Most renters don’t know what benefits their credit card’s car rental insurance plan offers or even if their card comes with a plan in the first place. Below you’ll find a rundown of the best credit cards for car rental insurance, so you’ll never be caught unaware again.
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A wrecked or stolen rental car can put a big dent in your travel plans. Fortunately, many credit cards supply insurance to cover such incidents, often at no extra cost.
But before you drive off in a rental car, you should be aware of whether the credit card you’re using to pay for the rental provides primary or secondary coverage. Knowing the difference can minimize the damage to your wallet. Simply put, primary coverage offers broader protection than secondary coverage. However, depending on the card, primary coverage may come at a premium.
Secondary insurance comes into play only after your insurance or other types of insurance; it covers what those policies don’t. On the other than hand, primary coverage kicks in before any other kind of insurance.
When you rent a car, the rental car agency will try to sell insurance coverage to you. This is known as a collision damage waiver or loss damage waiver. While these waivers technically aren’t insurance, they do free you from paying for damage to a rental car, although the agency may require you to pay a deductible. Waivers for car theft also are available.
Keep in mind, though, that your car insurance or your credit card already may give you some protection when renting a car. In the case of a credit card, you typically must decline other types of coverage before a card’s rental car coverage can take effect.
Also, don’t forget that while your credit card may cover damage to or theft of a rental car, it won’t include liability coverage. Liability insurance covers damage to someone else’s property or injuries to someone else in an accident that you cause. Your own car insurance policy normally includes liability coverage. It’s also sold by rental car companies.
Issuers’ car rental perks
American Express credit cards offer secondary rental car coverage. However, you can upgrade to primary coverage for $12.95 to $24.95. Amex’s premium cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express covers up to $75,000 per rental agreement for damage or theft, which applies after any claims you make with your primary insurance. The American Express® Gold Card covers up to $50,000 per rental agreement.
Bank of America
All Bank of America consumer credit cards provide secondary rental car coverage. Rentals for business purposes qualify for primary coverage, except in Ireland, Israel, Jamaica and Northern Ireland. Like most rental car insurances given by credit cards, you must decline the auto rental collision damage waiver offered by the rental company for your credit card’s policy to apply. You must report the damage or theft within 45 days of the date of the incident. Unfortunately, Bank of America does not publicly disclose the maximum coverage amount.
Capital One cards supply secondary rental car coverage for car rentals within the U.S., but offer primary coverage in other countries except Ireland, Israel, Jamaica and Northern Ireland. Some cards, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, have an auto rental collision damage waiver because of its Visa Signature benefits.
Several Chase cards provide primary rental car coverage in most countries. It covers theft, damage and loss-of-use on vehicles rented for up to 31 days. These include:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
- United℠ Business Card*
- United℠ Explorer Card
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
Other Chase cards typically offer secondary coverage, such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
Wells Fargo cards supply secondary rental car coverage in the U.S., but primary coverage in other countries except Ireland, Israel, Jamaica and Northern Island. Cards like its Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card cover damaged or stolen vehicles for up to $50,000.
Chase cards with primary rental car insurance inside the U.S.
The best credit cards with car rental insurance are the ones that offer primary coverage. This means you need no other plan but the coverage on your credit card, which will save you a lot of inconvenience at the rental counter and a lot of money since the premiums won’t go up for making a car insurance claim with any other primary insurance plan you may carry.
While many credit card plans become your primary insurer if you rent a car abroad, very few provide primary coverage for car rentals within the U.S.
Below are all the credit cards that offer primary coverage for car rental insurance within the U.S., which happen to all be issued by Chase, and their annual fees.
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$95|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$550|
|Ink Business Cash||$0|
|Ink Business Unlimited||$0|
|Ink Business Preferred||$95|
|United Business||$99 ($0 for first year)|
|United Club Infinite||$525|
|United Explorer||$95 ($0 for first year)|
Best cards for renting a car
Many credit cards offer rental car coverage, but the majority of cards provide secondary coverage. All of the cards chosen for our roundup of the best cards provide primary insurance coverage for most car rentals.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best card for globetrotters
Why we picked it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is loaded with benefits. They include 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of your account being open, and $300 in annual statement credits for travel purchases. And there are no foreign transaction fees. The card’s rental car insurance benefit is attractive, too — up to $75,000 in primary coverage for collision damage and theft when you rent a car in the U.S. or abroad.
- Primary car rental insurance coverage in the U.S. and abroad up to $75,000 for collision and theft
- 5X points on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 10X points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- No foreign transaction fees
- $550 annual fee
- $75 annual fee for each authorized user
- High regular APR at 21.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable
- Penalty APR of up to 29.99 percent
Who should apply: For someone who travels regularly, and frequently rents cars while traveling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is an attractive option. The car rental insurance coverage is also only one of its travel benefits, which also include trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage insurance.
Who should skip: If you’re intrigued by Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s rental car insurance but would like to avoid credit cards with high fees and APRs, then you may want to keep shopping around.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best card for cost-conscious travelers
Why we picked it: In the same vein as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers primary rental car coverage up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Although Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits aren’t as rich as those for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the Preferred Card’s annual fee of $95 is considerably lower than the Reserve card’s of $550.
- 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months
- 5X points on most travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3X points on dining and select streaming services
- 10 percent anniversary points bonus
- Only travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards receives 5X points
- Lacks TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credits
- Penalty APR up to 29.99 percent
Who should apply: If you want primary car rental coverage without a hefty annual fee, Chase Sapphire Preferred might be your best bet. Also, for those who’ve been thinking of joining the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the Sapphire Preferred is a great card to start with.
Who should not apply: Looking for a card with substantial rewards and primary rental car insurance? If you’re willing to pay a higher annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and other cards are worth exploring.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best card for the frequent car renter
Why we picked it: Among credit cards that offer secondary car rental insurance, the Platinum Card goes above and beyond. It provides coverage for up to $75,000 and accidental death or dismemberment coverage for up to $300,000 — primary coverage comes with a fee, though. The card also gives you a cornucopia of other travel benefits such as numerous statement credits, extensive airport lounge access and different kinds of travel insurance.
- $189 statement credit for Clear membership
- Numerous travel perks: no foreign transaction fees and $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- 80,000 bonus points for spending $6,000 in first six months
- Access to American Express Global Lounge Collection (over 1,000 lounges worldwide)
- Secondary coverage included, but primary coverage available for fee of $12.25 to $24.95
- Car rental insurance available in “covered territories,” thereby excluding Australia, Italy and New Zealand
- $695 annual fee
- Broad range of benefits may not appeal to everyone
Who should apply: If you’re sure you’ll take advantage of enough perks, travel-related and otherwise, to offset the $695 annual fee, then the Platinum Card can deliver lots of value. The Platinum Card is useful for anyone seeking a luxurious lifestyle, at the airport, the hotel or home.
Who should skip: You may want to skip the Amex Platinum if you often rent cars in countries that aren’t covered by the car’s insurance. Perhaps more importantly, you may be able to find a credit card with a lower annual fee that better suits your needs. Of course, if you think you won’t be able to make use of its many statement credits, you’re better off with a different card.
Ink Business Unlimited from Chase: Best card for business travelers
Why we picked it: Thanks to the primary car rental coverage, no annual fee, 0 percent intro APR and other features, the Ink Business Unlimited might be a smart choice for business travelers who frequently rent cars. It’s also a great card to hold if you’re already invested with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program — the Ink Business Unlimited lets you transfer its rewards (fulfilled as Ultimate Rewards points) to other Ultimate Rewards cards.
- 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on every purchase
- No annual fee
- 0 percent intro APR on new purchases for 12 months (then 17.49% to 23.49% variable APR)
- $750 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first three months
- Travel rewards redeemable only through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- Minimum 2,000 points required for reward redemption
- 3 percent foreign transaction fees
Who should apply: For the on-the-go businessperson, the Ink Business Unlimited can be a solid addition to your wallet. Aside from the appealing rental car coverage, the card is great for small business owners just starting out thanks to its no annual fee and 12-month 0 percent intro APR on new purchases (then 17.49% to 23.49% variable).
Who should skip: If you often travel abroad, the 3 percent foreign transaction fees might deter you from getting this card. In addition, if you don’t transfer rewards to another Chase travel card, the rewards are only worth the standard 1 cent per point. Small business owners who don’t spend a great deal annually could go for another no-annual-fee business card that offers higher cash back rates.
While driving through the mountains of Ireland, you don’t want to worry about having to pay for damages or theft if anything goes sideways. During these times where you’re meant to relax, having secondary coverage for car rentals, provided by your credit card, is a useful perk.
These days, fewer credit cards offer primary coverage, but some still do. Before you head out of the parking lot at an airport or rental car agency, be sure you know what kind of protection you have and what you need to feel assured.
*All information about the United Business Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.
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