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Car rental protection offered by rental companies can cost $15 to $30 a day—in 10 days, that could be as much as whopping $300. Alternatively, a credit card with rental insurance will offer the same coverage at no extra cost—and even if it does, it’s significantly cheaper than what rental companies offer. 

For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express charges a flat fee of $19.95 or $24.95 per rental period (not per day) for primary coverage. If you rent a vehicle for over 20 days, you’ll save about $575 in insurance (assuming you upgrade to primary coverage from Amex car insurance). 

There is still a caveat to enjoying credit card rental coverage—one must meet the following conditions:

  • Turn down the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) and 
  • Charge the entire car rental cost on their eligible card

Even if you travel abroad, the card will still cover you except for some countries specified by your card’s guide to benefits.

In this post, we’ll discuss all about credit cards with car rental insurance that you need to know. This includes how they work, what they cover and the type of coverage, whether primary or secondary. The right card coverage may cushion you from paying thousands of dollars in damages.

Credit card with rental car protection

What Is Car Rental Protection?

Credit card rental protection helps settle potential damage to your rental car from theft or accident. However, you must put the entire rental cost on the credit card providing rental coverage. Credit card rental insurance comes in two categories:

  • Primary coverage
  • Secondary coverage

Primary coverage is the first payer to kick in and settle the car damages, eliminating the need to file a claim with your insurance company. On the other hand, secondary coverage only comes in after your personal policy settles the rental car damages.

How Does Rental Car Protection Work?

To be covered by eligible credit card rental insurance, you must put the entire car rental cost into that card. Then, you must decline any collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW) the rental company offers. 

Additionally, you must call the card administrator and inform them of the damage or theft within the required time frame (typically between 30-120 days). Note that the time frame requirement varies with card types—read your card’s guide to benefit to be sure. 

Most importantly, credit card terms usually require that you must be the primary renter of the car, i.e., signing the rental agreement and taking possession of the rental vehicle. However, it’s crucial to understand that not all types of vehicles are covered by your credit card rental insurance. For example, luxury vehicles and RVs are not included in the coverage.

What Is Covered by Rental Car Coverage?

Car Rental

Most rental car companies and credit card rental insurance offer collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW), which typically releases you from the financial obligation in the event of rental car damage or theft while in your possession. The benefits offered by this coverage could include: 

  • Compensation for theft or collision damage up to the vehicle’s total market value
  • Loss-of-use charges
  • Towing costs

Confirm with your credit card issuer what the rental car insurance covers. In addition, remember that CDW only covers physical damage to the car and not any liability cover.

While credit card companies offer some form of rental car coverage, they don’t offer full auto insurance coverage. As a result, don’t expect the following types of auto insurance to be included in your credit card rental insurance.

  • Liability insurance: Credit card rental insurance doesn’t cover liability insurance. Liability insurance is categorized into two, i.e., bodily injury liability and property damage liability. For example, property damage liability insurance covers any damage to another vehicle you crash into with your rental vehicle. Bodily injury liability coverage would cover, for example, ambulance costs after a crash you caused.
  • Certain vehicle types: Credit card rental insurance doesn’t cover luxury cars, including RVs, and high-end cars like Ferrari and Porsche. Generally, most cars exceeding the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $75,000 are excluded from coverage. A general rule of thumb is to contact your credit card issuer to confirm that the vehicle make or type car you’re renting is covered by the credit card rental protection.
  • Certain countries: Credit card rental protections don’t cover all countries. There are a few countries that most credit card issuers will exclude, including Ireland, Israel, Jamaica.
  • Other exclusions: Other exclusions from credit card rental protection include careless driving, notably driving under the influence of drugs, ignoring road signs, or generally driving recklessly. 

Primary vs. Secondary Coverage: What’s the Difference?

The benefits and exclusion of credit card rental insurance vary widely, and although not all credit cards offer rental insurance, those that do are categorized into either primary or secondary coverage.

The major difference between primary and secondary rental coverage is that the former is the first to pay for damages without involving your auto insurance company. At the same time, the latter only comes in after your auto insurance applies. For primary coverage, you do not need to call your auto insurance or pay a deductible whenever there’s a claim. On the other hand, your secondary coverage will only aid in covering what is in excess of your auto insurance policy.

To further illustrate this, let’s take a practical example:

Assuming you rent a car in Texas, you decline your rental company’s damage waiver and charge the entire rental period to your credit card, which offers primary coverage. In the event, you’re involved in an accident and damage the car’s front fender. The rental company repairs the damage for $2000. Since you have primary coverage, credit card insurance settles the damage without involving your auto insurance company.

However, if your credit card offers secondary coverage, you must first file a claim with your auto insurance company. Suppose you have a $600 deductible. The insurance company will pay $1400 in repair costs while you’ll have to pay the $600 deductible. Later, you can file a claim with your eligible credit card to be reimbursed the $600 deductible. 

Top Credit Cards with Rental Car Protection

There’s no shortage of credit cards with rental car insurance to choose from. We’ve narrowed it down to these five cards, highlighting their coverage types, coverage limit, annual fees, coverage period, coverage types, and notable exclusions.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers primary coverage in most countries but will set you back $550 in annual fees. However, after seeing its selection of perks and rewards, the benefits dwarf the yearly fee.

Here’s an overview of Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rental coverage policy:

Coverage TypePrimary
Condition
  • Must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW)
  • Use your account to complete your entire car rental transaction
  • Call the card administrator and inform them of the damage or theft within 100 days.
Coverage Limit$75,000
Coverage PeriodUp to 31 days
Cost Covered
  • Damage or theft of the rental vehicle
  • Loss of use charges provided by the rental company
  • Towing fees
Exclusions
  • Certain vehicles, such as antique automobiles (cars over 20 years old or that have not been manufactured for ten), motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, trucks (other than pickups), mopeds, cargo vans and vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Injury of anyone, including you, or damage to anything, inside or outside the Rental Vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Personal liability
  • Expenses assumed, waived or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s annual fee may seem costly, this premium travel card will compensate you with bumper benefits, such as a maximum of $75,000 coverage for the rental vehicle. This is $25,000 more than the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card offers. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve has more lucrative points earning potential than Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The card earns 10X total points on hotels and auto rentals purchased on Chase Travel after spending $300 on travel purchases annually.

In addition, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a range of other notable rewards and travel perks for its users:

  • No foreign transaction fees for purchases made using the card outside the United States
  • $300 in annual statement credit as reimbursement for the travel purchase
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • Travel and purchase protections

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 

LEARN MORE 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The rental car insurance benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card mirror those of the Chase Sapphire Reserve but with a slight difference in the annual fee of $95.

Here’s an overview of Chase Sapphire Preferred rental coverage policy:

Coverage TypePrimary
Condition
  • Must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW)Use your account to complete your entire car rental transaction
  • Call the card administrator and inform them of the damage or theft within 100 days.
Coverage LimitUp to the actual cash value of the rental car for theft or damages
Coverage PeriodUp to 31 days
Cost Covered
  • Damage or theft of rental vehicle
  • Loss of use charges provided by the rental company
  • Towing fees
Exclusions
  • Certain vehicles such as antique automobiles (cars over 20 years old or that have not been manufactured for ten), motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, trucks (other than pickups), mopeds, cargo vans and vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Injury of anyone, including you, or damage to anything, inside or outside the Rental Vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Personal liability
  • Expenses assumed, waived, or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer

With a lower annual fee, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers similar benefits to those of its cousin, Chase Sapphire Reserve, with a slight difference in coverage limits up to the actual cash value of the rental car. 

Beyond rental car coverage, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers its users a range of other notable rewards and travel perks. For instance, when it comes to points earning, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card can earns 3X points on dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and 5X on travel booked via the Chase travel portal. In addition, the card offers zero foreign transaction fees when you use it for purchases outside the United States.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

LEARN MORE 

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers primary coverage and several travel perks for loyalists. The card’s $395 annual fee may seem high, but wait until you see the benefits that come with it.

Here’s an overview of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card rental coverage policy:

Coverage TypePrimary
Condition
  • Must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW)
  • Use your account to complete your entire car rental transaction
  • Call the benefit administrator and inform them within 45 days of theft or damage.
Coverage LimitUp to the actual cash value of the rental car for theft or damages
Coverage PeriodUp to 31 days
Cost Covered
  • Damage or theft of rental vehicle
  • Loss of use charges provided by the rental company
  • Towing fees
Exclusions
  • Certain vehicles, such as antique automobiles (cars over 20 years old or that have not been manufactured for ten), motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, trucks (other than pickups), mopeds, cargo vans and vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Injury of anyone, including you, or damage to anything, inside or outside the Rental Vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Personal liability
  • Expenses assumed, waived or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer

Other than the rental insurance benefits, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card comes with a range of travel perks such as:

  • $300 annual statement credit for travel bookings through Capital One Travel
  • 10X miles on hotels & rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2X miles on all other purchases every day
  • $100 Global Entry fee statement credit every four years
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select, Plaza Premium Group and Capital One Lounge access
  • Zero foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the United States
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select, Capital One Lounge access and Plaza Premium Group

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers primary rental coverage for those renting vehicles for business reasons while providing huge points earning potential. Although it sets you back $95 in annual fees, this premium card offers a range of benefits that’s hard not to have in your credit card lineup.

Here’s a summary of the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card:

Coverage TypePrimary
Condition
  • You must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW)
  • You must use your account to complete your entire car rental transaction
  • Call the benefit administrator and inform them within 45 days of theft or damage.
Coverage LimitUp to the actual cash value of the rental car for theft or damages
Coverage PeriodUp to 31 days
Cost Covered
  • Damage or theft of rental vehicle
  • Loss of use charges provided by the rental company
  • Towing fees
Exclusions
  • Certain vehicles, such as antique automobiles (cars over 20 years old or that have not been manufactured for ten), motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, trucks (other than pickups), mopeds, cargo vans and vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Injury of anyone, including you, or damage to anything, inside or outside the Rental Vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Personal liability
  • Expenses assumed, waived or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer

On top of the rental coverage benefits, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card will also reward you with the following perks:

  • Zero foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside the United States
  • Cover your purchases against damage or theft for up to 120 days (coverage is up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account)
  • Earn 3x points on the first $150,000 in combined purchases in the following categories each account anniversary year: shipping purchases, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, internet, cable and phone services and travel
  • Employee cards at no additional cost

Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

120,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $8,000 spend in 3 months

LEARN MORE 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Unlike Chase cards and Capital One, The Platinum Card® from American Express (rates and fees) offers secondary coverage. However, one can upgrade to primary coverage at a cost under the Premium Car Rental Protection program. 

Here’s an overview of the insurance offered by The Platinum Card® from American Express*:

Coverage Type
  • Secondary
  • Ability to upgrade to primary coverage for a flat rate of $19.95 / $24.95 per rental period, not per day, depending on the coverage plan you select ($15.95 or $17.95 for CA Residents and $12.25 or $15.25 for FL Residents)
Condition
  • Decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW)
  • Use your account to complete the entire car rental transaction
  • Call the benefit administrator and inform them within 30 days of theft or damage.
Coverage Limit
  • Secondary coverage is up to $75,000
  • Upgrading to primary coverage offers up to $100,000 in coverage
Coverage Period
  • Up to 30 days (except for car rented in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland and Jamaica)
  • Upgrading to primary coverage earns you up to 42 consecutive days of coverage
Cost Covered
  • Damage or theft of rental vehicle
  • Loss of use charges provided by the rental company
  • Towing fees
  • Up to $100,000 of accidental death or dismemberment coverage attributed to a rental car accident (this coverage goes up to $250,000 for California residents)
  • Secondary medical expense coverage of up to $15,000 per person Secondary personal property coverage of up to $5,000 per person (Florida residents can receive up to $15,000)
Exclusions
  • Certain vehicles, such as antique automobiles (cars over 20 years old or that have not been manufactured for ten), motorbikes, limousines, recreational vehicles, trucks (other than pickups), mopeds, cargo vans and vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Injury of anyone, including you, or damage to anything, inside or outside the Rental Vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Personal liability
  • Expenses assumed, waived or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer

The highlight of this Amex rental car insurance is the addition of up to $200,000 worth of coverage for accidental death or dismemberment attributed to a rental car accident. On top of that, your personal property is also covered with an additional $5,000.

Beyond the rental car insurance benefits, the Platinum Card® from American Express will offer:

  • 5X points on eligible flights when booked via American Express Travel or booked directly with the airline, on up to $500,000 in charges per calendar year
  • 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through AmexTravel.com.
  • 1x points on other purchases (terms and conditions apply)
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® application fee (when applying through a TSA official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Zero foreign transaction fees, meaning your spending and earnings are not limited to the United States (rates & fees).
  • Up to $240 digital entertainment credit in $20 monthly statement credits for eligible purchases. Enrollment required.
  • Up to $200 in hotel credit, offered in statement credits each year on select prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings through American Express Travel. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay. 
  • Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection® (giving you complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries). Enrollment required.
  • Access to the Fine Hotels + Resorts Program® for prepaid stays booked on AmexTravel.com
  • Marriott Bonvoy® Gold Elite Status. Enrollment required.
  • Hilton Honors™ Gold Status. Enrollment required.

As you can see, even with the $695 annual fee, the benefits will exceed the cost of keeping this premium card from year to year.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

LEARN MORE

How to Claim Car Rental Protection On a Credit Card 

Filing a credit card rental insurance claim process is similar to filing a standard insurance claim—speediness is very important in both claim-filing processes. While most benefits will allow you up to 100 days before filing a claim, you must do so as soon as possible. 

  • Gather all the details about the incident: Gather all essential details, such as the incident’s date, time and location. Equally, one must obtain all the paperwork to prove damage, including car rental and police report. Attach these details when submitting your claim form.
  • Notify your credit card company: Once you’ve collected all the details, call your customer care and inform them of your claim-filing request within the required time frame—don’t wait any longer than required. Quick action will help you get facts right and avoid any chances of losing the necessary paperwork.
  • Fill out the form and attach proof of damage or loss: After notifying the credit card company, get the claim form, fill it out and attach relevant proof of damage or loss. This could include car rental receipts, police reports, repair receipts, photographs showing damage, driver’s licenses, etc.
  • Submit the form within the required time frame: Rules may vary regarding the claim filing time frame—be sure to check with the card’s customer care about the exact claim period. For Chase card holders, it stipulates that you must submit a claim form within 100 days of theft or damage. 
  • Get paid for your loss claims: The claim provider may request additional documentation to support your claim. If so, comply and submit them. Fortunately, you can do it online, by fax, or via mail. After submitting your claim, you should receive payment within 14 to 90 days, depending on your card’s terms.

How to Check if Your Card Offers Rental Car Protection

One of the easiest ways to determine if your credit card offers rental car insurance is by calling customer care and asking about these benefits. Generally, not all credit cards provide credit card rental insurance, and as a result, knowing whether your card carries these benefits aids in deciding whether to accept or decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW).

Another two ways to determine if your card has these benefits include:

  • Check credit card marketing materials: Most credit card companies have dedicated web pages giving an overview of various credit card benefits. Consider checking online to determine whether your specific card has car rental insurance benefits.
  • Guide to benefits: Credit cards usually provide a guide to benefits. Read the copy and check whether car rental insurance is part of the benefits.

Even if your credit card carries car rental insurance benefits, it’s crucial to remember that limitations vary by card. Read the fine print to determine your card’s specific limitations before booking a rental car to avoid misgivings about coverage.

Alternatives to Credit Card Rental Car Protection

Rental car protection can come from more than just credit cards and car rental companies. If you don’t want to utilize credit card rental protection or the rental company’s collision damage waiver, other options will still give you decent coverage during your rental period. 

Here are other options to consider when renting a vehicle:

  • Boost the coverage on your travel insurance: Most travel insurance providers offer rental car insurance as part of their product lineup. If you’re a seasoned and frequent traveler, you can buy an annual policy to protect you for the entire year. However, if you travel less, a single-trip policy will suffice. Don’t forget to ascertain whether the coverage under your policy is primary or secondary.
  • Use your auto insurance: If you’re already paying for automobile insurance, consider leveraging those benefits to cover your rental car. Confirm if the policy can cover your rental car before declining the rental car agency’s CDW.
  • Online travel agency: A sweet spot when booking a rental car through an online travel agency is the discounted insurance cover. It could be a big win compared to purchasing protection from a rental car agency.

Conclusion

If you plan to rent a car, use your card to cover the rental insurance costs. However, the most important part is declining the rental company’s CDW, which enables you to unlock the insurance benefits your eligible card offers.

Next, decide whether you want a card with primary or secondary coverage based on your needs. Primary coverage settles the damages without involving your auto insurance, while secondary coverage only covers what is in excess of your auto insurance policy. 

If you’re ready to travel without worrying about potential damages upon an accident, apply for a credit card with car rental coverage. Chase, Capital One, and Amex are among the leading credit cards that provide decent rental car coverage.

*Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage up to $75,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible Card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

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.