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Credit Card Rental Car Insurance: Essential Guide 2024

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Updated December 24, 2023

When renting a car, you assume full responsibility for the car, damage to property, and injuries to people. During the checkout process, travelers are offered rental car insurance by the car rental company. You can save money by declining the collision damage waiver and using your credit card rental insurance benefits to protect the car against damage or theft. Learn what exactly car rental insurance is, how it works, which credit cards offer it, and how to file a claim.

How does credit card car rental insurance work?

To receive credit card rental car insurance benefits on your reservation, you must use your credit card to pay for the entire rental. If you’re booking a rental car using credit card rewards, you may receive benefits when using a card that earns those points.

At checkout, you must decline the rental car company’s collision damage waiver. Otherwise, your credit card rental insurance benefits will not apply.

Credit car rental protection only covers theft or damage to the rental car for short-term rentals. Generally, the rental car is covered up to the lesser of the car's cash value or a set dollar amount. It does not cover damage to other vehicles or property and will not cover injuries to passengers or pedestrians.

Depending on your credit card, these rental benefits may also cover loss of use and towing charges related to the incident. Loss of use reimburses the rental car company for its lost revenue on that car while it is being repaired or replaced.

Primary vs. secondary coverage: What do they cover?

Although numerous credit cards offer rental car protection, the benefits and exclusions can vary widely. The major difference is whether the protection is primary or secondary.

Primary rental car protection covers the rental without involving your automobile insurance policy. If there is a claim, you do not have to call your insurance company or pay a deductible.

Secondary rental car insurance benefits apply after your automobile insurance coverage applies. These benefits help to pay your deductible and claims in excess of your auto policy.

What about liability coverage?

While credit card rental car insurance covers theft or damage to the rental car, it does not include liability coverage or medical benefits. To protect yourself against those risks, you’ll need to purchase additional coverage from the rental car agency or rely on your auto policy.

Credit card rental car coverage exclusions

Rental car coverage from a credit card covers most rental car situations. However, not all rental cars are eligible for this protection. Here are a few types of rentals that are not covered:

  • Vehicles for commercial use.
  • Vans designed to carry more than nine passengers.
  • Vehicles with an open cargo bed.
  • Motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes.
  • Leases and mini-leases.
  • Rentals longer than 31 days.
  • Exotic or antique cars.
  • Rentals in certain countries.

Do all credit cards come with car rental insurance?

Not all credit cards offer rental car protection. These benefits are primarily found on travel credit cards and premium rewards cards. Among the credit cards that offer rental car insurance, the benefits, exclusions, and protections can vary widely.

How do I know if my credit card has car rental insurance?

If you want to use credit card rental insurance when renting a car, you need to make sure that your card offers these benefits. Not all credit cards include rental car protections, so here’s how to determine if your card does.

  • Credit card marketing materials. Card issuer marketing pages dedicated to your specific card usually provide an overview of these benefits.
  • Guide to benefits. Read your paper copy of your card’s guide to benefits which came with your card, or check the bank’s website by searching for “guide to benefits.”
  • Call or message customer service. Another option is to contact your credit card company’s customer service department to ask questions about your benefits, either by phone or an online chat—if your bank offers this option.

Even if your credit card offers rental car protections, coverage limits and exclusions vary by card. It is a good idea to verify your benefits before booking a rental car to ensure there aren’t any surprises.

The best credit cards for rental car insurance

The credit cards listed below offer rental car protection at no extra charge. They have a variety of annual fees, earning power, benefits, and other features to meet the needs of cardholders.

Cards with primary coverage

These are some of the credit cards that include primary coverage to protect your rental without involving your automobile insurance:

card_name
card_name
card_name
card_name
Card name
APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Annual fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
Credit score
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed

Cards with secondary coverage

Although secondary coverage isn’t as good as primary rental car protection, it can save money by skipping rental car policies. This list includes some of the credit cards offering secondary rental car protection at no extra charge:

card_name
card_name
card_name
card_name
Card name
APR
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
reg_apr,reg_apr_type
Annual fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
annual_fees
Credit score
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed
credit_score_needed

American Express add-on coverage

American Express offers a flat-rate Premium Car Rental Protection that covers theft or damage to the vehicle. Simply register your American Express credit card for this program, and you’ll be automatically covered every time you rent an eligible vehicle. For a one-time payment per rental, you’re covered for up to 42 consecutive days instead of the daily rate that rental car companies charge. Rates range from $12.25 to $24.95 per rental depending on the coverage option selected and your state of residence.

Like other credit card rental protection benefits, Amex Premium Car Rental Protection does not provide liability coverage for damage or injuries. It provides primary rental car coverage, so you don’t need to involve your auto insurance policy if there’s a claim.

Additional ways credit cards cover your travel

In addition to rental car protection, many credit cards also include other travel benefits that cover you against unexpected situations. Here are some of the protections your card may provide:

  • Trip interruption/cancellation. This benefit reimburses you for the costs incurred if your trip is interrupted and you have to return home early. Trip cancellation also covers prepaid, non-refundable reservations when you have to cancel a trip.
  • Trip delay. When your flight is delayed or requires an overnight stay, you’ll be reimbursed up to a set dollar amount for reasonable hotel, dining and transportation costs.
  • Lost or damaged luggage. Reimburses travelers when their bags or items inside the bag are lost, stolen or damaged.
  • Delayed luggage. Covers reasonable expenses up to a set dollar amount for each day your bag is delayed.

How to file a claim for credit card rental car insurance

When you need to file a claim for credit card rental car insurance, contact your card’s customer service right away. Although most benefits allow you to file claims up to 100 days after the incident, you shouldn’t delay any longer than necessary. This keeps the facts clear in your head and minimizes the chances of losing any documentation.

  1. Gather details about the incident. Collect information about the incident, such as date, time, location, and other details. Take photographs of the damage and get a copy of the repair estimate and itemized repair bill.
  2. Contact customer service. When you call customer service, they’ll connect you with your card’s rental car insurance benefits providers. If you have your card’s guide to benefits, you’ll find the claim number inside and you can call the provider directly.
  3. File a police report (if necessary). Rules vary about involving the police, depending on where you are. Contact the local police department to determine whether or not you need to file a police report. If you aren’t required to file a report, write down whom you spoke with, their phone number, and when you called.
  4. File your claim. You must submit your completed claim form within 120 days of the incident.
  5. Submit all required information. The claims provider may ask you to submit documentation regarding your claim. Submission can typically be done by fax, online, or mail. Depending on the claims administrator, you may have up to one year to submit your documentation.
  6. Respond to additional requests. If the claims provider requests additional information or documentation, reply as quickly as possible to ensure that the claim process keeps moving forward.

Alternatives to credit card rental car insurance

Protection from your rental car is available from more than just your credit card and rental car companies. Here are a few options to consider when renting your next car.

Upgrade your travel insurance

Many travel insurance companies include rental car protection in the price of their policies. You can purchase a single-trip policy to cover one trip or an annual policy that protects you for an entire year. Some travel insurance companies offer standalone policies for rental cars. Review your travel insurance policy to determine if the coverage is primary or secondary.

Travelex

Travelex Travel Insurance

Travelex Travel Insurance

Max. No-exam Coverage
$15,000
Max trip cancel coverage
$10,000
24/7 assist
Yes
TrustPilot Rating
4.3/5
Within 15 days of purchase if travel has not started.

Use your automobile policy

If you already have auto insurance for your primary vehicle, you can use those benefits to cover your rental car. Many travelers choose this option since they’re already paying for insurance protection. Before booking your rental, confirm that your auto insurance policy covers rental cars. Be aware that your insurance premiums could increase if you have a claim.

Online travel agency

When booking your rental car through an OTA, you may be offered rental car coverage. Depending on the site, coverage may be available at a flat rate or a discounted price versus buying it from the rental car company.

TIME Stamp: Save money with credit card rental car insurance benefits

Travelers can save money by declining rental car collision damage insurance and using their credit card benefits instead. With rental car insurance charges of $15 to $30 per day, these costs can quickly add up. In some cases, they're more than the actual car rental. Many travel credit cards include primary or secondary rental car protection. Simply use your eligible credit card to pay for your rental and decline the rental company's insurance to be automatically protected against theft or damage to the vehicle. If your credit card has an annual fee, these savings can help to justify that cost.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Should I pay for car rental insurance on a rental car?

With rental car protection available at no charge through your credit card, there’s no reason to purchase a collision damage waiver from a rental car company. Since this coverage does not offer liability coverage for property damage or injury, you may want to purchase a policy or use your existing auto insurance benefits.

What happens if you don’t have a credit card for a rental?

Many travelers don’t have access to credit cards, so rental car companies often accept other forms of payment. When using a debit card, the rental car company may place a security hold in excess of the cost of your rental. For travelers who want to use cash, a money order, or a cashier’s check, other restrictions may apply. In these situations, you may be required to pay the full cost of the rental upfront, provide proof of return travel, submit to a credit check, or pay a security deposit.

Does my credit card cover third-party liability?

Liability coverage is not included in most credit card rental car benefits. Credit card rental insurance focuses on damage or theft and loss of use of the rental car. In order to protect yourself against claims for damage or injury to others, you’ll need to purchase additional coverage or rely on your auto policy.

Does credit card insurance cover another driver?

Yes, credit card rental car protection covers all authorized drivers during the rental period. However, an authorized user of the credit card must be on the reservation for the rental. They cannot pay for your rental car and extend benefits to you if they aren’t on the reservation.

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