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Which Credit Card is Best for Car Rentals in June 2021

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If you’re renting a car, you’d better have a credit card handy. Having one is almost always necessary since most car rental agencies won’t allow you to pay cash for a vehicle. And while there are some that will take debit cards, they require a $200 deposit — along with a potentially extended hold on it — on top of expected charges to ensure they get all the money owed to them.

When searching for the best credit card when it comes time to rent a car, there are solid options available. We cover why credit cards are needed for car rentals and the fine print in that insurance. Finally, we take a look at which credit cards are best from our partners for car rentals, broken down by categories.

Why rental car agencies prefer credit cards

Rental car agencies are entrusting customers with property worth tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what type of car is rented — the last thing they want is to take a cash payment and watch all that money drive away.

While you may not have plans to steal the car, rental car companies don’t know that. Plus, they also need a way to cover any damages you may cause to the vehicle. With the (somewhat) unlimited charging potential on a credit card, it’s safest for them when you use that for payment.

If you choose to use a debit card, things get a little more complicated. Hertz, for example, will allow you to use Visa, MasterCard and Discover debit cards with the following requirements: proof of a return travel trip that coincides with the rental; and a driver’s license, along with either another credit or debit card with the same name as the driver’s license; another government-issued ID card, a non-government ID card with a photo or a current utility bill in the renter’s name and the same address as on the driver’s license. You can’t use debit card cards to rent Hertz’s exotic or “Dream Cars.”

In most cases, Hertz locations will initiate a credit check for debit card customers to determine creditworthiness at the time of rental. The debit cards must have available funds to cover the estimated charges, plus an authorization of up to $200; these funds will not be available to use until the rental is paid for and the hold is released.

When using a credit card, Budget requires a hold of total estimated rental charges plus 25% or $200, whichever is greater. These holds can tie up available funds until the hold is removed after the rental is returned.

Dollar Car Rental announced Feb. 5, 2019, that it is making it easier to reserve a car with debit cards by removing credit check and identification requirements (a driver’s license is still required, of course), reducing return travel proof, and allowing drivers 20 years old to use debit for car rentals.

Credit card rental car insurance benefits

Many credit cards offer insurance protection for car rentals at no additional cost, meaning you can decline the additional coverage offered by the rental agency. Check your credit card’s benefits guide to see exactly how you’re covered.

If you want to offset some of your rental car expenses, you can use a cashback card. If you want to spread the cost out over a couple months, use a low-interest or 0% intro APR credit card. But know that some credit cards offer better insurance protections than others. Here is an overview of the insurance coverage you will get through different credit card companies.

American Express rental car insurance coverage

Most American Express® credit cards offer basic insurance coverage when you use a card to reserve and pay for a rental and decline the collision damage waiver at the rental car counter. The benefit offers “secondary coverage,” meaning it only pays eligible benefits that aren’t covered by any primary insurance you have. It doesn’t cover liability, damages to vehicles other than those rented by a cardmember and injuries to people in other vehicles. Coverage only applies to the first 30 days of a vehicle rental.

If you want more coverage, American Express offers premium car rental protection. Under the program, cardmembers pay a flat rate of between $19.95 and $24.95 per vehicle rental for up to 42 consecutive days of coverage. To enroll, go to Amex Premium Car Rental Protection.

The coverage includes:

  • Up to $100,000 of primary coverage for damage or theft of a rental vehicle.
  • Up to $100,000 of accidental death or dismemberment coverage ($250,000 for California residents).
  • Up to $15,000 for secondary medical expenses per person.
  • Up to $5,000 for secondary personal property coverage ($15,000 for Florida residents).

Coverage is worldwide, except for vehicles rented in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand.

Visa car rental insurance coverage

If you hold a traditional, Signature® or Infinite-branded Visa® card, it comes with secondary auto coverage for damage due to collision or theft. However, some high-end Visa cards offer primary insurance, so check your card’s guide to benefits to find out what type of coverage is available. To activate the coverage, all you have to do is decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver and use your card to pay for the rental.

For domestic rentals, insurance covers the rental vehicle for physical damage, vandalism and theft, but not lost or stolen personal belongings, injury to anyone, medical expenses or personal liability. Coverage is supplemental to and above your personal auto insurance. The coverage extends up to 15 consecutive days per contract.

For international rentals, the benefit is primary and covers the rental vehicle for physical damage, vandalism, and theft. Coverage doesn’t apply to lost or stolen personal belongings, injury to anyone, medical expenses, or personal liability. You’re covered for up to 31 consecutive days per contract. Coverage isn’t available in Israel, Ireland, or Jamaica. But check with an auto rental company before you travel to double check the benefits.

Mastercard car rental insurance coverage

Mastercard® pays secondary coverage for covered physical damage and theft to a rental vehicle when your eligible Mastercard is used to initiate and pay for a rental transaction and you decline the optional collision/damage waiver offered by the company. Your rental agreement must be no longer than 15 consecutive days. The rented vehicle must have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price that doesn’t exceed $50,000.

Travel rewards cards for car rentals

Best card for automatic elite rental car loyalty program status: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Disclosures |
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
on American Express's secure site
Terms Apply
N/A
See Pay Over Time APR
$550
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with
  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties . Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
720 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.


This card, with its $550 annual fee, comes with loyalty status in three rental car companies — Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®, Avis Preferred Club and National Emerald Club Executive — when you enroll in each program. All three loyalty programs come with perks including dedicated rental car lines, the ability to bypass a counter and special areas to choose a car. They also come with discounts and the chance for rental car upgrades.

The Platinum Card® from American Express does come with car rental loss and damage insurance that covers damage and theft up to $75,000 when the rental is paid for with the card. But know the insurance is secondary to any other insurance you may have and you must decline the insurance offered by the rental car company or opt to pay for the premium car rental protection mentioned above for American Express cardholders.

To see the rates and fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

Best travel rewards card for more rental car points value: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Disclosures |
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
on Chase's secure site
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X
  • 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 Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 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 Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
750 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Higher points are earned for car rentals.

Redeem your points for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal for 50% more value. Note that the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a $550 annual fee.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with primary insurance for damage due to collision or theft for most rental vehicles for both U.S. travel and in most foreign countries as long as you use the card to pay for your rental car and decline the company’s collision or loss waiver.

Best travel rewards cards for use without rental car country exclusions: Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Disclosures |
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
on Chase's secure site
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X
  • 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 Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 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 Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
750 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Disclosures |
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
on Chase's secure site
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
750 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Both cards reimburse members for damage due to collision or theft for most rental vehicles when traveling within the U.S. and most foreign countries for up to 31 consecutive days. This is primary coverage outside of your country of residence and provides reimbursement of up to $75,000.

The card must be used for the entire rental transaction and you must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver or loss damage waiver. The insurance covers physical damage or theft and reasonable towing charges related to a covered loss and valid loss-of-use charges incurred by the rental car agency.

Best airline card for car rentals: United Club℠ Infinite Card

Disclosures |
United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
on Chase's secure site
N/A
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
$525
Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per
  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining at restaurants and eligible delivery services
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee credit
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip. Terms Apply
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card
660 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

If you have this card or you’ve earned United Premier® Platinum status or higher, you automatically receive Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle® status.

Perks include confirmed one-car-class upgrades; 50% Hertz Gold Plus Rewards bonus points; expedited vehicle pick-up at more 1,000 locations worldwide; no stopping at the counter at more than 50 airports; mobile gold alerts; eReturn; choice of any vehicle in the President’s Circle section of the Hertz Ultimate Choice lot on the spot at no extra charge; access to Hertz Valet, a terminal drive-back service at participating locations up to four times a year; and a dedicated President’s Circle call center line.

The United Club℠ Infinite Card (which has a $525) comes with primary auto rental collision damage waiver insurance in the U.S. and abroad. You must pay for the rental car with the card and decline the company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card.

Best business card for car rentals: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Disclosures |
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
on Chase's secure site
N/A
15.99%-20.99% Variable
$95
Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined
  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account
  • $95 Annual Fee
750 850

How LendingTree Gets Paid

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn. The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card lets you earn more points for car rentals. It also offers 25% more value on points redeemed at Chase Ultimate Rewards. The card has a $95 annual fee.

The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card comes with primary insurance for collision or theft when renting for business in and outside of the U.S., if the rental is paid for with the card. The insurance is secondary insurance if you’re renting the car in the U.S. for personal reasons.