Citi gold aadvantage mastercard car rental insurance
- Main Findings
- The Coverage You Can Expect
- How To File A Claim
- 8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips
- Detailed Findings
- American Express Cards
- Ink Plus Business Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Ink Business Cash Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Diners Club Card Premier and Diners Club Card Elite
- Discover Escape Card
- Fairmont Visa Signature
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
- United MileagePlus Explorer Card and United MileagePlus Club Card
- Other Options
- Bottom Line
- Renting a car? Know whether your card adds insurance
- Benefits may let you refuse costly collision damage waiver coverage
When most people think of credit-card perks, their minds turn to rewards, low interest rates and convenience. However, credit cards provide a number of other basic benefits that help protect cardholders from both monetary loss and unnecessary hassle. Rental-car insurance is one notable example, covering cardholders in the event of vehicle damage or theft with policies driven primarily by the card networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover).
Credit-card rental car insurance therefore has the potential to be quite valuable to travelers who not only recognize its presence, but also understand the specifics of their coverage. After all, roughly 20% of people always purchase supplemental insurance coverage when renting a car, according to Progressive Insurance, while another 20% do so on occasion. And they do so largely because they aren’t sure whether other forms of insurance extend to rental cars.
So in the interest of helping consumers maximize savings while minimizing risk, WalletHub performed an in-depth examination of each major credit-card company’s rental car insurance policy, analyzing the nature of cardholder coverage, identifying the cards with the best policies and ultimately determining whether travelers should pay for any supplemental insurance beyond what’s already in their wallets. The results of this examination can be found below.1 Main Findings 2 The Coverage You Can Expect 3 How To File A Claim 4 8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips 5 Detailed Findings 6 Methodology
Best Issuer: Citi credit cards have the most favorable rental car insurance policies.
Avoid Renting: A truck, open-bed vehicle, exotic/antique car, large van or full-size SUV if you want credit-card coverage, as many cards exclude them.
*Perfect Score = 20%, American Express are the only cards that exclude full-size SUVs, please see methodology for scoring.
Coverage Duration: Almost 40% of cards only cover domestic rentals for up to 15 days.
Road Conditions: There’s only a 6% chance you’ll get penalized for driving on a dirt/gravel road, but it’s still best to stick to the pavement.
Country Coverage: Only Citi, Chase and Discover cards provide global coverage. Ireland, Israel and Jamaica are the most common exclusions among other issuers.
Tire & Rim Damage: More than 60% of cards do not cover all rim/tire damage.
Loss-Of-Use Losses: Nearly 10% of cards will not reimburse you for loss of use, which can cost upward of $100.
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The Coverage You Can Expect
|Example of a Standard Policy||Best Policy|
|Sign-Up||None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage||None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage|
|Type Of Coverage||Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles||Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles|
|Coverage Amount||The cost of repairs, the vehicle’s book value or the vehicle’s purchase price, whichever is lower.||Up to $100,000|
|Maximum Coverage Duration||30 days||31 days|
|Vehicle Exclusions||Certain popular SUVs and antique, exotic or luxury vehicles, vans, trucks, pick-ups, motorcycles, recreational or off-road vehicles||Off-road vehicles|
|Type-Of-Road Exclusions||Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered||Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered|
|Country Exclusions||Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand||None|
|Loss Of Use & Personal Insurance Deductible||Both Covered||Both Covered|
|Tire & Rim Damage||Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision||Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision|
|Claims Process & Limits||Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit||Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit|
|Full Policy Details||American Express Rental Collision Policy||Citi Rental Collision Policy|
Business credit cards seem to offer similar benefits. However, business cards seem to have policy details slightly enhanced (e.g. covering 31 days instead of 15 days rentals) and a few cards even offer the policy as primary coverage instead of secondary.
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How To File A Claim
|Issuer||Phone Number||Online Support|
|U.S: 1-800-338-1670 |
Outside U.S : 1-216-617-2500
|U.S : 1-800-592-4089 |
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1468
|U.S : 1-800-348-8472 |
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
|U.S : 1-800-348-8472 |
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
|Here For Visa|
|Sapphire Preferred: 1-888-320-9961 |
|U.S : 1-800-348-8472 |
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
|Visa: 1-866-200-9866 |
American Express: 1-888-884-6643
|Here For Visa|
|Visa - U.S : 1-800-348-8472 |
Visa - Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
American Express: 1-855-830-3727
|Here For Visa|
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8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips
Based on our findings in this report as well as our knowledge of the insurance landscape and our overall money-saving expertise, WalletHub’s editors recommend taking the following steps to minimize both the cost and liability associated with renting a car. Be safe out there!
- Call your insurance company and find out if rentals are covered under your standard policy. Older policies may not offer this coverage.
- Call your credit card issuer and ask what limitations apply to the car rental coverage provided by your particular type of credit card.
- It might be wise to accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company if you do not have personal auto insurance and your credit card does not provide sufficient coverage.
- Long-term rentals might not be covered by your existing auto insurance, as time limitations may be imposed by your policy.
- Your personal auto policy – if it even covers rentals – only applies when the vehicle is used for personal use, so if you’re traveling for business check what other options are available for you.
- Rent a car of similar value to your own car in order to increase the likelihood that your existing coverage is also adequate for the rental car.
- Sometimes, when your existing policy does not offer coverage for a particular type of rental car, you can ask about the possibility of adding an insurance rider for a small fee.
- If you are not a car owner but drive from time to time, you might want to consider purchasing a non-owner auto insurance policy.
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Credit-card rental car insurance policies were previously evaluated at the network level, but we decided to examine coverage at the card level in 2016 after discovering discrepancies among offers on the same network and/or issued by the same company. Where no policy differences existed, cards were grouped by issuer or network for the sake of simplicity.
|Cards||Total Score||Vehicles Excluded||Clarity on Exclusions||Coverage Duration||Type of Road Exclusions||Country Exclusions||Loss of use and deductible on your auto insurance||Towing||Damage to tires and rims||Activation||Claims Process||Info Accessibility|
|All Citi Cards||95.50%||20.00%||5.00%||15.00%||5.00%||5.00%||20.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||3.00%||10.00%|
|All Chase Cards||89.50%||15.00%||2.00%||15.00%||5.00%||5.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||7.50%|
|Wells Fargo Visa Cards||87.00%||15.00%||2.00%||12.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|U.S. Bank Cards||87.00%||15.00%||2.00%||12.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|Capital One Visa Cards||87.00%||15.00%||2.00%||12.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|All Barclay Cards||86.50%||15.00%||5.00%||12.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||3.00%||8.50%|
|All American Express Cards||84.50%||10.00%||5.00%||15.00%||5.00%||2.00%||20.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|All Discover Cards||83.00%||15.00%||5.00%||15.00%||5.00%||5.00%||12.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||5.00%||8.50%|
|Wells Fargo American Express Cards||81.50%||15.00%||5.00%||15.00%||5.00%||2.00%||12.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa||81.50%||15.00%||2.00%||9.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||5.00%||10.00%|
|All Other Bank of America Cards||80.50%||15.00%||2.00%||12.00%||5.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||5.00%||3.50%|
|Capital One MasterCard Cards||80.50%||15.00%||5.00%||9.00%||3.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||3.00%||10.00%|
|Bank of America Better Balance Rewards||74.00%||15.00%||5.00%||9.00%||3.00%||3.00%||20.00%||5.00%||2.50%||5.00%||3.00%||3.50%|
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WalletHub reviewed the publicly available online car rental policies of all the credit cards currently being offered by the 10 largest issuers, excluding student and co-branded offers, and collected the information needed to answer the following questions: 1) What vehicles are excluded?; 2) What other exclusions do the policies have?; 3) What is the quality of the coverage?; 4) How does one activate the benefit?; 5) How should claims be filed?; and 6) How easy it is to obtain complete policy information?
Where policies were unclear, we contacted the issuers directly and requested clarification. All issuers responded to our questions and confirmed the accuracy of our data.
Each card’s policy was scored using the following criteria:
1) What vehicles are excluded? – Worth 25% total
A. Vehicles excluded – Worth 20%
- If no exclusions apply - 20%
- If regular exclusions apply (i.e. exotic, expensive, or antique cars; trucks; vehicles with open beds; and large vans) - 15%
- If SUVs are not covered - 10%
- If there is a large number of exclusions - No points
B. Clarity on exclusions – Worth 5%
- If a full definition of excluded cars is provided (i.e. value and characteristics) - 5%
- If a partial definitions of excluded cars is provided (i.e. just value or just characteristics) - 2.5%
- If no description of excluded cars is provided - No points
2) What exclusions do the policies have? – Worth 25% Total
A. Coverage Duration – Worth 15%
- If the coverage duration is for 30 days and above - 15%
- If the coverage duration is between 20 - 29 days - 12%
- If the coverage duration is between 19 - 10 days - 9%
- If the coverage duration is between 10 - 5 days - 3%
- If the coverage duration is under 5 days - No points
*If a card provides 2 types of coverage, we averaged the 2
B. Road Type Exclusions – Worth 5%
- If Dirt and gravel roads are covered - 5%
- If Dirt and gravel roads are partially covered - 3%
- If Dirt and Gravel roads are not covered - No points
C. Country Exclusions – Worth 5%
- No country excluded - 5%
- Up to 2 countries excluded - 4%
- Up to 4 countries excluded - 3%
- Up to 6 countries excluded - 2%
- Up to 8 countries excluded - 1%
- Over 8 countries excluded - No points
3) What is the quality of the coverage? – Worth 30% Total
A. Rental Company's Loss Of Use & Your Auto Insurance Deductible – Worth 20%
- If loss of use is covered - 20%
- If the deductible portion on your auto insurance policy is covered - 12%
- If the deductible from your auto insurance and loss of use not covered - No points
B. Towing Expenses – Worth 5%
- If towing is covered - 5%
- If towing is not covered - No points
C. Damage to tires and rims – Worth 5%
- If damage to tires and rims is always covered - 5%
- If damage to tires and rims is covered only when the result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision - 5%
- If damage to tires and rims is not covered - No points
4) How does one activate the benefit? – Worth 5%
- If activation is standard (cardholders charge the entire rental car purchase on their credit card and decline supplemental insurance/Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) offered by the rental company) - 5%
- If activation is more complex than the standard - No points
5) How should claims be filed? – Worth 5%
- If filing a claim requires standard documentation ( i.e. a copy of the accident, a signed claim form, a rental agreement, an itemized bill and a receipt or statement showing to which card the rental was charged to) - 5%
- If claims require up to 2 documents on top of the standard documentation - 3%
- If claims require 3 or more documents on top of on top of the additional documentation - No points
6) How easy it is to obtain complete information about the policy? – Worth 10%
A. How easily can one find the info? - Worth 3%
- Information is prominent within card landing page - 3%
- Information is not prominent within card landing page; or it is prominent but users need to log in to see the full disclosure - 1.5%
- Information cannot be easily found on website - No points
B. How easy it is to read the info? - Worth 1%
- Information is presented in normal size font - 1%
- Information is in small size font - No points
C. How complete are the policies provided? - Worth 4%
- Full policy provided - 4%
- Part of policy provided - 2%
- Benefits briefly described - 0.5%
- No key details provided - No points
D. How open and transparent are issuers about the policies? - Worth 2%
- Transparent about policies - 2%
- Not transparent about policies - No points
The card with the most accumulated points received the highest score. The maximum number of points is 100%.
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As I’ve discussed in the past, two valuable (but often overlooked) benefits of credit cards are travel insurance and secondary auto rental insurance, even though terms are sometimes poorly disclosed and policies can be inadequate. For instance, when you’re covered by secondary car rental insurance provided by your credit card and you damage a rental car in the US, you’ll still have to file a claim with your own car insurance company — something most drivers want to avoid like the plague. Fortunately, there are several credit cards on the market that offer primary car rental insurance, providing immediate and direct coverage to the driver of a rental car.
While most credit cards offer only secondary rental insurance, some provide primary coverage for greater peace of mind. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Car rental coverage provided by credit cards is called the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Secondary CDW coverage waives your rental car agency’s right to pursue you for damages incurred to your rental car as a result of theft, vandalism, etc. However, secondary coverage may come with a deductible (typically $500), and in most cases doesn’t cover administrative fees or total loss of the vehicle due to an accident. Secondary CDW coverage is offered by a variety of cards issued by American Express (e.g., the Premier Rewards Gold Card), Visa (e.g., Citi Hilton Honors Reserve) and Discover.
Primary rental car coverage provided by a credit card generally covers the loss of the vehicle, meaning you won’t need to pay a rental car company an extra fee for coverage when renting a vehicle, nor will you need to alert your car insurance company to any activity that could cause your premium to increase.
Most of these policies exclude certain countries from coverage — most commonly Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand. All policies cover most private passenger automobiles, minivans and sport utility vehicles, but often don’t cover sport and specialty vehicles such as trucks, motorcycles, mopeds and motorbikes. Excluded across the board are cars considered antique (generally defined as any vehicle over 20 years old, or one that hasn’t been manufactured for 10 years or more) or exotic (e.g., Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari). In all cases, in order to receive primary car rental insurance via a credit card, you have to decline the rental agency’s CDW.
In addition, there are many credit cards out there that offer primary CDW insurance for rentals outside of the US. For example, when I log in to my Citi ThankYou Premier Card account and find the car rental insurance portion of my benefits, it specifically includes the following notation:Citi ThankYou cards only provide primary coverage outside the US.
You’ll want to read your card agreement very carefully before assuming that your rental is covered; a quick call to customer service should give you some additional insight into the details and exclusions of the policy.
The following credit cards presently offer primary auto insurance coverage on rentals both in the US and abroad (with countries of exception noted):
American Express Cards
All American Express cards offer premium primary coverage for a flat rate of $19.95 or $24.95 ($15.95 or $17.95 for California residents) for a rental period of up to 42 days (up to 30 days for Washington State residents). The more expensive option simply includes higher thresholds for medical expenses and coverage like accidental death and dismemberment. During the enrollment process, you’ll see details of the two options and can decide whether the extra coverage is worth the higher premium.
To enroll, simply visit the Amex Premium Car Rental Protection page and click Enroll Now. You’ll need to log in to your American Express account, choose the plan you’d like and review the program’s terms and conditions. You won’t be charged anything until you actually use an enrolled card to rent a car, in which case the premium will automatically post to your account. If coverage won’t be necessary for your travel needs, be sure to disenroll your card prior to your trip by calling 1-866-518-0259. Otherwise, you will automatically be charged on future rentals.
One of the best current offers is for The Platinum Card from American Express, which comes with 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. This card has a high $550 annual fee, but you can receive an annual airline fee credit of $200 for incidentals like checked bags, flight-change fees and snacks, and you’ll also pay no foreign transaction fees and enjoy complimentary lounge access.
Ink Plus Business Card, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Ink Business Cash Credit Card
These cards offer primary coverage for most types of vehicles (with the exception of sports cars, trucks and off-road vehicles) in most countries except Ireland, Israel and Jamaica. The coverage provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage. However, note that cardholders must be driving for business in order to be covered.
Ink Plus is no longer available to new cardholders, but existing holders earn 5 points per dollar spent at office supply stores and on cellular, landline, internet and cable TV services (on up to $50,000 in combined purchases each year). In addition, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and hotel stays (again, capped at $50,000 annually) and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The card incurs no foreign transaction fees, and there’s a $95 annual fee.
Ink Cash currently offers $300 cash back after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn 5% cash back per dollar spent at office supply stores and on cellular, landline, internet and cable TV services (up to $25,000 in combined purchases each year). In addition, you’ll earn 2% cash back per dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants (again capped at $25,000 annually) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can combine these earnings with other eligible Chase cards to essentially “convert” them to Ultimate Rewards points (in the same way you can with the Chase Freedom). Unfortunately, Ink Cash charges a 3% fee for foreign transactions, but there is no annual fee.
The recently introduced Ink Business Preferred Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. With this card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. This card has a $95 annual fee and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Be sure to check out Jason Steele’s post on choosing the right Chase Ink card for more information.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Back in 2014, Chase announced some changes to the Sapphire Preferred, including a move from secondary to primary car insurance. Rentals of up to 31 consecutive days paid for with the card are covered for losses including physical damage and/or theft of the rental vehicle, valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company and reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss. Reimbursement is available up to the actual cash value of the vehicle as it was originally manufactured. While expensive or exotic cars are generally excluded, select models of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Lincoln are covered.
The current sign-up bonus for this card is 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. This card earns you 2x points on travel and dining and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. It’s also a great pick since Ultimate Rewards points consistently appear near the top of my monthly valuations.
Diners Club Card Premier and Diners Club Card EliteDiners Club offers two cards with primary rental insurance; unfortunately, neither card is available at the moment.
Both of these Diners Club cards provide primary coverage that applies to physical damage and theft of the vehicle, reasonable loss of use charges and reasonable towing charges, and includes secondary personal effects insurance. Protection for covered damages applies to rental cars with a retail price of up to $75,000.
Neither of these cards is available for new applications at the moment, so unless you’re already a cardholder, you’ll need to wait until they become publicly available again to take advantage of these benefits. The Elite card does offer triple points on purchases at grocery stores, drugstores and gas stations. Diners Club Rewards can be transferred to a wide variety of partners (including restaurants, airlines and hotels), and the card offers 24/7 personal concierge service, global airport lounge access and discounts on car rentals at Avis and Budget.
Discover Escape Card
While this card is no longer available to new applicants, existing cardholders can take advantage of its primary rental car insurance. Escape covers you for a rental period of up to 31 consecutive days, and excludes tax, gasoline and airport fees from its definition of car rental charges. The list of covered vehicles includes minivans and sport utility vehicles that hold up to 9 passengers, but excludes off-road vehicles and cars that have a suggested retail price above $50,000. Coverage includes physical damage to and theft of the vehicle, reasonable towing charges and any deductible or other eligible amounts not covered by other insurance. The insurance doesn’t cover personal injury, personal liability, damage to other vehicles or property or any injury to any other party.
Fairmont Visa Signature
This card doesn’t typically make the list of best hotel credit cards, but if your travels include Fairmont properties and you value primary CDW coverage, it can be a great option. The coverage is offered for physical damage and theft of most rented vehicles, up to 31 consecutive days within or outside your country of residence.
This is yet another card that’s not currently accepting new applications. Existing cardholders receive one complimentary night each anniversary year that they spend $12,000 on the card. You earn 5 Fairmont Rewards per dollar on Fairmont stays; 2 points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, at car rental agencies and on transit and commuting; and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The card incurs no foreign transaction fees and includes an automatic upgrade to Premier Status; you can also earn a stay credit toward Platinum Status by spending $7,500 on your card (up to 2 credits per calendar year). The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit CardThe Ritz-Carlton Rewards card offers primary coverage as well as valuable benefits at properties such as the Ritz-Carlson Seoul.
The primary coverage offered by this card protects you up to the actual cash value of most rental cars, and applies to damage caused by collision or theft.
The current sign-up bonus on this card is two complimentary nights at a Tier 1-4 property after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You receive 5 points per dollar on Ritz-Carlton, Marriott and SPG purchases; 2 points per dollar on airline tickets, car rental expenses and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Additional benefits of this card are a $300 annual travel credit, a $100 hotel credit on paid Ritz-Carlton stays of two nights or more, complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, three upgrades to Ritz-Carlton Club Level each year and instant Gold Elite Status for the first year. The card incurs no foreign transaction fees, but comes with a $450 annual fee.
For more information, check out Richard Kerr’s review of the card from 2016.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card and United MileagePlus Club CardThese United cards can get you varying levels of access to United Club lounges.
These two Chase cards also offer primary coverage, and the insurance policy terms are almost identical to those offered by the Sapphire Preferred.
The current sign-up bonus on the Explorer card is 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. You can enjoy priority boarding and a free checked bag when flying United, and you’ll also get two United Club passes every year. In addition, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. There is a $95 annual fee and the card incurs no foreign transaction fees.
The Club card gives you full United Club membership and automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status. You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar elsewhere. On United-operated flights, you’ll get your first and second checked bags free, and enjoy Premier Access for priority check-in and boarding. This card comes with a $450 annual fee, but you may be able to have the fee waived by signing up for the card in a Chase branch.
Please note that many USAA co-branded cards (e.g., American Express, MasterCard, etc.) also offer primary rental car insurance to cardholders. However, these cards are only available to officers, enlisted personnel or veterans of the US military and their eligible family members.
Many of us tend to focus on the earning and redeeming benefits of credit cards, especially when they come with lucrative sign-up bonuses. However, the other benefits can come in handy when traveling, and primary car rental coverage can be a lifesaver when you get into an accident. That being said, don’t assume that you’re covered for every possible auto-based mishap when you pay for a car rental with a card that offers primary coverage, as many exceptions and exclusions may apply. Before you rent a car, call your credit card’s customer service to determine exactly what is covered and what is not.
If you’ve taken advantage of primary car rental coverage provided through a credit card, please share your experiences (both positive and negative) in the comments below.
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With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet.Apply Now More Things to Know
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Renting a car? Know whether your card adds insurance
Benefits may let you refuse costly collision damage waiver coverage
By Michelle Crouch
Nicolette Neish/iStock /Getty Images Plus/Getty Images Nicolette Neish/iStock /Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
You’re standing at the car rental counter, anxious to get on your way, but first you have to deal with the representative who’s pushing you to sign up for the agency’s car rental insurance “just in case.”
Most Americans have no idea what to do when offered collision damage waiver (CDW), the expensive add-on coverage offered – often forcefully – by rental car agents. Given the tricky exclusions listed in the fine print of most credit card policies, chances are, they’re even more confused about what their credit cards cover.
We have answers to your big questions – and the questions you need to ask – so you can make an informed decision about whether to pay for the rental company’s coverage the next time you rent a car.
What does my personal auto insurance cover?
If you own a car, your personal car insurance will likely provide collision and theft coverage, says Michael Barry, spokesman at the Insurance Information Institute, but the coverage isn’t perfect. Most auto insurers won’t cover you if you rent a car overseas, for example, or if you’re using the rental for business. So it’s important to call and ask about exclusions. Many policies also decline to pay some of the additional fees that rental car companies typically tack on to the collision bill, potentially leaving you on the hook for hundreds of dollars. Not to mention that you’ll be responsible for paying the deductible. So that’s where your credit card comes in.
What does my credit card cover?
As a perk of membership, many credit cards offer some kind of rental car protection. Generally speaking, they do not cover things such as personal injury or personal liability, although you may have that coverage through your auto insurance and health insurance. But they do typically cover collision damage and theft protection.
For most cards, the coverage is secondary, meaning that if you have car insurance, you have to file a claim there first (and your premium may go up). But your credit card should step in and pick up where your auto insurer leaves off, paying the tab for your deductible, towing charges and other fees. However, as many frustrated cardholders have learned, the fine print can be tricky. Credit card companies have their own restrictions and exclusions and they, too, often refuse to pay some types of fees levied by car rental companies.
For all those reasons, it’s important to check your coverage in advance. For details, see “Which cards are best for renting a car."
When car rental companies are almost out of cars, they may think they’re doing you a favor by giving you a Mercedes instead of the big Ford or Chevrolet you reserved. But because the Mercedes is valued at over $50,000, it may not be covered.
|– Jim Tennant |
The Tennant Group
Do any cards offer primary coverage?
If you have a card with primary coverage, that’s the one you should use to book your car, says Jonathan Weinberg, founder of AutoSlash, an online booking engine for car rentals. “Then you don’t have to report the accident to your car insurance,” he says, “so there’s no chance your rates will rise.” Only a few cards offer primary coverage. As of October 2015, they include: the United Mileage Plus Explorer, United MileagePlus Club, Fairmont Visa Signature, Discover Escape, Ritz Carlton Visa Signature and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
If you have an American Express card, you can get primary coverage by enrolling in the company’s premium rental car protection program. Once enrolled, you pay a flat rate of $19.95 to $24.95 ($15.95 to $17.95 for California residents) per rental. The program, which also includes some property damage and injury coverage, can make sense for longer-term rentals, Weinberg says, since you would pay one fee per rental rather than a daily rate like the one charged by rental car companies.
If you don’t have personal auto insurance or if you’re renting a car in a country where your personal auto insurance isn’t in effect, then any card that offers secondary coverage becomes primary, so it should theoretically cover the entire cost of the damage.
What do I need to do to make sure I’m covered?
Most credit cards require that you do the following in order for their coverage to kick in:
- Decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW).
- Be the primary renter of the car.
- Pay for the car in full with the card that provides the protection.
Before you rent, Barry of the Insurance Information Institute recommends you ask your card issuer to send you its rental car policy in writing “because that will make it easier to resolve any disputes down the line.” Check for the following common exclusions to make sure they don’t apply to your situation:
Exclusion No. 1: Length of the rental
Most credit cards won’t cover car rentals that extend beyond 30 or 31 days; some have just a two-week limit. If you’re planning a long-term rental, you can break up your rental period into shorter chunks of time to make sure you stay covered. The chart below provides some general limits by issuer. Individual cards may vary, so always check by calling the number on your card.
|MAXIMUM LENGTH OF COVERAGE|
|American Express||30 days (its premium program covers you up to 42 days if you pay the higher rate)|
|MasterCard||31 days for World and World Elite; 15 days for other types|
|Discover||31 days (45 if you’re the employee of an organization that provided the card for business use)|
|Visa||15 consecutive days in your country of residence; 31 days outside|
Exclusion No. 2: All vehicles aren’t covered
Most credit card companies exclude trucks, pickup trucks, antique and exotic vehicles, ATVs, motorcycles and large vans and SUVs that seat more than a certain number of passengers (usually seven or eight). But car rental consultant Jim Tennant of the Tennant Group says the exception that tends to cause the most trouble is the limit on expensive cars, since rental agencies are offering more luxury cars than they used to. “When car rental companies are almost out of cars, they may think they’re doing you a favor by giving you a Mercedes instead of the big Ford or Chevrolet you reserved,” Tennant says. “But because the Mercedes is valued at over $50,000, it may not be covered.”
Both MasterCard and Discover specifically note that they won’t cover a car worth more than $50,000; Visa says it doesn’t cover “expensive” cars, and AmEx says its coverage varies by card. If you are planning to rent a luxury car, AmEx’s premium coverage specifically notes that it covers cars worth more than $50,000.
Exclusion No. 3: Some countries aren’t covered
Many card companies have specific countries that are excluded. Check the chart below, but also call your card issuer before you go:
|American Express||Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Italy, Australia and New Zealand|
|MasterCard||Ireland, Israel and Jamaica, and where prohibited by law (World and World Elite have no exclusions)|
|Discover||Escape card: Australia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, and New Zealand. No other card has country exclusions|
|Visa||Ireland, Israel,Jamaica, Northern Ireland|
If you’re traveling to those places, consider using one of these cards, which have no country exclusions: most MasterCard World and WorldElite cards, Discover cards (except Escape), most Citi travel cards (including Thank You Preferred and AAAdvantage) and all Chase cards.
Weinberg recommends taking a written copy of your credit card rental car policy when you rent outside the U.S. Overseas rental agencies often require you to pay for their CDW unless you have documentation showing other coverage.
Are there other exclusions I should be aware of?
Read the fine print. Some policies won’t cover you if you drive on unpaved or gravel roads; others won’t cover you if you wait too long to file a claim. Also, make sure anyone who may drive the car is listed on the rental contract. “If you rent a car in your name and then your spouse is driving and has an accident, companies will use that as a way to deny coverage,” Weinberg says.
If I have full coverage, will I be responsible for any extra fees?
Unfortunately, it’s possible. Rental car agencies often charge “loss-of-use” fees to cover the revenue they lose while a damaged car is in the shop, and those fees can total hundreds of dollars.
American Express, MasterCard and Visa (but not Discover) say they will pay those fees as long as the rental car agencies provide documentation, usually a “fleet utilization log,” verifying they actually lost money because the damaged car was out of service. Here’s the problem: rental companies consider those logs confidential; they argue that, legally, they don’t have to provide them. So while your rental company and credit card company play the blame game, you can end up on the hook for the bill. (Note: In some states, such as New York and Wisconsin, car rental companies aren’t allowed to charge loss-of-use fees. In others, auto insurers are required by law to pay those fees.)
What about car-share services?
American Express, MasterCard and Discover say their rental car coverage extends to car sharing services such as Zipcar and Getaround under the same terms and conditions as normal rental cars. Visa initially said its coverage did not extend to those services, but changed its policy in March 2015 after it settled a class-action lawsuit filed by a Zipcar user who was denied coverage.
Fortunately, credit card companies have become more willing in recent years to pay loss-of-use fees, rental car claims administrators say. Some now accept repair estimates as documentation instead of fleet utilization logs. “They’ve created standards to determine how much they’ll pay based on the repair cost," says Andrew Sutter, president of damage-recovery company Total Fleet Solutions. “So maybe four hours of damage repair equals one day of loss of use that they’ll pay."
In addition to loss of use, rental companies may charge two other fees that may not be covered: administrative fees and “diminution-in-value” or diminished value fees, designed to cover the inherent loss of value to the car because it’s been damaged. “Most credit card companies have a cap on administrative fees, and almost none of them pay diminished value,” Sutter says. “I am still having to go back and bill the customer sometimes when we’ve exhausted every other avenue with the credit card company. "
Are some card companies more willing than others to pay those extra fees?
Rental car claims administrators in three different states told CreditCards.com that Visa is the most willing to pay up, followed by American Express. “Visa without a doubt will pay loss of use, and that’s not always the case with MasterCard and AmEx," says Coppere Williams, senior claims specialist at Khoury-Alternative Claims Management, a damage-recovery company based in San Antonio. “They will also cover an administrative fee without batting an eye. They are very reasonable."
What should I do if I’m billed for those fees?
Start by asking the rental car company if it would be willing to waive the fees. Rental car claims administrators sometimes agree to drop some charges if they’ve been paid for everything else. Then go to your insurer and credit card company, emphasizing what a good customer you’ve been. “If you put enough pressure on them,” Weinberg says, “they’ll usually pay out in the end.”
So should I get the rental car insurance or not?
As always, you will have to weigh the risks and benefits. Despite the many exceptions and exclusions, it is possible to get full coverage through your personal auto insurance and credit card, but you’ll need to choose your card carefully, read the fine print and be willing to fight for coverage of any fees. But if all you want is peace of mind, and you don’t mind the expense, the rental car company CDW/LDW coverage may be the way to go.
See related: Renting a car with debit or cash? Expect to try harder
Updated: March 17, 2017ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT Join the discussion We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.
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