Which Credit Card Should You Use For Car Rentals?

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Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Rental Car Station formulanone, via flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
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An excellent credit card benefit is the car rental collision damage waiver that covers damage to your rental car. To get this coverage, you just need to use your credit card and refuse the CDW option from the rental car agency.

It’s worth noting that no US cards cover liability for damage to other people’s cars or occupants.

Not all CDW coverage is created equal.

Some credit cards, including most cards from Citi, have eliminated CDW coverage.

Many credit cards only provide secondary coverage, so if you damage your rental car you’ll need to file a claim with your own insurance and coverage only kicks in for the deductible amount or if your claim is denied. If you don’t have your own insurance and aren’t covered by anyone else’s insurance then your credit card coverage would effectively be primary coverage.

Some business cards provide primary coverage, which means the credit card will pay for damage without having to file an insurance claim, but will only do so if the rental was for business purposes. This includes cards like Capital One Spark Cash, Capital One Spark Miles, Chase United Business, Chase Ink Preferred, Chase Ink Unlimited, and Chase Ink Cash.

AMEX cards only have secondary coverage, unless you pay $20-$25 per rental to upgrade the coverage to primary.

Cards offering primary CDW coverage include:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Primary coverage plus earn 2 points per dollar. Record high 100K signup bonus points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. $95 annual fee. Read more here.
  • Chase United Explorer: Primary coverage plus earn 1 point per dollar. Limited time 65K signup bonus points for spending $2,000 in 3 months and another $8,000 in 6 months. $95 annual fee. Read more here.
  • Chase United Quest: Primary coverage plus earn 2 points per dollar. Limited time 100K signup bonus points for spending $5,000 in 3 months and another $5,000 in 6 months. $250 annual fee. Read more here.
  • Chase United Club Infinite: Primary coverage plus earn 2 points per dollar. Limited time 75K signup bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months. $525 annual fee. Read more here.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Primary coverage plus earn 3 points per dollar. Limited time 60K signup bonus points for spending $4,000 in 3 months. $550 annual fee. Read more here.
  • Chase United Club: Primary coverage plus earn 1.5 points per dollar. $450 annual fee.
  • JPMorgan Ritz Carlton. Primary coverage plus earn 2 points per dollar. $450 annual fee.

None of those cards charge foreign transaction fees, so you can also rent abroad and have coverage. In some countries, such as Israel, the rental agency requires a letter of personal coverage in order to refuse CDW coverage, so be sure to call the number on the back of your card for a letter of coverage before you travel!

Which card do you use for car rentals?

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96 Comments On "Which Credit Card Should You Use For Car Rentals?"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

Menachem

What’s the advantage of primary coverage, as in, who cares who pays the claim?

ojf

I pay the rental agency for the coverage. It’s not worth saving some money up front for the headache if you have to deal with 3rd parties for a claim with the rental agency. This way, if I total the car, I can just walk away and move on with my life. Just not worth 15 bucks a day.

Dave

Yea, this doesn’t make sense. Something as serious as a total wreck, and a few phone calls and some paper work to email back is too tedious for you?

AP

Honestly, I had a damaged car with Avis that I rented on my United card. I sent them the bill from Avis and didn’t hear anything else until it was settled by Chase/Visa. No hassle.

Daniele

Are there any cards other than Chase that provide primary coverage?
I have Chase, but none of these.

Neil

Prety sure US Bank Altitude Reserve Card provides primary coverage.

Stevenn

When I rented a car recently in Florida they required me to pay for insurance even though my chase Sapphire preferred credit card has rental insurance.

Mo

Is there any card that covers for 60 day rental?

Realshlomo

I’ve learnt from you and on an expensive or long rental always put the rental on an amex with premium insurance and if nothing happens put it on the card of choice at the end of the rental.

Sam

Beware – Amex Primary covers diminution of value while Chase does not

Simcha

How does that work?

Sam

Car rental agency can charge for book value diminished after repair. Amex Premium Rental covers this.

BT

What kind of proof would be required that the rental was for business purposes

Simcha

By Hertz you have to select for leisure or business when you make a reservation.

BT

Any downside to selecting business?

Yehuda

The rates are more expensive on hertz when selecting business

0067

Letter on letterhead stating it was for business use and copy of business card

buschoi

I use AMEX Platinum and pay the $20-25 per rental. Only get 1 point/$ this way, but I value the insurance protection much more than the bonus points other cards offer on travel category.

CtownBin

How is the insurance protection better than what’s offered on the Chase cards?

Don’t know much

How can we find out if our cards/ other credit cards offer primary or secondary coverage?

Jake

Do most car insurance coverages cover liability when you are driving rental car?

Harry

Every time I rent a car from TLV even when I show them CDW on my credit card they always require me to have one insurance no matter what I say

Max

So what if I do damages to other cars or property

Sam

Dan, are you saying that if I use my sapphire preferred for insurance and rear end someone, they would only cover the damage to the rental car, not the car I hit?

Y E

HI Dan,

I Spent for a business about 1M a year on Amazon (.com/.ca/.de), Which credit card will be best for me to spend it on?

PLEASE ANSWER ME!

YY

I dont anywhere near that much, but for small spenders you can buy an amazon gift card from office supply stores with chase Ink cards, or cards which give you 5% on pharmacy purchases and get 5% back in points or cash.

Avi

Amex Amazon for Business

david

doesn’t the chase ritz card also have primary insurance coverage??

Just

Ritz Carlton has primary coverage, correct?

Mo

I think every car rental comes with the state minimum liability insurance (besides California)
https://ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/car-rental-tip-sheet

ML

Great information for NY! And I didn’t know this about CDW: “if you have a New York automobile insurance policy you already have this coverage for a rental vehicle, unless you declined to accept it when you purchased that policy. “

OD

Dan you are sure about this?
“Many credit cards only provide secondary coverage, so if you damage your rental car you’ll need to file a claim with your own insurance and coverage only kicks in for the deductible amount or if your claim is denied.”

secondary cc coverage will cover your personal auto coverage deductible?

Jacob

does the bank of America cash rewards Mastercard have secondary coverage?

Tzvi

US Bank Altitude Reserve has primary as well.

Ari

Thanks, Dan

You wrote “Your personal insurance may provide coverage” what’s a personal insurance policy, a HO-6 homeowners/renters policy with liability coverage or an auto ins like GEICO or something different?

Ah Groyseh Shiyleh

Can I pay the amex $20-25 primary charge after my rental to cover damages?

Simcha

Is the additional driver cover by the primary’s credit card insurance?
What about an authorized card holder who rents a vehicle are they covered?

MarsTorah

BTW in some states (ie NY) the car rental company’s legally need to have liability coverage on their cars.
But it’s a limited amount of coverage, so might not be worth relying on.
Hatzlacha!

Dante

I learned the hard way that CDW insurance only covers the rental car, and not the damage to any other car, property or person(s) involved in an accident, that’s liability insurance.

I was actually “lucky” and only paid $600 to fix the damage to the car my wife crashed into. This was less than my insurance deductible and my premium was unaffected.

Since then, I decline CDW but accept liability insurance from the rental company. I wonder if I can buy cheaper liability insurance somewhere else???

shohshana

you can use your amex card for the hold at the beginning of the rental and add the extra 25$ fee and pay with a diff card minus the fee when you return the vehicle. I have been doing this for long time

CtownBin

What does the AMEX coverage give you that the Chase cards don’t?

EZ

I have a Diners Club/Mastercard from BMO. Does this card provide primary coverage? Thank you.

renter

its worth noting that with amex they cover up to 100k on any car as opposed to the chase cards you would have to call up to see which cars are covered as they have a specific list

LA Yid

Thank you Dan for posting this. The info in the post as well as clearly stating that no CC offers liability insurance is really helpful. Ensuring you know all the details of your coverage will save MUCH heartache.

If you dont have personal car insurance and using a CC, purchase the liability option

Sam

So which one is BEST?

I know it depends on which you have but Dan which do you use?

Logoc

Hi Dan,
You didn’t discuss how much these cards will cover. This is very important to know when renting a luxury car with the value exceeding 50,000 which some cards won’t cover.

Steven Kastner

Are there currently any cards that give coverage for Turo car sharing rentals?

mayer indig

I have credit one platinum master card . and visa platinum are they good ?

Eli

If I use my authorized user card from my wife’s Sapphire preferred account, to rent a car, will I be covered ?

chaya

i dont get the whole liability thing. if they dont cover you damaging another vehicle then whats the point? anyways i hit a car and insurance covered so i dont really get it

Jack

It is worth noting a few things from a recent personal experience with damage to a rental car (which I won’t detail because I am still awaiting Chase approval and may need to litigate).

– Your personal auto policy may not cover driving outside of US and Canada. That means if you decline coverage (especially liability coverage) you have exposure when driving overseas. The ONLY coverage you likely have overseas is CDW from Chase/Amex, not third-party liability. It is probably worth taking out liability coverage when renting overseas.

– The estimates/damages charged by rental agencies may be inflated. My alleged damages were probably about as much as the cost of the vehicle. I am not sure if the cardmember/renter is obligated to object to the charges at the time, but it may be worth refusing to pay the damages upfront on your own credit card and forcing the rental company and Chase to hash out what will be paid. Especially if you don’t have the credit line to make payment or cannot afford to get stuck holding the bag while Chase takes its time approving your claim.

– I am told by my auto insurance policy adjuster that even though I made a claim (which is likely to be denied because it was overseas), my premium would not be affected unless and until there is a payout. Hence, there is no harm done in making the claim.

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