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Chart: Compare credit cards' rental car insurance policies

It's no longer wise to automatically refuse extra coverage at rental counter

By Michelle Crouch

Renting a car and turning down the agency's offer of collision insurance because you're sure your card will cover you? Consider carefully: Insurance companies have begun to add fees, and card issuers' coverages vary. Here's a look at the coverages offered by the big card processing firms.

COMPARE CREDIT CARD RENTAL CAR INSURANCE POLICIES
 
American Express MasterCard Discover Visa Diners Club
Do all cards offer coverage? All, except the Delta Options card (which is no longer being marketed)
All Gold, Platinum, World and World elite cards do; standard cards vary by issuer Yes Yes Yes
Secondary or primary?*
Secondary You can pay $24.95 ($17.95 for California cardholders) for Premium Car Rental Protection, which offers primary coverage plus additional benefits Secondary Secondary (Discover Escape offers primary)
Secondary Primary
Amount of coverage Coverage varies by card and does not cover liability
The lesser of the actual repair amount, current market value (less salvage), or $50,000 per incident $25,000 to $50,000, depending on the card
Replacement cash value of the rental vehicle as it was originally manufactured, taking into account current condition and mileage. Up to $100,000 
Vehicle exclusions
Coverage varies by card Trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, cargo vans, campers, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, motorbikes, antique vehicles, limousines, sport utility trucks and vehicles with retail prices exceeding $50,000 Off-road, antique, limited edition, high value (more than $50,000) and high performance motor vehicles;  trucks; recreational vehicles; campers; pickup trucks; and mini-buses Expensive, exotic and antique automobiles, certain vans, vehicles with an open cargo bed, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, motorbikes, limousines and  recreational vehicles Trucks, pickups, full-size vans, mounted on truck chassis, campers, off-road vehicles, recreational vehicles, antique vehicles, trailers, motorbikes, vehicles with fewer than four wheels and some SUVs
Country exclusions Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand (for small business cards, coverage if for the US, its territories and possessions only) Ireland, Israel and Jamaica, and where prohibited by law (World and World Elite have no exclusions) None except where prohibited by law Israel, Jamaica, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Australia, Italy and New Zealand
Limit on rental length Coverage applies for the first 30 days of the rental 31 days for World and World Elite cardholders, 15 days for other types 31 days (45 days if you're an employee of an organization that provided a card for business use) 15 days in your country of residence, 31 days outside it 45 days
Fees that are covered
"Reasonable" towing or storage charges. Loss-of-use and administrative fees "when the rental company provides appropriate documentation" "Reasonable" towing charges and "reasonable loss-of-use charges substantiated by a location- and class-specific fleet utilization log." Administrative fees are not covered None except on the Escape card, which covers reasonable towing fees to the nearest collision repair facility.
Reasonable towing charges and valid administrative and loss-of-use charges imposed by the auto rental company.  "Reasonable" towing costs and "reasonable loss-of-use charges substantiated by a location and class specific fleet utilization log." Administrative fees are not covered
Source: CreditCards.com research, updated March 26, 2013.

Primary coverage: You don't need to file a claim with your car insurance and there's no chance of a premium increase. Secondary coverage: They'll pick up what your auto insurance doesn't.

MAIN STORY: Don't automatically refuse extra rental car insurance coverage

Updated: March 26, 2013


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