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Credit Card Rental Insurance: What Is It? How Does It Work?

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Whether you need a way to get to the supermarket while your car is in the shop or you plan on renting a car in Europe to cruise from the French Alps to the Italian Riviera, credit card rental car insurance can save you money and give you peace of mind.

Rental car insurance is a common credit card travel insurance perk that covers damage to or theft of a rental car.

It’s important to understand how credit card rental car insurance works and what yours covers before you pull out your card, decline coverage from the car rental agency and drive away.

How does credit card rental car insurance work?

Credit card rental insurance coverage differs from card to card, so be sure to read the fine print on your card’s guide to benefits to learn exactly how to use this card benefit.

Here’s how credit card rental car insurance works. In most cases, you:

  1. Reserve a rental car using a credit card with rental car coverage.
  2. Check to verify coverage, limits and exclusions on your credit card.
  3. Show up at the car rental agency and hand over the same card.
  4. Decline the collision damage waiver from the rental car company.
  5. If the rental car company insists you buy their coverage, call your credit card company.
  6. Pay the entire cost of the car rental with the credit card that offers coverage.

If you get into a crash, your rental car gets stolen, or you experience another covered mishap, file a claim with the credit card company within the required time. If the coverage on your card is secondary (more on that below), you’ll first need to file a claim with any other insurance that covers you.

What is a collision damage waiver?

Credit cards with car rental protection typically offer a collision damage waiver (CDW), also known as a loss damage waiver (LDW).

A CDW essentially releases you from financial responsibility for rental car damage or theft.

Rental car companies will also often offer to sell you a CDW at the time of rental (along with other types of policies), which typically adds a cost of $9 to $19 a day to your rental car bill.

If you have this coverage on the credit card you’re using to rent the car, or you’re covered by your own auto insurance, you may not need to buy this coverage from the rental car company.

Primary vs. secondary car rental insurance

There are two main types of credit card rental insurance: primary and secondary. With primary rental car insurance, you can file a claim first with your credit card car rental insurance. With secondary car rental insurance, you must first file a claim with your own auto, home or renter’s insurer, and the credit card insurance may pick up extra costs not covered by your policy. For example, it may pay your deductible on the other policy.

Benefits of using a credit card with primary car rental insurance:

  1. You don’t need to file a claim with your own auto insurance first.
  2. That means you may not have to pay a deductible on your policy.
  3. You may not get dinged with an auto insurance rate hike.
  4. You save yourself lots of hassle in dealing with multiple claims.

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Tip

But even primary coverage isn’t a substitute for a good auto insurance policy.

That’s because credit card rental car insurance often doesn’t cover medical expenses for you and your passengers if you get into a crash, or your personal property that gets ruined or stolen while in a rental car.

What’s typically excluded from credit card rental insurance?

Credit card car rental insurance can be a nice benefit to have, but it’s not full auto insurance coverage. While bare-bones liability insurance is included in the cost of car rental, it’s important to have or buy insurance that covers you fully.

These types of auto insurance often are not included in credit card rental car insurance:

  • Liability insurance – Credit card car rental insurance typically does not offer liability insurance, which has two parts: bodily injury liability coverage and property damage coverage. Bodily injury liability covers ambulance, medical care and lost income for anyone you injure in a crash you cause. Property damage coverage covers other vehicles or property — for example, a mailbox or storefront you crash into with your rental car.
  • Personal accident insurance – Personal accident insurance helps pay ambulance, doctor or hospital bills for you or your passengers if you get hurt in an accident while in the rental car. You may have this coverage as part of your auto insurance, and you may be covered through health insurance.
  • Personal effects insurance – Personal effects insurance may cover your personal items — for example, an expensive phone or designer sunglasses and bag that get stolen from your rental car while you’re on vacation. You may already have this coverage as part of your home or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Expensive vehicle types – Most credit card insurance policies have exclusions for certain types of vehicles. These may include: antique cars, luxury cars, limousines, mopeds or motorcycles and very large vehicles like cargo vans.
  • Long rental periods – It’s common for credit car rental insurance policies to exclude coverage for very long rental periods. For example, some policies limit coverage to a few weeks or a month. These policies are meant to cover typical car rentals, such as for a business trip, a family visit or a vacation.
  • Certain countries – Some credit card rental car insurance won’t cover car rentals made in certain countries. For example, many policies offer coverage both in the United States and abroad but exclude locations where the coverage is not allowed by law. And some policies exclude specific countries. For example, Amex rental car insurance does not cover cars rented in Australia, Italy or New Zealand.

Is credit card car rental insurance enough?

Wondering if your credit card car rental insurance is enough to cover you in a worst-case scenario?

That depends on what kind of coverage — and how much — you already have on your other policies.

Keep in mind that auto insurance covers car rental in most cases. But it’s always important to review all of your insurance coverage, read the details of the policy offered by your credit card and also review options for insurance you can buy from the rental car agency.

In general, credit card rental car insurance may be enough if you:

  1. Have a robust auto insurance policy. If you’ve got solid auto insurance coverage for your personal vehicles, this coverage typically will extend to you while you’re driving a rental car for personal use. Make sure you have:
    • Liability coverage – Covers injury to other drivers and passengers, damage to other vehicles, and damage to other property if you cause a crash. You should also make sure your policy’s liability coverage is sufficient. Carrying our lowest recommended liability limits ($25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and $25,000 in property liability or 25/50/25) may leave you on the hook financially after a crash.
    • Comprehensive coverage – Covers damage to the rental vehicle caused by storms and other factors outside of your control — for example, a deer jumping in front of you on the road or a tree branch falling on the car.
    • Collision coverage – Covers damage to your personal and rental vehicles if you cause a crash. It’s a good idea to have coverage that will pay up to the actual cash value (ACV) of the rental car. Credit card car rental insurance typically covers collision damage up to set limits.
  2. Have a good home or renter’s insurance policy. Your home or renter’s insurance policy may cover you if your personal items get stolen from a car or damaged while in a car, whether it’s your own or a rental.
  3. Have excellent health insurance coverage. Your health insurance may cover your emergency services, medical and hospital costs if you get injured in an accident while driving your rental car. It’s important to consider your passengers’ health insurance coverage as well.

You should also consider your policy limits, deductibles and how much you want to avoid filing a claim on your personal insurance.

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Savvy traveler tip

In some cases, it may make sense to buy insurance from a car rental company. For example, if you’ve recently had a claim for an accident where you were at fault or you really want to avoid premium increases, buying insurance from the rental car agency can offer extra protection and peace of mind.

Does my credit card cover car rental insurance?

Many credit card issuers, including Chase and Capital One offer car rental coverage as a benefit on many cards. But it’s important to verify that your card has coverage and see what’s included.

  • Check your coverage by looking at the guide to benefits when you received your credit card in the mail, which should include the phone number for the benefits administrator.
  • You can also call the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card.

Keep in mind that credit cards require you to pay the entire cost of the rental car with the card in order to get this benefit.

If you plan to use rewards to cover all or part of the cost of the car rental, check in advance to make sure coverage still applies. For example, for Amex, coverage still applies if you use Membership Rewards points but not if you use other loyalty program rewards, such as airline miles.

 

Chase car rental insurance

Chase offers robust credit card car rental insurance on many of its cards. Chase coverage is:

  • Primary on many cards
  • Usually limited to car rentals lasting no more than 31 consecutive days
  • Typically limited to the actual cash value of the vehicle (except on Chase’s premium travel card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®)

Chase credit card rental car coverage also has a number of exclusions when you dig into the fine print. The coverage typically excludes antique, exotic or specialized vehicles. For example, Chase cards generally won’t cover expensive vehicles such as a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Porsche or a Maserati. The coverage also excludes cargo vans, large passenger vans, limousines, motorcycles and mopeds and RVs.

Top Chase cards for car rental

CardCoverage typeLength of coverageLimitsAnnual fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®PrimaryUp to 31 consecutive days$75,000$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardPrimaryUp to 31 consecutive daysActual cash value of the rental vehicle$95
Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardPrimary when renting for businessUp to 31 consecutive daysActual cash value of the rental vehicle$95
United℠ Explorer CardPrimaryUp to 31 consecutive daysActual cash value of the rental vehicle$95
Chase Freedom Flex℠SecondaryUp to 31 consecutive daysActual cash value of the rental vehicle$0

Capital One credit card rental car insurance

Many Capital One credit cards provide rental car insurance as a benefit from the card network, either Visa or Mastercard. You can get details on coverage by checking either the Visa or Mastercard guide to benefits that goes with your card.

In some cases, this benefit is available only on Visa Signature cards issued by Capital One, so check to see if your card has the benefit.

Top Capital One cards for car rental

CardCoverage typeLength of coverageLimitsAnnual fee
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card*See TermsSee TermsUp to actual cash value of vehicle$95
Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good CreditSee TermsSee TermsUp to actual cash value of vehicle$0
Capital One Platinum Credit CardSee TermsSee TermsUp to $50,000 (Mastercard) or up to actual cash value (Visa)$0

*Visa Signature cards only
*To see rates & fees for Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, please click here.
*To see rates & fees for Capital One VentureOne Rewards for Good Credit, please click here.
*To see rates & fees for Capital One Platinum Credit Card, please click here.

Discover card car rental insurance

Discover no longer offers car rental insurance on its credit cards. Discover used to offer this coverage, but it’s been eliminated. If you need to rent a car and you want credit card rental car coverage, it’s best to use a different card — if possible, one with primary coverage.

Citi card car rental insurance

Citi no longer offers car rental insurance or other travel insurance on most of its credit cards, but you may still be covered on a Citi card through the credit card network. The major credit card networks, including Mastercard and Visa, typically offer car rental insurance as a benefit. Check with your card network to see if you’re covered, or use a different card that explicitly offers this benefit.

American Express car rental insurance

Some American Express cards offer car rental insurance. You can visit Amex’s car rental insurance page to find out whether your card offers car rental insurance, and to see details on the coverages and limitations.

Best credit card for car rental

Many credit cards offer solid primary car rental coverage. But our choice for the best credit card for car rental is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Here’s why we chose this as the best card for car rental coverage.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

| Disclosures
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
apply-now-icon Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
N/A
22.49% – 29.49% Variable
$550
Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase TravelSM.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase TravelSM. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority PassTM Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • Member FDIC
720 850
Excellent

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  • Up to $75,000 of primary car rental insurance
  • Earn up to 10X points on car rentals when you rent through Chase
  • Primary car rental insurance with coverage in most countries, including Jamaica and Ireland
  • Car rental privileges with Avis, National and Silvercar
  • Coverage for expensive cars
  • Big rewards bonus when you rent through Chase’s travel portal

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card doesn’t cover antique or specialty vehicles, it doesn’t specifically list expensive cars as not being covered. That can be a huge benefit if you decided to make a dream come true by renting a Maserati on your vacation.

How to claim car rental insurance on a credit card

Check your card for specifics, but these are the general steps you take to file a credit card car rental claim:

  1. Call your credit card company to report the incident and get a claim form.
  2. Fill out the form and attach any required proof and documents (for example, car rental receipt, driver’s license, police report, photos of damage.)
  3. Submit the form and documentation within the required time frame.

It may take some time to gather all the documentation required, so get started as quickly as possible to get the claim submitted in time.

VisaAmerican ExpressMastercard
Must Submit Claim Documents Within90 days60 days (or as soon as reasonably possible)180 days
Claims Contact(800) 348-8472(800) 338-1670 (domestic)
Or call collect at (303) 273-6497 (international)
(800) 627-8372
Policy DetailsMore infoMore infoMore info

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply

 

The information related to Chase Freedom Flex℠  has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Most credit cards offer some type of car rental insurance as a cardholder benefit. But the coverage, its limits and exclusions, vary from card to card. And there are cards, such as most from Discover, that do not include any rental car coverage at all. Call your credit card company or check your “guide to benefits” to find out what your card offers.

Many credit cards offer car rental insurance, including cards from Capital One and Chase. It’s always important to verify that your specific credit card offers the coverage and to check exactly what is and isn’t covered before you forgo coverage from the car rental company. Examples of cards with car rental coverage include: the American Express® Gold Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Some Credit One credit cards offer car rental insurance as a benefit from the card network. Credit One is the issuing bank, and American Express, Mastercard and Visa are card networks.

Some credit cards offer primary rental car coverage, which does not require you to submit a claim to your other insurance before coverage can kick in. Many Chase credit cards offer this benefit. Examples of cards that offer primary rental car insurance include: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and the United℠ Explorer Card.

Many Capital One cards offer car rental insurance coverage through the card network, either Visa or Mastercard. It’s always important to verify that your specific card has coverage and to check what is and isn’t covered. Examples of Capital One cards that may offer rental car coverage include: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

Our pick for the best credit card for car rental insurance is the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a premium travel card that offers primary coverage that covers the cost of a vehicle up to $75,000 and doesn’t exclude expensive vehicles like luxury and sports cars.

Not all credit cards have car rental insurance. In fact, most Citi cards and Discover cards do not include car rental insurance on their list of benefits. Renting a car with a credit card that offers primary car rental insurance can save you hundreds of dollars by allowing you to decline the car rental agency’s collision damage waiver offer.

The major credit card networks — including Visa and Mastercard — typically offer car rental insurance on credit cards marked with their logo. But that coverage can vary from card to card, depending on the issuing bank.

You don’t always need a credit card to rent a car, but you may in some cases. Most U.S. car rental agencies allow you to reserve and pay for a rental car using a debit card that has the Visa or Mastercard logo, but there are exceptions. For example, airport locations of Enterprise Rent-a-Car require you to have a ticketed return travel itinerary to use a debit card for a rental car. Otherwise, you must have a credit card. Car rental agencies typically place a sizable hold on your debit card when you reserve a car, and those funds may be unavailable to you for a week or longer. Also keep in mind that debit cards may or may not offer car rental insurance coverage.

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