UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Many credit cards come with rental car insurance. A good credit card will provide comprehensive coverage throughout your car rental period, allowing you to avoid the costly insurance offered by the rental car company.
Today, we’re highlighting some of the best credit cards for rental car insurance.
How Does Credit Card Rental Car Insurance Work?
Some credit cards come with rental car insurance coverage. If you rent a car and pay using your credit card, then your rental car insurance will be covered by Visa, MasterCard, or another credit card company.
That means in the event of an accident, Visa, MasterCard, or another credit card company will act as your insurance company. They will pay the rental car company for any damage to the vehicle, for example.
Typically, your credit card rental car insurance is not your primary insurance after an incident. If you own an insured vehicle at home, then your ordinary car insurance company will act as the primary insurance. The car rental will seek damage through your ordinary car insurance company first before working with the credit card company.
If you exceed your car insurance coverage limits, or if you do not currently have a vehicle or car insurance, then your credit card rental car insurance coverage may be used. In this case, your credit card company may make a payment.
Let’s say your rental car is hit while parked in a parking lot. There’s $800 of damage to the vehicle. You don’t own a vehicle or have car insurance right now. However, you did rent the car using your credit card. In this case, Visa might make an $800 payment directly to the car rental company. You pay nothing out of pocket.
What’s the Difference Between Credit Cards with Rental Car Insurance?
Not all credit cards have the same rental car insurance coverage. Generally, Visa cards are known for offering good car insurance coverage, and most Visa cards cover theft and damage to a rental car. MasterCard rental car insurance coverage, meanwhile, is generally not as powerful. The benefits are similar to Visa, but loss of use reimbursement (which can be thousands of dollars) may be capped at $500.
It’s also important to remember that credit cards vary widely between banks. Banks partner with Visa or MasterCard, but banks have flexibility in how they use these credit cards. A MasterCard credit card from USAA, for example, will have different car rental policies than a MasterCard credit card from Bank of America.
Meanwhile, some credit cards offer primary rental insurance coverage, which means your credit card rental car insurance is used first before your own insurance policy. This can prevent the claim from affecting car insurance rates in the future. These credit cards are generally preferred compared to credit cards that offer rental car insurance as secondary insurance.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best credit cards for rental car insurance.
Top 10 Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Insurance Coverage
The top ten best credit cards for rental car insurance coverage include all of the following:
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards have some of the best rental car insurance available in the United States. The biggest advantage is that Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards offer primary rental car insurance coverage. The second advantage is that there are no country restrictions with any Chase cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Chase Sapphire Reserve card has all of the same advantages as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You get primary rental car insurance coverage and no country restrictions.
United MileagePlus Explorer: The United MileagePlus Explorer card offers primary rental car insurance, which means you can avoid making a claim on your own car insurance policy if something goes wrong.
United MileagePlus Club: Rental car insurance on the United MileagePlus Club credit card works in a similar way to the Explorer card. You get primary rental car insurance coverage on all vehicle rentals.
Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite Card: The Ritz-Carlton Visa Infinite card offers primary rental car insurance coverage, allowing you to enjoy full rental car protection without touching your ordinary car insurance policy.
J.P. Morgan Reserve Card: Like the five cards listed above, the J.P. Morgan Reserve card offers primary rental car insurance coverage, allowing you to avoid making a claim on your ordinary car insurance policy.
All Visa Cards: All Visa cards offer $50,000 of rental car insurance coverage by default. Coverage periods vary slightly, ranging from 15 to 31 days. Unlike some of the other cards above, Visa cards do not extend rental car coverage for cars rented in Israel, Jamaica, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. And, unlike the cards listed above, Visa credit cards provide secondary car insurance coverage, which means you will use your ordinary car insurance policy first before making a claim through your credit card.
All American Express Cards: All American Express cards come with $50,000 to $75,000 of secondary rental car coverage for up to a 30 day rental period. Platinum and Delta Reserve cardholders enjoy better protection, including the $75,000 limit and personal injury protection. These two cards also include up to $5,000 in medical expense coverage. American Express cards do not come with rental car coverage in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Israel, and Jamaica.
Gold, Platinum, World, and World Elite Mastercard Cards: Many Mastercard credit cards come with secondary rental car insurance coverage. If you have a Gold, Platinum, World, or World Elite Mastercard, then you can enjoy $50,000 of rental car insurance coverage for a maximum of a 15 day rental period. This rental car insurance does not include vehicles rented in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Israel, and Jamaica.
All Citi Cards: All Citi credit cards, including the Premiere, ThankYou Preferred, and AAdvantage cards, come with secondary rental car insurance coverage with no country restrictions whatsoever.
Other Things to Know About Rental Car Insurance and Credit Cards
Be sure to read the fine print of your credit card rental car insurance policy before you decline the car rental company’s insurance. Other terms that may affect you include:
- Typically, credit card rental car insurance only covers physical damage to the rental vehicle due to theft or a collision; personal injuries to yourself, passengers, and other people are not usually covered (although these may fall under your ordinary car insurance policy)
- Loss of personal items is typically excluded from this insurance, which means any items stolen from your vehicle will not be covered
- Credit cards do not extend protection when renting a car in certain countries, including Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand, among other countries
- The bill for the car rental needs to be in the name of the credit card holder, and the entire value of the car rental needs to be paid using the credit card, in order for the credit card car rental insurance to work
- You must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW) for the credit card car rental insurance to work
- To clarify all of these terms, check your credit card paperwork and look for the section pertaining to rental cars; all of the above terms will be fully explained to you
- Most credit card rental car coverage does not extend past 31 days; some credit card rental car insurance lasts just 14 days
Ultimately, most people will never need to use the car rental insurance offered by their credit card. If you do need to use it, however, it can be a lifesaver. Good credit card car rental insurance can prevent you from paying anything if your rental car gets damaged or stolen.