HomeInsuranceHow credit card rental car insurance saves money on every rental

How credit card rental car insurance saves money on every rental

Whether traveling for work or pleasure, many travelers opt to rent a car for their trip. During checkout, rental car companies typically offer insurance policies for an additional cost. These policies cover the vehicle against damage and theft, injuries to others, and property damage.

While insurance offers protection, the premiums can quickly inflate the cost of a rental car. One way to reduce your expenses while protecting your vehicle is to utilize credit card rental car insurance benefits.

How do you get credit card rental car insurance?

Credit card rental car insurance is a common benefit of travel credit cards. These benefits are typically complimentary and automatically apply whenever you pay in full for a rental car with your eligible credit card. However, for your benefits to apply, you must decline the rental car company’s “collision damage waiver.” In plain English, you must turn down the insurance covering damage or theft to the rental car.

There are two primary forms of credit card rental car insurance – primary and secondary.

  • Primary. This coverage applies first during a claim without involving your personal auto insurance policy.
  • Secondary. Your personal auto insurance coverage applies first. These benefits can cover other out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles or claims over your coverage limits.

Richard Kerr, VP of Travel at Bilt Rewards, explains, “Primary coverage means eligible cardholders who pay for the rental with their card, or any authorized driver on the rental agreement, will have damage to the rental car covered and the vehicle cost covered in the case it is stolen without having to involve their personal insurance.”

If you don’t have personal auto insurance or your auto insurance doesn’t cover the rental car location, a card’s secondary insurance benefits may convert to primary insurance coverage.

How does rental car insurance work?

When you book a rental car and use your credit card to pay for the entire rental period, the card’s rental car insurance covers you against theft or damage to the vehicle. These benefits also cover loss of use by the rental car company, administrative fees and reasonable and customary towing charges.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, collision damage waiver  (CDW) coverage typically costs an extra $10 to $20 per day. Over a one-week rental, that’s a savings of $70 to $140.

If your rental car is damaged or stolen, you must contact your credit card company to file a claim. With primary rental car coverage, you don’t need to call your personal auto insurance. However, if you have secondary rental car coverage, your personal auto insurance coverage applies first.

The best way to check coverage amounts is to contact your card issuer or review the Guide to Benefits. This pamphlet typically arrives along with your new credit card. Some card issuers publish their Guide to Benefits online. An online search for “(card name) guide to benefits” may locate a digital copy of your card’s guide.

What coverage is included?

Credit card rental coverage protects travelers, but not all rentals are eligible for coverage. In most cases, this benefit covers personal use of a rental car, pickup truck, SUV or minivan for up to a limited number of consecutive days. The Chase Sapphire Reserve covers up to 30 days worldwide, while the Capital One Venture X limits coverage to 15 days domestically and 31 days internationally. Coverage limits for theft or damage are generally up to the vehicle’s actual cash value. Maximum coverage limits vary but are typically less than $75,000.

For example, insurance from your credit card covers rentals for a variety of mishaps that occur during your rental period, such as:

  • Door dings, dents and scratches
  • Damage from another car or object
  • Hail storms or other natural events
  • A stolen vehicle

What is not included?

Coverage from your credit card does not protect you against claims for injury to others or damage to other cars and property. It also does not protect against theft of your personal property from the vehicle. In short, credit card rental car insurance covers the car, not you.

To protect against those risks, you can either purchase those specific coverages from the rental car company or rely on your personal auto insurance policy.

The protection against theft or damage doesn’t cover all types of vehicles. Examples of vehicles that are not eligible for coverage are:

  • High-value motor vehicles, exotic cars and antiques
  • Cargo vans
  • Vehicles with open cargo beds
  • Motorcycles, mopeds and motorbikes
  • Limousines
  • Recreational vehicles (RVs)
  • Passenger vans with seating for more than nine people

Kerr warns that “credit card rental car insurance may not work in all countries. It is common that coverage does not extend to rentals in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel or Jamaica.”

Who does the policy cover?

When you are the primary renter and use your eligible credit card to pay in full, you are covered against theft or damage to the vehicle. If you add authorized drivers to your reservation, they are covered as well.

Some banks extend rental car insurance benefits to reservations made by authorized users of your credit card. However, they still must be the primary driver on the rental car reservation and pay for the entire rental with the credit card providing the coverage.

How do I file a claim?

If you are in an accident or something happens to your rental car, remember that every credit card company’s process is a little different. If your card offers primary rental car protection, you’ll contact your credit card company to begin the claims process. Cardholders with secondary rental car protection should contact their personal auto insurance company first.

Here’s an example of how credit card rental car insurance works with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which offers primary rental car protection.

  • Take notes and pictures. Having notes about the situation and pictures of your rental and the surrounding environment keeps your memory fresh and minimizes lost details that could be critical to your claim.
  • File a police report. A police report provides an independent assessment of the situation. Not all claims require a police report, but one is helpful to validate your claim.
  • Request documents from the rental car company. Get a copy of the repair estimate, itemized repair bill, a copy of the rental agreement and the demand letter indicating how much you’re responsible for.
  • Contact your credit card company. When you call the credit card company, they’ll put you in contact with the claims administrator. You should do this as soon as possible, as everything must be submitted before the deadline. Otherwise, your claim may be denied. The claims administrator will send you a claim form to complete.
  • Submit documents for review. Complete the claim form and submit it along with your supporting documents and a copy of your credit card statement showing the rental car charges before the deadline. Include any other documents that the claims administrator requests.

In some cases, you can submit your claim, the claim form and supporting documentation online. For the , the website is eclaimsonline.com.

The actual process and claims deadlines vary by credit card and card issuer. Contact your card issuer or review your “Guide to Benefits” for detailed instructions.

The takeaway

Credit card rental car insurance offers complimentary protection against theft or damage. You must be the primary driver on the reservation and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver insurance. You and any authorized drivers on the reservation are covered for eligible claims. Coverage limits and details vary by card and card issuer. Review your Guide to Benefits or contact customer service to confirm coverage details.

Primary coverage handles claims without involving your personal auto insurance. Secondary coverage kicks in after filing a claim with your own auto insurance policy. If you have a claim, document the incident with notes and photos and request a police report. Finally, file a claim with customer service and submit all required information as soon as possible. This ensures that your coverage protects you from unexpected financial obligations.

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