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

6 min read
Susan Shain By Susan Shain Nov 10, 2018 | Updated Mar 27, 2020

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 Lyft Rides
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points on:
    • Travel
    • Dining
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point on all other purchases
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points on:
    • Travel
    • Dining
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 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
  • 60,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 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 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 insurance 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 CDW. 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 car 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 with your credit card.
  • Be listed as the primary driver.
  • Decline the agency’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.”

  • 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 American Express car rental insurance is normally secondary, 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.

5 Questions to Ask About Credit Card Rental Car Insurance

Because every credit card’s 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, 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 “loss of use” while it’s getting repaired or replaced. Visa cards usually cover these fees; other cards 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.

4 Best Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance

When it comes to car 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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 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.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$550
Regular APR16.99%-23.99% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $550
  • Introductory bonus: 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Rewards: 10X Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar on Lyft Rides; 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel (after the $300 credit is used) and dining; 1X on everything else
  • Perks: No foreign transaction fees; 50% point bonus when booking through the Ultimate Rewards portal; $300 annual travel credit; Priority Pass Select membership; point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs

Read more about this card’s car rental benefits.

 

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR16.49% to 23.49% Variable

Key Features & Terms

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Introductory bonus: 60,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 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.

 

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR17.49% - 22.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don’t expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

If you frequently travel for work, you should consider getting a business credit card. Just note business cards usually don’t cover car rentals 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

New United Club℠ Infinite Card

New United Club℠ Infinite Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$525
Regular APR16.49% - 23.49% Variable
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$400
Regular APR17.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 3X points per dollar for travel and mobile wallet purchases.
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,500 in the first 90 days of membership, equivalent to $750 in travel redemptions.
  • $325 annual travel credit.
  • Application fee credit for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85), once every four years.
  • Enhanced status at Relais & Châteaux hotels and resorts.
  • 12-month membership to Priority Pass Select for airport lounge access.
  • 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight WiFi passes per year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $400 annual fee, $75 for additional authorized users.
JP Morgan Reserve Card

JP Morgan Reserve Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$595
Regular APRSee Terms
  • 3X points per dollar spent on travel (after the $300 credit is used) and dining
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Points redeemed for travel rewards are worth 50% more
  • $300 annual travel reimbursement credit
  • Points don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing
  • VIP sports and entertainment access
  • 24/7 direct access to customer service specialists
  • 1:1 point transfer
  • 1:1 point transfer between frequent travel programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $595 annual fee

Business Cards

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.74% - 20.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.74% - 20.74% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No Annual Fee
United MileagePlus® Club Business Card

United MileagePlus® Club Business Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$450
Regular APR18.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 2X miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases
  • 1.5X miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • 100,000 bonus miles for spending $10,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • First and second checked bags are free for you and one companion
  • MileagePlus Premier® members may receive free upgrades when traveling on an award ticket
  • Current United Club members can apply and be reimbursed for the unused portion of your membership once approved
  • No close-in awards booking fees on United tickets
  • Unlimited miles that never expire
  • Complimentary employee cards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates
  • $450 annual fee
United℠ Business Card

United℠ Business Card

Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$99
Regular APR17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • The All-New United Business Card with limited-time offer: 100,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
  • New benefit: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on local transit and commuting- including train tickets, taxi cabs, mass transit, tolls and ride share services
  • New benefit: $100 annual United travel credit after 7 flight purchases of $100 or more
  • New benefit: annual “better together” bonus – 5,000 miles when you have United℠ Business Card and a personal Chase United credit card
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United, at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores. Plus, earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. No foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Free checked bag (terms apply), 2 United Club℠ one-time passes and 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Priority boarding for you and companions on the same reservation on United-operated flights
  • Employee cards at no additional cost – miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account. Plus, you can set individual spending limits for each card.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$99
Regular APR17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn points on employee spending
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, bags fly free®, and no change fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$0 (Costco membership required)
Regular APR15.24% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Discover the only business credit card designed exclusively for Costco members
  • 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
  • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico

The information related to Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

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

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Regular APR18.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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

Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business

Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.49% - 22.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Regular APR18.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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

Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.49% - 22.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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.

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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 Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi, Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business, Capital One® Spark® Cash Select for Business, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business, and Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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