Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance: The Complete Guide
Travel often? Tired of paying extra for your rental car’s insurance? If you can find the right credit card, you may be able to skip forking over cash for a rental car company’s coverage.
Included as a benefit on many travel cards, credit card car rental insurance can cover your rental car in case of damage. This means that if you book your rental through your card, you can decline any coverage offered by the rental car company.
Of course, not all credit card insurance is created equal. Plus, using your card in lieu of a rental car company waiver comes with its own set of headaches. To help you along, this guide is meant to give you insight into the nitty-gritty of credit card car rental insurance.
In some cases, business owners may need to opt for a personal card to receive proper car rental insurance while earning rewards that match their spending habits. This isn’t a bad thing; personal cards can still work great for business expenses.
Table of Contents
How Credit Card Car Rental Insurance Works
Car rental insurance is a benefit provided by numerous credit cards (especially those marketed as travel cards). Depending on the card, this benefit can act as primary or secondary insurance in case you are involved in a crash with a rental car. As is the case with most things surrounding credit cards, you’ll need to check with your card’s terms and benefits to see exactly what coverage you have.
As long as you have a credit card with solid car rental coverage, you’ll be able to decline the rental car company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW). This can save you money—it’s not unheard of for a waiver to cost as much as $30 per day.
If you are using a business credit card note that you’ll likely need to be using the rental car for business purposes for the credit card’s insurance to kick in.
Primary Insurance VS Secondary Insurance
Some credit cards will offer primary insurance, while others offer secondary insurances. What’s the difference?
Primary insurance: If your card offers primary insurance, then it can replace any other insurance you might have. By having a card with primary insurance, you’ll be able to decline a CDW or LDW when the rental car associate asks you.
Cards known to come with primary car rental insurance include Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, United MileagePlus Explorer and MileagePlus Club, Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite, and the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card. Overall, there are fewer cards on the market that offer primary insurance for rental cars (compared to those with secondary insurance).
Secondary insurance: For those with secondary insurance on their card, your card’s insurance will only activate after you’ve gone through another insurance. This means you’ll need to file a claim with a different insurance first (such as with your primary driving insurance, or the rental car companies).
Note that in some cases, if your card advertises secondary insurance, but you don’t have primary insurance (for instance, if you don’t own a car) the card’s insurance will become your primary insurance on a rental car. Before declining the rental company’s waiver, however, contact your issuer to make sure this option is available.
What Car Rental Insurance Typically Covers
Generally, your credit card’s car rental insurance won’t cover damage to property outside the rental car, injury to others, and potential lawsuits. Additionally, you likely won’t be covered if your belongings are stolen from inside the car, nor if you have to pay ambulance bills. Of course, some of these situations may be covered by your normal car insurance, your health insurance, or your homeowner’s insurance.
In most cases, credit cards neglect covering rented luxury cars. However, there are a couple of exceptions. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve holders can receive coverage for “selected models” of BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Mercedes-Benz. Citi also offers a few cards that simply cover up to $100,000 worth of damage to road-worthy four-wheeled vehicles—regardless of make or model. American Express also provides a premium protection program that covers pickups, vans, sport-utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles valued above $50,000.
You also may be unable to utilize a card’s insurance on car-sharing services like ZipCar or car2go. Instead, you’ll probably only be covered on rentals via traditional car rental companies. To see if your card covers car-sharing services, check with your issuer.
Additionally, some credit cards do not provide coverage outside the United States. Other cards do, but they may exclude certain countries. Commonly excluded countries include Israel, Ireland, and Jamaica. You’ll need to confirm with your issuer to check if the country you’re visiting is included in your card’s coverage.
In some cases, you may also not receive coverage if you book your car rental completely on points. If this is the case, you may need to pay with your card for at least one day to trigger coverage. Note that Chase is an exception to this; booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards while using points obtained from either Sapphire Preferred or Reserve still qualifies for rental insurance coverage.
Finally, some cards won’t cover car rentals that last longer than 31 days. There are also some that only cover up to two weeks. If you are planning to rent a car long-term, you’ll likely need to end the rental within your card’s insurance window. Then you can start a new rental.
How To Check If Your Credit Card Has Car Rental Insurance
If you are unsure if your credit card has car rental coverage, the easiest way to check is by reading through your card’s terms and benefits. If you do not have an up-to-date copy of your terms and benefits, contact your issuer to get a new version sent to you. You may also be able to access a digital copy through your credit card’s online portal.
You can also call your card’s customer service line and ask your representative if your card has car rental insurance and what that insurance covers.
How To Use Your Credit Card’s Car Rental Insurance
While using your credit card for car rental insurance may save you money, it doesn’t come without its own set of hassles. Those looking for simplicity might want to sign the rental car company’s waiver instead. Here’s a look at what using your card’s insurance may entail:
How To Apply Insurance To Your Rental
After you’ve confirmed that your credit card offers car rental insurance, you’ll usually need to book the rental with your card. Once you do that, you’ll then need to decline the rental car company’s CDW or LDW.
In some cases, rental companies require proof that your card offers insurance. If this is the case, it may be handy to print out a copy of your card’s terms and benefits that you can show the rental car associate.
You also must make sure that all potential drivers of the car are listed on the rental agreement. This is especially true of the driver at the time of the accident—your issuer may void the insurance coverage if a different person is behind the wheel.
How To File A Claim
Processes vary from issuer to issuer, so you’ll need to contact your card’s issuer to find out what you’ll need to submit a claim and how. In most cases, you’ll be asked to share documents related to the rental car and any damage sustained. These documents could include an accident report, a police report, a rental agreement, repair estimates, and photographs.
If you book a rental car with the right credit card, you may be able to save lots of money while still receiving proper collision coverage. This means you can travel without worrying about spending money on unnecessary expenses. With plenty of credit cards to choose from, you’ll likely be able to find one that matches your spending habits, too.
Curious which cards are best overall for travel? Check out the Merchant Maverick article on the best business credit cards for travel perks.