Rental car insurance can be very expensive if you buy it with a rental car agency. Luckily, many cards offer primary or secondary rental car insurance. Almost all of the cards only cover damage to the rental car and not damage to other cars, so you will still need to carry basic liability coverage.
Generally, you need to (1) pay for the entire rental with the credit card, (2) decline the rental car company’s collision coverage, and (3) be listed as the primary driver of the vehicle. Authorized users are usually covered as well under the coverage.
- If you are traveling in a foreign country, I do recommend you contact the card issuer you are planning on using to obtain a proof of coverage letter. This call is also beneficial to verify that particular country is not on the excluded countries list.
What is Primary Coverage?
The credit card company covers the cost of the repairs to the rental car if you or an authorized driver are in an accident. Your insurance will not have to pay anything towards the repair of your rental car. Your personal liability insurance will have to pay for any damage to any other car, person, or property.
Credit Cards that offer Primary Coverage for Rental Cars
- Chase- Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ritz Carlton, United Explorer, and United Club Card. For business cards, you need to rent for a business purpose to get covered under the Ink Preferred, Ink Cash, or the United Explorer Business card. (Contact E-Claims Line if you have an accident)
- Other Cards: US Bank Altitude Reserve and CNB Crystal Visa.
What is Secondary Coverage?
Your personal insurance pays first and the credit card covers the remainder. However, you can usually get your deductible covered by the credit card company. If you don’t have personal collision insurance, then the credit card company is the primary insurance.
Cards that offer Secondary Coverage for Rental Cars
- Most American Express Cards offer secondary rental car insurance. You can purchase primary rental car insurance for either $19.95 or $24.95 per rental car period.
You are not covered in a few situations. Usually, if you (1) take the car off-road, (2) are renting a car more than 20 years old, (3) renting in some foreign countries (check the fine print, usually Ireland and Jamaica), (4) renting longer than 30 days, (5) driving for Uber/Lyft, (6) driving an exotic car, (7) driving a large van or truck, (8) if you do something very stupid like leaving the car running with the key in it, or (9) you fail to file a claim within a reasonable period of time (45-60 days).
Chase Language (from Reserve Card)
What is Auto Rental CDW?
The Auto Rental CDW benefit provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft of most rental vehicles up to seventy-five thousand ($75,000.00) dollars. It is primary coverage which means you do not have to file a claim with any other source of insurance before you can receive coverage under this benefit.
What steps do I need to take to ensure that Auto Rental CDW is in effect when I rent a vehicle?
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Initiate and complete the entire rental transaction using your card that is eligible for the benefit.
2) Decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver or similar provision if it is offered to you. The company may refer to the collision damage waiver as CDW or LDW in their contract or when speaking with you. If you accept the collision damage waiver offered by the rental company, you will not be eligible for Auto Rental CDW.
What if the auto rental company insists that I purchase its car insurance or collision damage waiver?
Call the Benefit Administrator for help.
Is there anything else I should do when I’m renting a vehicle?
It’s always good practice to review the rental agreement and become familiar with its terms and conditions. Also, make sure you decline the rental company’s CDW/LDW option as mentioned above. Check the vehicle for prior damage before leaving the rental lot. If you notice damage, report it to your rental agent before leaving the lot.
Who is eligible for coverage?
You, a person to whom a United States (U.S.) credit card has been issued (“Cardholder”) and your name is embossed on the card. You are then covered as the primary renter of the vehicle and any additional drivers permitted to operate it under the terms of the rental agreement (“Authorized Person”) are also covered.
When and where am I covered?
The benefit is available in the United States and most foreign countries. Coverage is not available where it is prohibited by law or by individual merchants, or is in violation of the territory terms of the rental agreement. Please note: Regulations vary outside the United States, so we recommend that you check with your auto rental company and Benefit Administrator before you travel to make sure your Auto Rental CDW will apply.
This benefit is in effect while the rental vehicle remains in your control or in the control of another Authorized Person. Coverage ends when the rental company reassumes control of the vehicle.
What is covered?
Auto Rental CDW reimburses you for covered losses to the rental vehicle while it is in your control or in control of another Authorized Person. The benefit only covers vehicle rental periods that do not exceed or are not intended to exceed thirty-one (31) consecutive days within or outside of your country of residence.
Covered losses are:
- Physical damage and/or theft of the covered rental vehicle
- Valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company while the damaged vehicle is being repaired and is not available for use, as substantiated in the company’s fleet utilization log
- Reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility.
Auto Rental CDW is primary coverage and provides reimbursement up to seventy-five thousand ($75,000.00) dollars. Most private passenger automobiles, minivans, and sport utility vehicles are eligible for coverage, but some restrictions may apply.
What types of rental vehicles are not covered?
Excluded worldwide are: antique automobiles; certain vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.
- An antique automobile is defined as any vehicle over twenty (20) years old or any vehicle that has not been manufactured for ten (10) years or more.
- This benefit is provided only for those vans manufactured and designed to transport a maximum of eight (8) people and which are used exclusively to transport people.
What Else is Not Covered? (Condensed)
- Loss due to off-road operation of the rental vehicle
- Loss or damage as a result of the Cardholder’s lack of reasonable care in protecting the rental vehicle before or after damage occurs (for example, leaving the vehicle unattended and running)
- Losses for which a claim form has not been received within one hundred (100) days† from the date of the loss
- Losses for which all required documentation has not been received within three hundred and sixty-five (365) days from the date of loss
- Losses reported more than sixty (60) days from the date of loss
What documentation do I need to provide to the Benefits Administrator?
- The completed and signed Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver Claim Form: Your completed claim form must be postmarked within one hundred (100) days of the date of theft or damage, even if all other required documentation is not yet available. If your claim form is not postmarked within this time frame, your claim may be denied.
- A copy of your receipt or monthly billing statement showing that the entire vehicle rental was charged to and paid for with your eligible card.
Also, enclose all the documents you received from the car rental company. You should ask the rental company for these documents immediately at the time of the theft or damage or when you return the vehicle to the company:
- A copy of the Accident Report Form and claim document: this should indicate the costs you are responsible for and any amounts that have been paid toward the claim.
- A copy of the entire auto rental agreement(s)
- A copy of the repair estimate or itemized repair bill
- Two (2) photographs of the damaged vehicle, if available
- A police report, if obtainable
- Any other documentation deemed necessary, in the Benefit Administrator’s sole discretion, to substantiate the claim