The 7 Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Insurance

The right credit card rental car insurance coverage can save you big time if something goes wrong on a trip.
Last updated Jan 9, 2020 | By Ben Luthi
A row of rental cars

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A rental car can be an expensive part of a vacation, and paying for insurance on that vehicle only adds to the cost of the trip. With the right credit card, though, you can get the coverage you need to limit your liability without spending more than is necessary.

Regardless of which card you choose, there are some limitations to be aware of. Here’s everything you need to know and which credit cards have best car rental insurance.

The best credit cards for car rental insurance

What to look for in your credit card’s rental car insurance

The first thing to know about credit card rental car coverage is that it typically only provides a collision damage waiver (CDW), sometimes also called a loss damage waiver (LDW). This coverage can protect you if the car gets damaged, vandalized, or stolen during the rental period.

It doesn’t, however, provide liability insurance, which would protect you if you cause an accident and damage the other vehicle or injure other people in the process. As a result, adding that coverage may be worth considering for peace of mind.

Every credit card has some differences when it comes to its rental car insurance coverage. The biggest feature you’ll want to look for is whether the insurance is primary or secondary.

When the rental car insurance is considered primary, that means it will be your primary coverage if you need to file a claim. You don’t need to worry about involving your personal insurance company.

If you have secondary coverage, however, and you have an auto insurance policy for your car back home, you’ll need to file a claim with your primary insurer first. Then the credit card’s protection will kick in to cover your deductible and anything else your primary policy doesn’t cover.

Note: If you don’t have a personal auto insurance policy, secondary coverage on a credit card often becomes primary coverage.

As you consider which credit card has the best car rental insurance, here are some other features to look for and compare:

  • Coverage limits: Each policy has a limit for how much it will cover, and some cards offer a higher dollar amount than others.
  • Exclusions: Most credit card benefits exclude certain types of vehicles from coverage, such as exotic cars, motorcycles, and large vans. You may also find that your card won’t cover you in certain countries.
  • Length of coverage: Your credit card won’t cover a rental indefinitely, so it’s important to know just how long you’ll be covered, which can vary depending on if you’re traveling in the U.S. or overseas.

7 credit cards with the best car rental insurance

If having a credit card with great car rental insurance is important to you, a card with primary coverage is the way to go. But whichever card you choose, remember that you’ll need to decline the coverage offered by the car rental company and typically charge the full rental cost to your card.

If you’re wondering which credit card has the best car rental insurance, here are six cards that offer primary coverage — and one that doesn’t but is still worth considering.

Card Annual fee Rental car policy
Amex Platinum $550 Up to $75,000 in secondary coverage
Chase Sapphire Preferred $95 Up to the actual cash value of the vehicle in primary coverage
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550  Up to $75,000 in primary coverage
Ink Business Preferred $95 Up to the actual cash value of the vehicle in primary coverage when used for business purposes and abroad; coverage is secondary for personal use within the U.S.
Ink Business Unlimited $0 Up to the actual cash value of the vehicle in primary coverage when used for business purposes and abroad; coverage is secondary for personal use within the U.S.
United Explorer Card $95 (waived first year) Up to the actual cash value of the vehicle in primary coverage
United MileagePlus Club Card $450 Up to the actual cash value of the vehicle in primary coverage

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express offers up to $75,000 in secondary coverage to its cardholders, which is higher than the $50,000 limit you’d get with many other Amex cards. If your rental car is damaged or stolen, this can cover the actual cost to repair the vehicle, loss of use charges, appraisal fees, and towing and storage costs.

With this charge card, you’ll be covered for 30 consecutive days. Some exclusions and limitations include:

  • Using the rental car under the influence of alcohol or for off-road driving or illegal activity
  • Ineligible vehicles such as cargo vans, limousines, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs), and more. Exotic cars, however, are not excluded — check the benefits guide for a full list
  • Rentals in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and any country on the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) sanctioned country list
  • Injury to anyone or anything other than the rental car, personal liability, uninsured or underinsured motorists, worker’s compensation injuries, and disability benefits of any kind

While the card doesn’t offer primary coverage, Amex cardholders can purchase primary insurance from Amex for up to 42 consecutive days for $19.95 or $24.95 per rental period. Compare that with an average of $20 to $30 per day that you’d pay the rental car company.

Amex’s paid coverage includes up to $100,000 in CDW coverage, accidental death and dismemberment coverage, secondary medical expense coverage, and secondary personal property coverage.

In addition to rental car insurance, the Platinum Card from American Express also offers complimentary premium membership with Avis, Hertz, and National, which includes special upgrades and discounts.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred’s primary coverage offers up to the actual cash value of the rental vehicle, which is the fair market value of the car according to sources like the Kelley Blue Book and National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Guides.

Coverage applies to rentals of up to 31 consecutive days and covers physical damage and theft, loss-of-use charges, and reasonable and customary towing charges to the nearest qualified repair shop. Exclusions and limitations include:

  • Expensive, exotic, and antique cars; vans designed to carry more than nine people; vehicles with an open cargo bed; trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, motorbikes, limousines, and recreational vehicles
  • Costs covered through your personal auto insurance policy, your employer, or your employer’s insurance
  • Injury of anyone inside or outside of the vehicle
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Instead of providing primary coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle, as the Chase Sapphire Preferred does, the Chase Sapphire Reserve sets a limit of $75,000. Other than that, it carries all of the same terms, exclusions, and limitations that the Sapphire Preferred provides.

What does set this card apart, however, is that it gives you complimentary membership in premium rewards programs with Avis, National, and Silvercar. With these memberships, you can get access to upgrades and discounts, savings on luxury and premium rental car rates, and other promotions and offers.

Chase Ink Business Preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card offers primary coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle — but only if you’re using the rental for business purposes or you’re traveling abroad. Personal use within the U.S. gets secondary coverage.

For the most part, the card’s benefits administrator gives the same terms, exclusions, and limitations as the Chase Sapphire cards. To get the full details, however, you can read the card’s benefits guide.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Like the Ink Business Preferred, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited provides primary coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle, as long as you’re using the rental car for business purposes or you’re traveling internationally. If you’re traveling for pleasure within the U.S., coverage is secondary.

And just like the other Chase cards we’ve covered so far, you can expect similar terms, exclusions, and limitations as outlined above.

United Explorer Card

This United Explorer’s rental car insurance coverage mirrors that of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You’ll get primary coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle on rentals of up to 31 consecutive days. And because it’s also a Chase credit card, you can also expect similar terms, limitations, and exclusions on the policy.

United MileagePlus Club Card

This premium airline credit card provides the same coverage that you’ll get with the United Explorer Card. As a United MileagePlus Club cardholder, you’ll also get complimentary membership in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle, which includes the following:

  • Confirmed vehicle one-car-class upgrade up to a full-size class vehicle available at all participating locations in the U.S. and Canada as well as select European locations
  • Confirmed vehicle availability of economy class through full-size class in the U.S. and Canada with a minimum 48-hour advance reservation
  • Earn 25% more Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points when you elect to earn points
  • Receive 675 bonus rewards after every 15 qualifying rentals

Which credit card has the best car rental insurance?

Rental car insurance is a benefit you can get with plenty of credit cards, so it’s easy to overlook just how valuable this perk can be. While cards that offer primary coverage are the gold standard, you can still save money on your trip by using a card with secondary coverage.

Whatever you do, make sure to read your benefits guide before you book your rental car to understand what’s covered and what isn’t. And if you have an American Express credit card, consider taking advantage of the card issuer’s insanely cheap premium rental car protection. It’s not free, but it will save you a lot compared with what car rental companies charge and may come in handy for longer rentals.

But as you’re searching for the right card, avoid basing your decision on one feature alone. Compare each credit card based on its full rewards and benefits package.

Commonly asked questions about car rental and credit cards

Do all credit cards cover car rental insurance?

Not all credit cards cover car rental insurance, so don’t assume you’re covered just because you paid with a credit card. However, there are plenty of cards that do indeed provide rental insurance benefits. Generally, travel rewards credit cards have the most robust policies, but many cashback credit cards will cover rental insurance as well.

Do I need to buy additional insurance when renting a car?

If you have a credit card that provides a collision and loss damage waiver and you pay for the rental with that card, you may be able to skip purchasing additional insurance at the rental counter. That’s because your regular car insurance will typically provide you with liability coverage for rental cars.

If you don’t have car insurance or have low coverage limits and you’re not using a credit card with rental insurance benefits, it’s a good idea to buy insurance at the rental counter.

Can I pay for a car rental with points and still have rental coverage?

The answer to this question depends on which credit card you use. Some credit cards only provide rental coverage when you use your credit card to pay for the transaction, while others provide coverage even when you pay with points.

For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, you’ll be covered as long as you book your rental car with your card or with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

How much available credit do I need to rent a car?

To rent a car, you’ll need to use a credit card with enough available credit to cover the rental car company’s authorization charge in addition to the total cost of your rental car. Typically, rental car companies will place a hold on your credit card to cover any additional charges that might come up with your rental. These funds become unavailable to you during your rental and are released when you return the car. The charge varies by rental company: Hertz charges $200 on your card, while Enterprise charges a deposit that varies by location.

How can I save money on a rental car?

Rental car loyalty programs are a great way to earn points and save money on car rentals. For example, the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program lets you earn and redeem points for free rental days and also provides additional perks.

You can also use a travel rewards credit card that earns points on car rentals, so you’ll be able to get cash back or even pay for a future rental with points. Some cards even offer complimentary premium memberships at certain car rental companies. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gets you free access to premium loyalty programs at Hertz, Avis, and National.


Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Benefits

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $15 in free U.S. Uber rides each month ($20 in December)
  • $200 airline fee credit each year
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Terms apply