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How Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance Could Save You Big Bucks

Updated Oct 18, 2021 | Published Nov 10, 20187 min read

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At a glance

Whether traveling for work or for pleasure, do so with confidence. Equip your wallet with a credit card that offers car rental insurance to get the additional support you need when on the road.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Chase Freedom Flex℠, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business, and Capital One Spark Cash Select - $500 Cash Bonus have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

For years, I panicked whenever a car rental agent asked me: “Would you like to add insurance?”

I’d always heard it was a scam… but I also didn’t want to be screwed if something happened. What was the right choice?

Luckily, I finally did the research — and discovered my credit card has my back when it comes to car rental insurance. Now I say “no” with confidence at the rental counter.

Here’s how it works.

Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance

Cards & Rewards Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Chase Dining through Ultimate Rewards
    • Hotel stays and Car rentals through Ultimate Rewards (after the full travel credit is used)
    • Lyft rides (through 3/31/22)
  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after the full travel credit is used)
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Travel (after the full travel credit is used)
    • Dining
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar:
    • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar:
    • Dining
    • Select streaming services
    • Online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for other Travel purchases
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
$95
United℠ Explorer Card

  • 2X United miles for:
    • United purchases
    • Hotel accommodations made directly with the hotel
    • Restaurants
  • 1X United mile on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
$95
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent per year on:
    • Travel
    • Shipping
    • Internet, cable, and phone services
    • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 100,000 bonus points for spending $15,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
95

Do You Need Car Rental Insurance?

The first thing to know is there’s not just one type of car rental insurance. An agent will likely offer you an assortment of options. These two are the most important:

  • Loss or collision damage waiver (LDW or CDW): While not technically “insurance,” this waiver covers the rental car in case of damage, loss, or theft.
  • Liability: This insurance protects against damage to other people or personal property.

Whether or not you need these depends greatly on the personal auto insurance — and the credit cards — you already have.

1. If you’re a car owner with comprehensive auto insurance, you probably don’t need to purchase either. Your regular plan will usually cover your rental, aside from loss-of-use and other administrative fees.

How a card could help: Certain credit cards offer primary coverage and allow you to bypass your regular insurer completely, avoiding deductibles and premium hikes. Other cards have secondary coverage, which will at least cover whatever your insurance doesn’t.

2. If you’re a car owner with liability insurance only (and not collision), then you’d need to purchase the CDW to protect against the costs of damage.

How a card could help: If you carry liability through your regular insurance, a credit card can cover damages, allowing you to decline the CDW.

3. If you don’t own a car — and therefore don’t have liability or collision insurance, you’d need to purchase both liability and the CDW. While car rental agencies are required to have the minimum liability coverage for their state, it probably wouldn’t be enough to cover a major accident.

How a card could help: The card could cover damages, allowing you to decline the company’s rental collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW). To cover liability, you could purchase the rental agency’s policy or seek out a non-owner insurance policy.

Insider tip

The rental car company may also offer you personal accident and personal effects insurance, which cover medical bills and items within the car. If you have health insurance and homeowner’s, renter’s, or travel insurance, these probably aren’t necessary.

How Does Credit Card Car Rental Insurance Work?

Many of the best travel credit cards count auto rental insurance among their benefits, but you’ll also find it on many cards without annual fees. To be eligible for your credit card’s car rental insurance, you must:

  • Pay for the entire rental agreement with your credit card.
  • Be listed as the primary driver.
  • Decline the rental company’s damage waivers.

Then, if something happens with your rental car, you can file a claim with your credit card. Its benefits will kick in either before or after your regular auto insurance, depending on whether your card’s coverage is “primary” or “secondary.” You’re typically covered for a certain number of consecutive days, up to the cash value of the car.

  • Primary: Acts as the main insurance on your rental car, so your regular car insurance company won’t even be contacted. 
  • Secondary: Only applies once your regular car insurance has been maxed out.

Clearly, primary coverage is preferable, because it doesn’t involve your own insurance. Which means you won’t risk paying a deductible or increasing your premium.

Though Chase has the most options with primary coverage, its policies vary by card. The Chase Freedom car rental insurance, for example, is secondary, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred car rental insurance is primary. The majority of other credit card companies offer secondary coverage on most of their cards.

It’s worth noting, though, that most secondary insurance policies become primary in two situations:

  • If you don’t have your own car insurance (but remember it’ll only cover damage, and not liability)
  • If you’re traveling in a country where your regular car insurance doesn’t work
Insider tip

Although car rental insurance is normally secondary on American Express cards, the company offers a program called Premium Car Rental Protection. It allows you to pay a fee of $19.95–$24.95 each time you rent a car for up to 42 days of primary coverage.

How Do You Choose the Right Credit Card for Car Rental Insurance?

Because every credit card’s auto insurance policy is so different, we strongly encourage you to check your card’s Guide to Benefits or contact your card’s customer service department before renting a car.

Get a copy of your card’s policy in print or online (and read it!), and be sure to ask these questions:

  • Which types of vehicles are covered? Most of the time, trucks and exotic, specialty, and luxury cars aren’t covered by credit card car rental insurance. Neither are peer car rental services like Zipcar. Notable exceptions include Citi and Amex cards, which often cover expensive cars. Chase’s rental coverage may also exclude vehicles with open beds, including pickups, and motorcycles.
  • Which countries are covered? Many credit card insurance policies exclude certain foreign countries like Ireland, Jamaica, Israel, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand. Citi and Chase cards often don’t have these restrictions.
  • Is loss of use covered? If a rental vehicle gets damaged or lost, the agency will usually charge for towing and “loss of use” while it’s getting repaired or replaced. Visa cards usually cover these fees; Mastercards vary.
  • How long am I covered? Most credit cards offer coverage for a rental period of 15–30 days.
Learn More

Am I still covered if I use reward points to purchase my rental?

Each issuer has its own terms regarding what qualifies for the rental car coverage that comes with your card.

Certain Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points, for example (like the ones below), allow cardholders to use rewards to cover their rental fee while still receiving insurance. Conversely, some cards may require you to use your card to pay for the rental in full before becoming eligible for insurance. Always check with your issuer to fully understand the terms and conditions (before you get to the rental company).

4 Best Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance

When it comes to auto rental insurance, certain credit card companies stand out. Our favorite picks are all from Chase.

The following travel rewards cards provide primary insurance coverage, have no country restrictions, offer rental car coverage for up to 31 days, and cover loss-of-use fees. And if you use Ultimate Rewards points to book your rental, you’ll still receive coverage.

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Purchase APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides; 2X points per dollar on travel and dining; 1X on everything else
  • Perks: DoorDash membership; no foreign transaction fees; 25% point bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal; point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs

Read more about this card’s car rental benefits.

 

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Purchase APR16.99% - 23.99% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • $300 annual travel credit: You’ll get a $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied to any travel-related expenses you charge to your card.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Cardholders get complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to over 1,000 airport lounges and restaurants worldwide. You must manually activate this benefit, and you’ll receive a Priority Pass Select member card in the mail.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit: Every four years you’ll get up to a $100 credit towards the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85).
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection provides some complimentary services and benefits at participating hotels and resorts.
  • Elite hotel benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Cardholders get accelerated progress towards Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties; just stay two nights at qualifying properties in a 12-month period. Club 5C status provides benefits like a VIP welcome, room upgrades, access to a unique experience at each property, and invitations to exclusive events. You must book using the Visa Infinite Concierge.
  • $120 Peloton credit: Enroll to get up to $120 back for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021). No fitness equipment is required.
  • Visa Infinite Concierge: Call 1-877-660-0905 for non-emergency help of all kinds, like making dinner reservations or finding good tickets to a show. You can also ask for travel recommendations, for flights, tourist attractions, the best shopping spots, restaurants, night clubs, etc. This benefit is probably most useful when visiting a new city.
  • Special car rental privileges: You can access your special car rental privileges by logging in to Chase Ultimate Rewards and following the instructions to enroll. You’ll get perks at Avis, Silvercar, and National Car Rental like rental upgrades, discounts, and occasional promotional offers.
  • Lyft Pink membership: One-year exclusive saving opportunities with Lyft Pink membership, providing 15% off rides, relaxed cancellation fees, priority dispatch at airports, and more
  • DoorDash membership, $60 annual DoorDash credit: Chase will pay for a DoorDash subscription for two years (a DashPass). You’ll also get $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020, and $60 in 2021 (learn more about Chase DoorDash benefits).
  • Shopping protections: Purchase Protection; Extended Warranty Protection; Return Protection
  • Travel protections: Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver; Roadside Assistance; Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance; Baggage Delay Insurance; Travel Accident Insurance; Trip Delay Reimbursement; Lost Luggage Reimbursement; Travel and Emergency Assistance; Emergency Evacuation & Transportation
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $550

Read more about this card’s car rental benefits.

 

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

United℠ Explorer Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$95
  • Purchase APR16.49% to 23.49% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 40,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • Rewards: 2X miles per dollar on United purchases, hotel stays purchased directly from hotels, and restaurant bills; 1X on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees; free checked bag; 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases; Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit

Read more about this card’s car rental benefits.

 

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee95
  • Purchase APR15.99% - 20.99% Variable

If you frequently travel for work, you should consider getting a business credit card. Just note business cards usually don’t provide car insurance policies for personal travel. Thanks to its generous introductory bonus and rental insurance, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (Review) is our pick.

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: 95
  • Introductory bonus: 100,000 bonus points for spending $15,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Rewards: 5X points per dollar on Lyft rides; 3X points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent annually on travel, shipping, online advertising, internet, cable, and phone services; 1X on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees; 25% point bonus when redeeming for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal; point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs

Read more about this card’s car rental benefits.

Insider tip

Cardholders also get the same type of primary coverage from the no annual fee cards in the Ink Business lineup, the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card (Review) and Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card (Review).

Check out some more credit cards that offer primary rental car insurance at the bottom of this post.

Wrapping Up

Credit cards that cover car rental insurance can save you a lot of money, although this is usually seen as a minor benefit compared to more exciting rewards and perks.

Say you rent a car for three days, three times a year. At an estimated cost of $20 per day for insurance, that adds up to $180 per year — about twice as much as the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review), which comes with a whole slew of other benefits, too.

So when considering which of the best credit cards to apply for, don’t overlook potential savings from car rental benefits!

Insider tip

You can rent a car with a debit card, but we don’t recommend it, and insurance coverage is just one of several reasons why.

Other Credit Cards with Primary Rental Car Insurance

Consumer Cards

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

United Club℠ Infinite Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$525
  • Purchase APR16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$400
  • Purchase APR16.24% Variable
J.P. Morgan Reserve Card
  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$595
  • Purchase APRSee Terms

Business Cards

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, then 13.24% - 19.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR0% Intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, then 13.24% - 19.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

United Club℠ Business Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$450
  • Purchase APR18.24%–25.24% Variable
United℠ Business Card
  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
  • Purchase APR16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$99
  • Purchase APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$0 (Costco membership required)
  • Purchase APR15.24% (Variable)

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

*It’s rumored that the Costco Anywhere Visa Business Card offers primary coverage, but we haven’t been able to confirm.

Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Capital One Spark Classic for Business
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Min. credit levelFair
  • Annual Fee$0
  • Purchase APR24.49% Variable

The information related to Capital One Spark Classic for Business has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which credit cards cover rental car insurance?

A fairly large portion of big-name credit cards cover rental car insurance, but our favorites — all issued by Chase — provide primary insurance rather than secondary. They are:

Lots of other credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance coverage, including picks from major issuers like American Express, Capital One, Chase, Discover, and Wells Fargo. Secondary insurance kicks in after claims are made through your personal insurance. A few of our favorite cards with secondary coverage include:

Which credit cards offer primary car rental insurance?

Currently, the following consumer cards credit cards provide primary car rental insurance:

Enrollment required for select benefits; terms and limitations apply.

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For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

Written by

Susan Shain

Susan is a freelance writer who specializes in turning complex financial topics into engaging and accessible articles. She's been writing about personal finance for six years, and was previously the senior writer at The Penny Hoarder and a staff writer at Student Loan Hero. Her personal finance writing has also appeared in publications like MarketWatch and Lifehacker.

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