Which Credit Cards Have The Best Rental Car Insurance?

One of the tricks that seasoned travelers know is to always deny the insurance when renting a car. Why? Because the credit card that they are using already comes with insurance that they are familiar with, and because you are required to deny coverage from the rental car company in order to take advantage of your credit card’s insurance. But how do you pick a credit card that has good rental insurance?

We found this handy chart on CreditCards.com (a credit card comparison site):

Payment network
Do all cards offer basic coverage?
Amount of coverage
Vehicle exclusions
Limit on rental length
Country exclusions

American Express

Yes, but you can upgrade to to premium protection for a fee

Up to $50,000 for Green, Blue, Gold, Optima, Small Biz, & Small Biz
Gold cards; up to $75,000 for Platinum, Centurion, & Small Biz
Platinum cards

Any type of pick-up truck, full-sized SUV, luxury van, any exotic sports car and any type of cargo van

Up to 30 days

Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica New Zealand

Discover

No: Available to holders of only Platinum, Miles by Discover, Discover
Motiva, Discover Titanum, Discover Business & Discover Business
Miles cards

Up to $50,000

Off-road, antique or limited edition motor vehicles; trucks,
recreational vehicles, campers, pickup trucks, and minibuses; limited
edition motor vehicles or high value, exotic, high performance or
collector type; any vehicle which has not been manufactured for 10
years or more

Will not exceed 31
consecutive days, or 45 consecutive days if the insured is an employee
of an organization which has provided a card for business use

Coverage applies to vehicles rented in the U.S. and Canada only

MasterCard

No: Available only to Gold, Platinum, World & World Elite cardholders

The lesser of the actual repair amount, current market value (minus salvage), or $50,000 per incident

All trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, campers,
off-road vehicles, and other recreational vehicles; trailers,
motorbikes, motorcycles, and any other vehicle having fewer than four
wheels; antique vehicles

Up to 31 consecutive days

Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand

Visa

Yes

Up to actual cash value of the vehicle as it was originally manufactured

Expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain vans; vehicles that
have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes;
limousines; and recreational vehicles

Up to 15 consecutive days in your country of residence or up to 31 consecutive days outside your country of residence

Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand

As you can see, you’re not automatically covered just because you have a credit card, so make sure you read and understand your credit card’s rental car insurance policy. That way you can avoid wasting money on an unfamiliar policy offered by a rental car company.

If you’re currently researching credit cards, try CreditCards.com or Bankrate.com to compare offers easily.

Compare credit cards’ rental insurance policies [CreditCards.com]
(Photo: Marike79 )

Comments

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  1. stevejust says:

    THS NW DSGN S GVNG M _ HDCH

  2. BrAff says:

    With my Black Card, I just buy the car if anything happens to it… I also recently purchased a few copies of new iPhone app you may have heard of.

  3. EarlNowak says:

    Diner’s club is famous for their rental car coverage. Almost all other credit cards use their coverage as “secondary”- you have to claim with your personal auto policy first, then the credit card will cover your deductable and any amounts over your policy. Diner’s club provides “primary” rental insurance- so if you rent with a DC and total the car, Diner’s will pay out, and you don’t need to make a personal claim.

  4. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    Just a plug for AMEX here. I’ve subscribed to their premium plan ($19 per rental, no extra fees) and they simply cover the car completely. I’ve been very happy with their service.

  5. bagumpity says:

    Don’t forget that your regular auto insurance might also cover you. And check with the auto rental company- they might have a sweet deal for customers of your insurance. If I book my rental using my insurance company’s special code, the price is less than the lowest discounted rate I could find, I don’t have to pay CDW, and the insurance covers 100% of incurred costs if I have an accident.

  6. BrAff says:

    @TheRealAbsurdist: Do you only pay when you rent a vehicle or is it an annual fee they tack on? Also, if you have an upgraded card (say a Gold Rewards Plus) is this service included? One more question… should I just go to the above mentioned website and not bother you with my questions?

  7. mad_oak says:

    I’d like to see a discussion about the loss of use and loss of value charges the rental companies tack on. In a loss of value charge, the rental company charges for the implied lower value of the car at resale due to the accident. Most credit cards don’t cover it and it can be a hefty amount.

  8. timmus says:

    Big, big warning about these credit card insurance offers. Many of them, like the popular MasterRental, have this in their fine print:

    Coverage is secondary to any other applicable insurance or coverage available to you

    So looks like you’ll be fighting it out with your own insurance company, and you’ll get a rate hike to boot. With my last rental I just sucked it up and got the LDW rather than play those games.

  9. startertan says:

    I noticed that most of them exclude trucks which I assume also means that they don’t cover moving trucks. I recently moved and I had to rent a truck from Penske. I REFUSE TO USE U-HAUL. I never checked with my CC (Discover) but I opted to get the additional insurance and I am f*cking glad I did. I ended up f’ing up the truck when I pulled back into the station, I had rented it from a gas station. Best $40 I ever spent!

  10. pixiegirl1 says:

    Some times you don’t get a choice you HAVE to pay the insurance, like when your under 25 apparently once you hit 25 you suddenly no longer are at risk to get in accidents. I’ve had to rent a car a few times when I was under 25 and was forced to pay the extra insurance because “my age group is a high risk” to rent too. I think it’s total crap, imo. If I have the money to rent a car I can pay to have it fixed if it gets in a accident. Let me tell you I treated those cars like total crap too, why not it’s covered under the insurance I was forced to take so why not have a little fun.

  11. captainpicard says:

    @startertan:

    Yeah, I believe that the clause of no trucks is in there specifically for that reason, moving trucks are substantially more expense than a sedan

  12. LikwidFlux says:

    @stevejust: Agreed site looks like shit now

  13. BrAff says:

    From the AMEX site…
    Depending on the coverage level that you choose, a premium of either $19.95 or $24.95 per rental ($15.95 or $17.95 for California Residents)

    Sweet… California pays off every now and then…

  14. Landru says:

    I have the AMEX premium insurance but I have never had to use it. But before I signed up for it, I rented a big red convertible from Budget in L.A. for a weekend, and purchased Budget’s daily liability waiver. Unbeknownst to me the passenger side was damaged (by one of the valet parking attendants, I suspect). It was sure nice to be able to shrug my shoulders at it when the rental check-in guy pointed it out. That and sign his check-in form. No time or hassle at all.

    The folks at AMEX say it would only involve a phone call to get something taken care of, but I’m not sure I believe them.

  15. Jevia says:

    So what’s the issue with excluding certain countries (and virtually all the same ones too)? Why are those countries excluded, are they more dangerous to drive in?

    I liked visa’s exclusion of “expensive” vehicles. What’s considered “expensive?”

  16. BrAff says:

    I just signed up for their Baggage protection, travel delay protection, and car rental protection…

    i.am.a.consumer.whore…â™ 

  17. @stevejust: Dude, you’ve been disemvoweled!

  18. blackmage439 says:

    How reliable are these free insurance offers? I think I would much rather trust my car insurance company’s rental insurance, than some company that doesn’t need to keep me as a customer.

    Anyone have any REAL experience with this credit card-provided insurance?

  19. laserjobs says:

    @blackmage439: Yes, Visa wrote me a check for $100 and covered all claims. I have no idea why they wrote me $100 check too.

  20. dialing_wand says:

    Most cards still require you to pay a deductible however.

    Amex gold is $250 I believe, and none for platinum/centurion cards. I don’t know about any others.

  21. mike says:

    Is it better to use the credit card rental car insurance or your own car insurance’s rental car insurance?

    I would think that the former would be better since won’t increase your rates should you have an accident.

  22. Roy Hobbs says:

    @stevejust: I don’t get it. A Customer (reader) of the Consumerist, a customer-friendly blog, indicates that he is not in favor of the new design, and he is threatened with being banned?

  23. CreditCards.com says:

    Thanks for the hat tip, Meg, and yes, Timmus, you’re quite right. As our story points out: “Your credit card company provides secondary coverage. It covers whatever your primary auto insurance doesn’t, paying whatever is left and going toward your deductible.”

    Actually the point in our story I found most interesting are the country exclusions. Yeah, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland — they’re so much more dangerous than, say, Iraq!

  24. jackal676 says:

    Yeah, I see the problem with the post. I think it would fall under having a problem and airing it out instead emailing the editor directly. Ban threat seems a bit harsh, though.

  25. stevejust says:

    @Roy Hobbs:

    Just for the record, I disemvoweled myself. I thought it’d be a bit funnier that way.

  26. kerrington.steele says:

    The credit-card-coverage vs. personal-auto-insurance-coverage question has plagued me personally for a while — maybe someone here can answer definitively. I have an AmEx co-branded credit card, and since I live in New York and have no car of my own, I have no personal auto insurance. The FAQ for my card on the AmEx website contains the following language: “The Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan provides secondary coverage.”

    So, when I use my AmEx to rent a car, can I decline the LDW and count on the Amex coverage, or can I count on the card’s coverage IF AND ONLY IF I already have personal insurance? Is this what “secondary coverage” means? Is my having a credit card, and not a traditional AmEx charge card, the catch here?

  27. robocop is bleeding says:

    I wish credit card companies would give travelers a flier or something that they could hold up when the car rental agent starts into their DOOOM DDDooOOOOooMMMM!!!! spiel about all the things that you are liable for even if you are using a credit card with rental insurance.

    The warnings my wife and I got while renting a car in England were pretty bowel moistening.

  28. Roy Hobbs says:

    @stevejust: Well played, sir.

  29. Holy crap this is timely. I’m about to rent my first rental car next week and was about to use my Discover Card because I thought it provides coverage, but its only a “Discover Get More” card, not any of the ones listed. Discover even included a little brochure about the travel benefits in my latest statement saying “You’re Covered!” and the little website they set up sure makes it seem like any Discover Card is eligible. Shady bastards. My car insurance covers the insurance, but they indicated that I should use a credit card with collision insurance too.

    Shit, I even redeemed my Discover Rewards to get a $40 off coupon at Alamo, where I was planning on renting. But… Nowhere in any of the fine print Terms & Conditions of the coupon does it say that I have to use my Discover card for the remainder of the rental price… maybe I can use the coupon then rent the car with my Visa? I hope so.

  30. Sudonum says:

    @blackmage439:
    Yes, I’ve had “real” experience with AMEX’s program. I got hit in a parking lot while shopping. I filed a claim with AMEX and was told that they would only pay whatever my auto insurance wouldn’t cover. I called my auto carrier and started a claim. Hertz never contacted them. What happened instead was AMEX denied my claim, but went ahead and paid Hertz $500 as “a courtesy”. Hertz then contacted me to pay the balance of $175, which I was glad to do to keep them from filing a claim with my insurance.

  31. jjkean2 says:

    As someone who has worked for Enterprise in their rental branches I can say I’ve seen the good and bad of credit card coverages.

    - Some of them used to not pay claims unless they were called at the time of rental and informed that you would be needing their coverage.

    - Some wouldn’t pay the claim if the vehicle was on a truck axle

    - All of them denied claims if you paid with a different credit card at the end. Nothing sadder than a guy hearing his claim’s been denied because he let us run his AMEX at the time of rental, but when he came back he wanted to pay with a Mastercard to “get more points.”

    - Even if they do cover the claim, some don’t do it for free. Sure VISA may pay your deductible, but the next month you’ll see a charge on your account that is them asking for it back. And like it has been stated before, most of these cards are secondary coverage, and most don’t cover the loss of revenue while the rental is being fixed.

    Bottom line is buyer beware and know what the specific rules/exceptions are.

  32. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @LikwidFlux: Apparently you didn’t get the hint by the “disemvoweling”. This comment thread is not a “let’s bitch about Consumerist design changes thread”.

  33. TCUBOB says:

    Here’s a question: What if you pay with a Visa- or Mastercard-logoed debit card? Does it depend on how it is processed?

  34. kondilas says:

    Hmmm…Had a long discussion with American Express about a rental in Calgary where the windshield was damaged by a rock…The coverage through the Platinum card did *not* cover those damages in Canada…

  35. tinmanx says:

    Why is it so hard to get this type of information from the credit card companies? My friend called American Express a few years ago before we went on a trip to ask about rental car insurance, two reps that he spoke to told him that they didn’t have such a thing. We ended up paying the rental company for basic coverage. Maybe this is a new feature?

  36. stevejust says:

    @Consumerist-Moderator-Roz: Well, Roz, it wasn’t disemvoweled. As stated previously, I disemvoweled it myself. And I understand that this post isn’t the “let’s bitch about Consumerist design changes thread”, but Ben isn’t allowing us to do that where it’d be appropriate, so I hijacked this discussion since it was just above where I wanted to post my disemvoweled disapporval of the new design. I guess it would matter if I cared if I was banned, which you’re free to do. But I think I’ve actually been a pretty good contributor to consumerist in my time perhaps despite my flame wars with Bladefist. If you disagree, ban me or disemvowel me. But I think most people would agree that the orignial comment is pretty funny, even if way off topic.

  37. msbask says:

    Last year, I rented a car which got damaged when something flew off a truck driving in front of me. The only damage was a scratch and broken plastic around the fog light.

    I had use my Amex Blue Card knowing that there was coverage. Turns out they use your personal coverage as ‘primary’ and Amex’s coverage kicks in after that. But, if the damage is less than your deductible, the Amex card will pay***.

    The damage was only $365, so Amex paid it and I got back to my regularly scheduled life. No ‘loss of use’ or ‘loss of value’ as far as I know. My rental was through Enterprise and they could not have been nicer.

    ***My personal auto policy is actually written through Amex’s insurance company (Ameriprise), so in reality Amex was paying either way.

  38. sleze69 says:

    Add Grand Cayman (perhaps all 3 Cayman Islands) to the list of countries in which NO credit card insurance is allowed. If you rent a car in Grand Cayman and get into an accident without their rental insurance, you have to pay on the spot or you won’t be allowed to leave the country.

  39. Sparkstalker says:

    Hmm, it’s good to know that “off-road” vehicles aren’t covered…more than once I’ve rented a 4WD SUV for a mountain vacation. Now I know to take the extra coverage.

  40. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @pixiegirl1:

    Hate to break it to you, but accident rates for under-25s are a lot higher than for older. Simple as that. It’s not some great conspiracy, it’s just that younger people are poorer insurance risks (on the whole).

  41. sponica says:

    @pixiegirl1: Some insurance companies waive the fees for under 25 renters. For example, USAA allows members under 25 to rent from Avis at no extra cost. It makes sense, considering it’s highly possible for there to be officers in the military under age 25 who need to rent a car.

  42. JustThatGuy3 says:

    @Jevia:

    I’ve wondered about it too. Italy has high auto theft rates, ditto Jamaica; Israelis drive like lunatics, but I really don’t understand Australia and NZ, unless they’re worried about people going off road (on, in NZ, off cliffs).

  43. Landru says:

    I just checked the American Express website – their standard automobile coverage Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance (CRLDI) is “secondary” but their Premium Car Rental Protection coverage is “primary”.

    The Premium is a great policy and it does cover exotics. “from smaller economy sizes to large luxury sedans, convertibles, exotic cars (worth more than $50,000), minivans, vans, pickup trucks, and full-sized SUVs.”

    It does have some exclusions but not a many as the the CRLDI. It does cost (about $20 or so), but you pay only once per rental, regardless of duration, as opposed to a daily fee like the rental car waivers.

  44. OwenCatherwood says:

    @TCUBOB: Debit cards have no insurance, as they’re sponsored by a bank/CU and not the credit card company.

    Also, most if not all rental companies refuse to let you use a debit card for transactions because of their need to put a hold on the cost of the rental in your credit account.

  45. lauy says:

    @ TCUBOB:

    Visa check (debit) cards DO NO offer rental car insurance. Most of their debit coverage programs were discontinued in 2006 or 2007 I believe.

    [usa.visa.com]

    It does appear that MasterCard Gold and Platinum debit cards offer rental car protection according to their website:

    [www.mastercard.com]
    (click on Learn More About Debit Card Benefits)

    I would contact your bank to verify coverage! As someone who works in the finance industry, the bank I worked at when Visa discontinued coverage never notified its employees and we were referring people to Visa 911 until a three way call to Visa uncovered the discontinuation of coverage…

  46. lauy says:

    @ OwenCatherwood:

    Actually, any benefits programs offered for debit cards are administered by Visa/MasterCard, not the bank/CU they are issued by.

    Additionally, many rental car agencies will accept debit cards – I know this because there are a high number of check card disputes on rental car charges (dispute success for consumers and merchants is about 50/50; there are many invalid disputes filed by consumers and many abuses surrounding authorizations by merchants). Companies that accept debit cards usually have restrictions attached, like for local residents only (not typically for travelers renting at the airport, etc).

  47. theodicey says:

    @Jevia:

    So what’s the issue with excluding certain countries (and virtually all the same ones too)?

    Italy: car will be stolen

    Ireland: two lane country roads are 12 feet wide with immobile stone walls on both sides

    Jamaica: your car will be wrecked by joyriding carjackers

    Israel: Hamas terrorists will blow your car into a flaming wreck. Or, the IDF will bulldoze it because you’ve parked in front of a Palestinian house

    Australia and New Zealand: sheep on road

  48. theodicey says:

    Actually the real answer is that Australia, NZ and Ireland require local insurance. Probably because a lot of people have wrecked in rural areas where there aren’t any cops for 20 miles (or 200) and you have to be certain that everyone is well insured.

    As for Italy and Jamaica, it really is car theft.

  49. mannyv says:

    <
    So, when I use my AmEx to rent a car, can I decline the LDW and count on the Amex coverage, or can I count on the card’s coverage IF AND ONLY IF I already have personal insurance?
    >

    My understanding has always been that the card insurance kicks in after your normal insurance. If you don’t have normal insurance, then the card insurance kicks in instantly.

    However, it’s probably more prudent to clear this with the credit card company in question. OTOH, I rented tens of times with no incidents.

  50. booticon says:

    @stevejust: Well played. I agree with you 100%.

  51. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @Braff: You only pay when you rent a vehicle. $19 total for up to 28 days. There’s no annual fee. There is some coverage with the AMEX Gold card and Business card, but the premium eliminates all the deductibles et al. I can essentially put the car in a crusher, have a wrecker drop the compressed block of steel at the rental office, hand them my keys, and walk away.

  52. @theodicey: “Ireland: two lane country roads are 12 feet wide with immobile stone walls on both sides”

    It’s funny because it’s true!

    Except for the 5 1/2-foot-wide two-way country roads with 8-foot brambly hedges on both sides, with periodic cuts in the hedges where one of you us meant to back up and pull off to let the other by ….

    I loved driving in Ireland. There’s no road rage there! People are really nice about your inability to back down a bramble path in a Nissan Micra!

  53. Syrenia says:

    In my experience, the country exclusions vary by bank and change from year to year. MBNA Mastercard covered (and was the only one of my cards that didn’t exclude) Ireland when I went in ’99, but wouldn’t cover New Zealand in 2006. My Citibank Visa covered NZ that trip.

    I would certainly call the card issuer to confirm before relying on the coverage for any foreign trip, and probably ask for a copy of the info in writing.

    @theodicey: I was in NZ two months after this article was published, and I was not required to take out any extra insurance, nor was any such requirement mentioned. YMMV.

  54. Benny Gesserit says:

    @EarlNowak: I agree, I use DC coverage all the time – I easily save the annual card fee in coverage a couple of times over. (And I can’t speak for the American version but the Canuck versions “points” deal is awesome as well.)

  55. hipersons says:

    @mannyv: Actually, with Italy you’re are also required to take the local insurance.

    Finally, my regular car insurance does not cover me if I rent a car overseas. Therefore, and this is verified by a Visa specialist, my Visa card will be my Primary car insurance when I rent a car in France in a few weeks.

  56. Just to let people know, World MasterCards cover car rentals in Israel.

  57. god_forbids says:

    Having worked the rental counter @ Enterprise, I certainly felt for people playing the “where can I get the best coverage, cheapest?” game with their personal insurance, AMEX/MC/VISA/DISC/DC card, etc. The companies don’t make it easy, and some people got so scared when I talked about insurance that they spent an hour on the phone trying to wrestle info out of CSRs. Of course, they were still too cheap to buy our coverage.

    I was also frequently miffed by idiots who would go without any coverage b/c they were overconfident, invincible, etc. only to come back crying (or, more often, screaming) when crap went down. You CAN and WILL eat it for thousands of dollars, even IF everyone at the office is 100% honest and not vindictive (not always true). The crap that renters tried to pull on us to conceal or purposefully damage cars was the saddest part, though.

    How many of you want a quality rental experience and then always “drive it like a rental”? The next person is just as deserving of a good experience as you, and it is not I who has to drive it once you’ve destroyed the thing.

  58. alexiso says:

    I have a discover card and I thought I was covered, until I saw this. Discover even sent me information about how they cover trip insurance and rental insurance. Too bad they didn’t mention it wasn’t available on the card I had. Luckily nothing happened to the car that I denied coverage on since I thought discover had my back.

  59. Poster99 says:

    Any more “real life” experiences with rental car damage?

    I’d love to understand how things were actually handled by the CC’s companies, personal insurance companies or the rental car insurance companies. How was the cost of the damage assessed? How long did it take? Did you have to get a police report? etc.

  60. godospoons says:

    Ireland is not a complete wasteland. Last time I checked, Diner’s Club covers rentals in Ireland, the only card that consistently does so. Also, with their new marketing agreement in place with Mastercard, you can use it practically everywhere unlike in the olden days.

    Plus, they have primo customer service.

  61. @theodicey: Mexico is the same way – and if you have an accident in Mexico, and you’re found to not have the local insurance … well, hope you enjoy prison!

  62. weave says:

    I had someone hit-run my parked Hertz rental last year. I have the premium car rental insurance. I did the following:

    1) Called police
    2) While waiting for police to arrive, I called Amex, they took my info, and gave me a claim number to give Hertz
    3) I called Hertz after about 30 minutes of hunting for the damn correct number. Turns out you have to call the roadside assistance number.

    The car was still drivable so I took it back to the airport to swap for another car.

    WARNING — the checkin agent closed out my rental and the agent at the counter had a helluva time reopening it. At first they tried to tell me I would have to rerent at walk-up rates for the rest of the rental period and lose whatever I had left on the turned-in rental. Be sure to tell the check-in agent NOT to close out your rental.

    WARNING – I had to fill out a huge amount of paperwork. Took about two hours before I got a new car. If you’re turning in a damaged car before a flight, allow a lot of time for the paperwork. And this was at 5am when there were no customers at the counter.

    After that it was pretty easy. Hertz and Amex dealt directly with each other. I didn’t have to get my own insurance company involved. I got occasional status updates in the mail. Finally about three months later I got a letter from Amex saying they sent Hertz a check for ~$800 for damages but would not cover $161 in administrative fees plus $53 for loss of us unless I could get Hertz to confirm the administrative fees were above and beyond their normal cost of doing business and they had more than 80% cars rented at the time the vehicle was out. I just paid it.

  63. lihtox says:

    @god_forbids: Anyone who uses quality as an adjective (i.e. “a quality rental experience”) has worked in sales for too long, seems to me. :)

  64. god_forbids says:

    @lihtox: Right you are, sir! That place (and the customers) drove me completely batty.

  65. GiGiG says:

    On a business trip, I used my Amex to rent at Hertz. I received a complimentary upgrade because I was using the Amex. (Actually, I just learned “complimentary upgrade” really means “we ran out of compact cars” majority of the time it’s offered–they usually try to charge a nominal fee). Apparently, there was a dent on the passenger side of the car. When I tried filing a claim with Amex, they informed me they only cover compact cars (how ironic). The cost to repair the car was only a couple of hundred dollars, so I paid out of pocket. Oh well, one less pair of shoes this year… :)

    Now I know I only have to pay $19 when I rent next time. Thank you!

    Out of curiosity, I searched for other cards that offer discounts, upgrades, insurance, etc. and found this site called CardOffers.com. They actually have every card listed by reward programs, benefits; however, it doesn’t list the extra details/features/exclusions, but it was totally convenient.