stocks, though, there are additional hidden benefits offered to shareholders. While these perks won’t make the difference between a good and bad investment, they still might be worth pursuing if you own stock in these companies, or are considering it.

1. Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL)

Some of the best perks for investors come from the cruise line companies, including Carnival Cruise Lines. Investors who plan on taking a cruise on a Carnival ship might want to take advantage of the firm’s shareholder bonus program.

Shareholders who hold at least 100 shares of CCL stock before the voyage can get onboard credits, depending on the length of the trip. For cruises of six days or less, shareholders sailing from the United States are credited $50, while stockholders on cruises lasting two weeks or longer will earn $250 in credits. The credits vary slightly when passengers sail from continental Europe, the U.K. and Australia. While restrictions apply, there is no stated limit on the number of times per year an investor can request the credit.

2. Churchill Downs (CHDN)

For shareholders who are horse racing fans, buying into racetrack operator Churchill Downs has an added hidden benefit. Owning at least 100 shares of the stock entitles you to two season passes to the company’s dozen or so tracks or off-track betting facilities. This includes the famous Kentucky Derby, among other races. There is one catch, though. The company requires investors to own at least 100 shares by December 31 of the prior year to get the current year’s season passes.

3. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B)

Warren Buffett is a legend among investors for his wisdom in buying and holding stocks for the long run. However, there are also hidden benefits to owning the Oracle of Omaha’s stock, Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway stockholders qualify for a variety of discounts on BRK-B portfolio companies, including an 8 percent discount on GEICO insurance.

Berkshire Hathaway has two different classes of stock, one that trades for $200,000 per share (the A class), and a second that trades for $130 a share (the class B shares). Fortunately, the class B shares are much cheaper and one share is all you need to take advantage of the perks. Shareholders are also invited to attend the company’s annual meeting, which is something of a celebration and draws thousands to Omaha every year. Additional discounts at Berkshire Hathaway companies are available at that meeting.

4. Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL)

Just like Carnival Cruise Lines, competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises also offers perks to stockholders who are traveling on the company’s ships. Like Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises offers onboard cruise credit for use on its ships, with a credit schedule that is similar to Carnival's. Travelers on cruises of five days or less get $50 to spend on the ship, while passengers on cruises of two weeks or more receive a $250 credit. As with Carnival, the perk is available to stockholders who own a minimum of 100 shares.

5. Ford (F)

Perhaps the biggest and best of all the shareholder perks comes from Ford, and it can be worth thousands of dollars. Of all the perks on this list, this is the one that might actually make it worth investing in a company for the perk alone. Anyone who owns at least 100 shares of Ford for at least six months qualifies for the Ford X-Plan, better known as the “Friends and Neighbors” plan. Under the program, shareholders can visit a Ford showroom and purchase a new car for roughly 4 percent above the price that employees pay. It’s a huge discount, and while you have to jump through some hoops to apply, it can be well worth the effort.

6. McDonald's (MCD)

Some companies' stockholder perks vary from year to year, and McDonald’s is one such company. While it doesn't specifically promise anything to stockholders, in the past, McDonald’s has rewarded its investors with a token of appreciation in the annual report: a gift certificate. To some, free fries might be a tempting incentive.

7. Newell Rubbermaid (NWL)

Sometimes perks take the form of exclusive access to company resources that are not available to outsiders. That's the case with Newell Rubbermaid. The company gives out three free passes for investors to shop at the employee-only store. This store carries extensive merchandise at a substantial discount over retail prices. That will keep those stock certificates fresh.

8. IBM (IBM)

International Business Machines offers shareholders a deal similar to Rubbermaid's. The stockholders can save big bucks on computer equipment at the IBM shareholder store, with discounts of up to 25 percent on pre-owned and refurbished computers and equipment. The store requires a special passcode to enter, which you can only get as a shareholder.

9. Kimberly-Clark (KMB)

Kimberly-Clark offers its stockholders an outstanding deal on the company’s consumer paper products. Stockholders have special rights to buy a gift box that includes many Kimberly-Clark products, plus coupons with a value alone that is higher than the cost of the box.

A gift box costs $24.49 and includes Kleenex tissues, diaper wipes and other items, and more than $25 worth of coupons for other products — for a total retail value of $45. Similar to Berkshire Hathaway, it’s a great way for Kimberly-Clark to build brand loyalty while also doing a little something extra for shareholders.

10. Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVVI)

Small cap company Willamette Valley Vineyards finds many ways to reward its shareholders with its own hidden perks. Stockholders get exclusive access and admissions to special events at the winery, access to special limited production wines, plus use of the winery’s tasting and hospitality facilities for certain events. That’s the kind of personal attention that shareholders at larger companies can only dream about.

11. Euro Disney (DIS)

Disney is a U.S. company, and previously gave its shareholders free passes to the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, the company no longer does that. However, overseas where stockholder perks are more in vogue, there are still some good opportunities. Investors in Euro Disney get access to the shareholder club, which gives them discounts on parks including Disneyland Paris, access to special events and a variety of other benefits.

This article was originally published on GOBankingRates.com.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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