If you’re looking to rent a car for an upcoming, you may be wondering how to get insurance on your rental — and hopefully without paying extra for that coverage.
When you pick up a rental car, the rental agency may present you with a confusing list of car insurance add-ons and protections available for purchase. Although it might seem like a good idea to buy rental car insurance, you might not need to. After all, some of the best travel rewards cards provide car rental insurance that may let you skip the rental company’s collision damage waiver.
In particular, some of the top rewards cards automatically offer a collision damage waiver when you pay for your car rental with your card. This waiver can cover the rental car if you’re in an accident or if the car is stolen or damaged. Today, I’ll discuss the best cards that provide car rental insurance and answer some common questions regarding this benefit.
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The best credit cards for rental car insurance
In this article, we’ll look at the best credit cards you could use for an upcoming car rental. While understanding how many points or miles you might earn is important, we’re considering other factors. These include insurance protections on rental cars that cover as many aspects of a rental as possible without surprise fees.
We’ll cover the following credit cards to explain why using them to pay for your next rental car is a good idea:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Ink Business Cash Credit Card
Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
United Explorer Card
United Quest Card
United Club Infinite Card
United Business Card
Any American Express card that’s enrolled in American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection program
These cards offer primary car rental insurance on most rentals, which will be the focus of this guide. It will also discuss the difference between primary and secondary insurance, and I’ll even highlight a few low- or no-annual-fee cards that offer secondary car rental insurance near the end.
Primary vs. secondary car rental insurance
The car rental coverage available on select travel rewards cards can be a primary or secondary auto rental collision damage waiver. However, secondary insurance only kicks in after your car insurance and any other types of insurance, such as travel insurance, have been used. Secondary insurance would cover any expenses remaining to be paid and also can cover the deductibles on those other policies.
So, if you are in an accident in a rental car and you paid for the rental with a card that provides secondary insurance, you’ll likely need to file claims with multiple insurance companies. On the other hand, primary insurance applies before any other type of insurance. With primary insurance, you’d only need to file one claim.
@BRITTNEYBOROWSKI VIA TWENTY20/GETTY IMAGES
Both types of insurance usually have a published maximum, so make sure it meets or exceeds the total value of the car you’re renting. Generally, primary insurance will reimburse you for the rental car’s cash value or the cost to repair it, whichever is less. However, secondary insurance will only reimburse you for the amount not covered by any other insurance policies.
Most secondary policies on credit cards automatically become primary insurance in two common scenarios. First, if you’re renting a car outside the U.S. and your personal car insurance policy doesn’t cover you in that country, the collision damage waiver from that card may become primary. Second, if you don’t own a car and don’t carry a car insurance policy, most secondary insurance offered by credit cards will become primary.
What’s covered (and what’s not)
The auto rental collision damage waiver benefit provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft, up to the actual cash value of most vehicles. Usually, the collision damage waiver only covers physical damage or theft of the rental vehicle. Some cards also cover loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company and towing charges to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility.
To be covered by a credit card collision damage waiver, you must decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver or similar provision when picking up the vehicle. You may also need to refuse other types of insurance that the car rental company offers you. And it’s important to remember that some rental vehicles may not be eligible for insurance. In particular, it’s essential to keep the following provisions in mind if you rely upon these benefits:
Liability insurance isn’t included
Although the collision damage waiver provided by your credit card may cover damage to your rental car, it won’t take care of any damage you cause to other vehicles and personal property. And the credit card collision damage waiver typically does not cover injuries to you, your passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident. Your car insurance policy may kick in here, but it’s good to check your policy or call your provider to confirm.
If you don’t own a car, consider purchasing non-owner car insurance if you want liability protection. Many insurance companies offer this type of protection, but they don’t always advertise it online. It’s worth pricing out policies with several companies, as prices tend to vary greatly.
Not all car types are covered
If you stick to the standard categories of car rentals — such as compact, intermediate and full-size — your credit card’s car rental policy should apply. However, most policies exclude specialty-class vehicles, including large passenger vans, pickup trucks, antique vehicles, RVs and motorcycles.
Your credit card’s rental car protections may not cover Recreational Vehicles like this one. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
In addition, many policies exclude leases and micro-leases, and most exclude rentals through person-to-person car-sharing companies such as Turo.
There’s a limit on the number of days
Many readers likely stick to short car rental periods for trips. But if you need a car rental for multiple months, your credit card insurance typically won’t apply. Be sure to check the policy limit on rentals; most of these are around 30 days, but it’s worth finding the exact limit of your coverage.
Some countries are excluded
Although the exact list of excluded countries varies from card to card and issuer to issuer, the most common exceptions I’ve noticed are Australia, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Northern Ireland and New Zealand. Regardless of where you’re traveling, it’s best to call the customer service number on your card to ensure your destination is covered when renting a car outside the United States. Other exclusions for coverage will include countries with U.S. economic sanctions, meaning rentals in Cuba might not be covered.
Ensure your rental is eligible
You must read your card’s policy carefully to understand what isn’t covered. If you have any doubts about your insurance, you can call the customer service number on your card. Doing so will allow you to get more information and confirm that your policy covers your rental vehicle type in the country you’ll be visiting.
Call the number on the back of your card to ask questions about cardholder benefits. BROTHERS91/GETTY IMAGES
The best credit cards with primary car rental insurance
This section will discuss some of the best credit cards that offer primary car rental insurance when you use your card to pay for the entire rental. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may find other cards that also offer primary insurance. In particular, I’ve excluded cards that offer primary car rental insurance for current cardholders but aren’t currently accepting applications.
Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred provide primary car rental insurance for rentals in most countries, and this covers rentals of up to 31 consecutive days. In particular, this policy covers losses, including physical damage and 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.
Rental car at PLZ in South Africa. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY
The details of the policies vary slightly between the two cards, though. So, be sure to read the guide to benefits for full details at the following links:
The Chase Sapphire Reserve carries a $550 annual fee but currently offers a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you access to great perks like a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, best-in-class travel protections and an up-to-$100 application fee credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus every four years.
Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is easily one of the best travel rewards cards with a sub-$100 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. It also comes with some nice benefits, like a 10% points bonus on your cardmember anniversary and a $50 annual hotel credit for stays booked through Chase Travel.
Capital One Venture X
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers an auto rental collision damage waiver that may reimburse you for damages caused by theft or collision up to the actual cash value of your rental vehicle — up to $75,000. And you can only get insurance when you rent for up to 15 consecutive days in your country of residence or up to 31 consecutive days in other countries.
(Photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)
In addition, you can even stack rental car perks with Hertz when renting through the Capital One Travel portal.
New applicants approved for the Capital One Venture X can currently earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. The card has a $395 annual fee but offers various perks, including up to $300 back as statement credits each year for bookings through Capital One Travel and at least 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Ink Business cards from Chase
The Ink Business cards from Chase — Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Ink Business Cash Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card — offer primary insurance for most vehicles. The insurance provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for charges related to physical damage or theft of the rental vehicle, valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company and reasonable and customary towing charges.
You’ll only be covered by primary insurance while renting primarily for business purposes, renting outside your country of residence for personal reasons or if you do not have automobile insurance. Conversely, if you rent for personal reasons in your country of residence and have automobile insurance already, you’ll only get secondary insurance.
The Ink Business Preferred Card offers a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. With this card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet services, cable services, phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year, then 1 point per dollar) and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. This card has a $95 annual fee.
However, there are two cards in the Ink lineup that charge no annual fee.
The Ink Business Cash Card currently offers a $900 bonus after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. You’ll earn 5% cash back per dollar spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year, then 1% back). You’ll also earn 2% cash back per dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants (again capped at $25,000 annually, then 1% back) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
The Ink Business Unlimited Card currently offers a $900 bonus after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. And earning is straightforward: You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
With both of these cards, you can combine your earnings with other eligible Chase cards to convert them to full Ultimate Rewards points. Unfortunately, both the Ink Cash and the Ink Unlimited charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. There are no foreign transaction fees on the Ink Preferred.
United Airlines cards
The following four currently available United credit cards offer primary car rental insurance when you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. This insurance provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.
Here’s a bit more about each of these cards.
RYAN SMITH/THE POINTS GUY
The United Explorer Card currently offers a bonus of 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn 2 United miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining and hotel stays when booked directly with the hotel. This card has a $0 introductory annual fee then $95 thereafter.
See the full United Explorer credit card review for more details.
The United Quest Card currently offers 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar spent on United purchases (immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit) and 2 miles per dollar spent on other travel, dining and select streaming services. The card has a $250 annual fee.
See our post about who should get the United Quest card for more details.
The United Club Infinite Card currently offers 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases and 2 miles per dollar spent on dining and all other travel. The card has a $525 annual fee and includes United Club access as a built-in benefit.
See the full United Club Infinite credit card review for more details.
The United Business Card currently offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, at gas stations, at restaurants, at office supply stores and on local transit and commuting. The card has a $99 annual fee.
See the full United Business credit card review for more details.
Top cards with secondary car rental insurance
If you don’t have a card that offers primary car rental insurance, your next best bet is a card that provides secondary insurance. Many credit cards offer secondary car rental insurance, so I’ve only highlighted a few of my favorite options below.
American Express cards
Most American Express cards offer secondary car rental insurance.* You can see the entire list of cards that offer secondary car rental protection on the American Express website. It includes popular cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card and Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card. If you don’t need primary insurance, you can use one of these cards and decline the rental company’s insurance.
But, if you’re looking for primary insurance, all American Express cards offer an optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy that can be added (for a small fee) to your rental using the card. Note that enrollment is required in advance for some of these benefits.
*Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered, and geographic restrictions apply. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offer auto rental collision damage waiver insurance. Insurance is secondary when you rent within your country of residence and primary when you rent outside your country of residence. However, benefits are only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card, and terms apply.
The Capital One Venture card currently offers 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn at least 2 Capital One miles per dollar spent on every purchase but earn 5 miles per dollar on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel. The card has a $95 annual fee. Read our full Capital One Venture credit card review for more details.
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card currently offers 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn at least 1.25 miles per dollar spent on every purchase but earn 5 miles per dollar on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel. The card has no annual fee. Read our full Capital One VentureOne credit card review for more information.
Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited
If you’re looking for a no-annual-fee card that offers secondary car rental insurance, the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited might be a good pick. These cards provide insurance for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad and even cover valid loss-of-use charges, administrative fees and towing charges related to covered incidents. Insurance within your country of residence is secondary, but insurance outside your country of residence is primary.
THE POINTS GUY
Although neither card has an annual fee, both cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. That means using these cards to pay for a car rental outside the U.S. would add damage protections but would also increase the cost of your rental. See the Chase Freedom Flex credit card review and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review for more information.
Many consumers focus on the number of points they can earn and redeem when choosing a new travel rewards card. However, credit card travel protections can come in handy when you’re on the road. In particular, credit card rental car insurance can provide significant value.
However, it’s essential to review the details of your card’s policy to understand what is (and isn’t) covered. For example, don’t assume that you’re covered for every possible mishap when you pay for a car rental with a credit card that offers car rental insurance, as many exceptions and exclusions apply.
And keep in mind that credit cards rarely provide liability insurance or insurance for peer-to-peer rentals. Make sure you know the details and how they relate to your rental location, vehicle type, length of rental period and other important issues so you don’t get surprised by a bill if something bad happens to your rental car.
For other information related to rental cars, see the following articles:
Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.