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If you don’t have a car, renting one can make lots of things easier, like a fun road trip, vacation, a tiring moving day, and more. But with convenience comes cost—on top of a GPS, tolls, and gas, how do you know if you should pay the rental company for an insurance policy too? Luckily, some credit cards (especially ones that promote travel) offer car insurance coverage for rentals.
With daily average prices ranging from $30 to $60, getting rental car coverage can add up over consecutive days. However, coverage from a rental car company or benefits from your credit card can save you from paying for big costs in the long run. Whether it’s for a rental vehicle or your personal car, an insurance policy can help. Compare car insurance quotes today.
Rental car companies offer multiple types of protection, and credit cards only cover some.
Travel credit cards are more likely to offer a rental car insurance policy in their benefits.
Not all credit cards offer car rental coverage, so check your perks with your card issuer.
Getting Rental Car Insurance from Your Credit Card
Do I need to purchase car insurance for my rental car if I have a credit card?
Many of the nation’s most popular credit cards have.
Thankfully, renting a car doesn’t require you to have a personal auto insurance policy. One of the beauties of renting is that you get the convenience of transportation without having to worry about the costs that come with owning a car, like monthly payments, registration, or an auto insurance policy. However, if you decide to rent, you should consider getting coverage.
Auto rental companies usually offer the minimum amount of coverage, so purchasing extra can give you peace of mind if you get into an accident. You can choose to buy additional coverage from the rental car company, get a policy independently through a third party, or use your credit card for coverage if rental car insurance is included in the benefits guide.
Many credit card issuers have dropped this protection for rental cars. However, credit cards that offer travel rewards are likely to offer travel car insurance, like covering a canceled trip, reimbursing for delays, providing roadside assistance like towing, and, you guessed it, offering insurance for a rental car.
If you choose to get rental protection through your credit card, you should know if your card offers primary coverage or secondary coverage. Primary is ideal, as filing a claim won’t raise your premium and you don’t have to meet your personal policy’s deductible.
Here’s what you need to know:
Primary coverage: This lets you file a claim directly through your credit card company. You can do this before applying for a reimbursement elsewhere, such as with a pre-existing insurance policy. With primary insurance, the good news is that filing a claim this way won’t raise your premium. However, very few credit cards offer this protection.
Secondary coverage: This comes in to help only after you get reimbursement or support from any other pre-existing insurance policies you might have. Turning to your credit card benefits is a second resort, but this coverage might reimburse you for any deductibles you would owe on another policy after filing a rental car claim.
The Types of Insurance Coverage for Car Rentals
Rental car companies typically have four different types of insurance coverage that you can accept or decline when you rent a car. While we always encourage getting insurance, it is important to note that other policies that you might already have—auto or other—may already cover some of these protections. Check with your insurance company if you have questions.
Type of car rental insurance coverage
What it covers
How to check if you already have this coverage
Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)
Damage to the rental car or theft
You might already have it through your credit card or car insurance policy.
Travel reward cardholders are most likely to only get this type of coverage from their credit card.
If you already have auto insurance, check to see if you have collision and comprehensive coverage. This could extend to a rental car if you rent in the U.S. or Canada. In this case, you would still need to pay your deductible.
Damage you cause to others’ vehicles or personal property
You might already have it through your car insurance policy.
Your own liability insurance might cover this if you rent a car in the U.S. or Canada. If you travel and rent elsewhere, check if your policy offers international protection. If it does not, you should consider buying this protection.
You can also get extra protection if your own car insurance policy only provides minimal liability coverage. At the rental company, this will typically cover damage ranging from $300,000 to $1 million.
Personal accident coverage
Medical costs if you and/or your passengers are hurt in an accident
You might already have it through your health insurance policy.
Also, personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage through your own car insurance policy will likely cover medical expenses (like ambulance or hospital bills) in the U.S. or Canada. Check to see if your pre-existing health insurance policy or travel medical insurance offers this coverage.
Personal effects coverage
Your belongings if they’re stolen from the rental car up to a certain cash value
You might already have it through your renters or homeowners insurance policy.
Check to see if your possessions are protected from theft, even when traveling out of the country. If you file a property claim on your own policy, note that your rates could increase, just like how it would with an auto insurance claim.
As you can see, most people might already have most (if not all) of these car rental insurance coverages, which makes buying them from the rental agency feel like a waste of money. Note that credit card benefits only apply to the first type of coverage. Cardholders with travel benefits should check if their benefits cover Loss Damage Waivers or Collision Damage Waivers.
If you don’t already own a policy that offers these types of coverage, you might want to consider buying insurance from the car rental company. Otherwise, you’d be stuck paying for bills and damage out of pocket if you rent uninsured. Also, be mindful that filing a claim on your own policies for any accidents or theft, even in a rental car, could raise your premium.
Benefits vary from issuer to issuer, so be sure to do research to figure out which credit card company is the best fit for you, your lifestyle, and your travel needs. An easy way to check if your credit card offers insurance on rental cars is by calling the customer service number (typically on the back of your card) or reading your benefits statement.
There are a ton of rewards credit cards, but here are a few of our top picks:
Chase Sapphire Reserve: At the top for luxury travelers, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is great for those who frequently spend on travel, including accommodations, transportation, and dining out. The annual fee of $550 might seem shockingly high at first, but cardholders get $300 back in travel credits redeemable for travel points.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Better for basic travel, this card offers big rewards for those who travel and dine out often, but at a much cheaper annual fee of $95. It’s still easy to rack up points when you swipe the Preferred, but with lower APR rates and with a more accessible credit score than the Reserve.
Chase gives both Reserve and Preferred cardholders access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, where they can redeem points for a number of perks, like travel. Chase doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on either of these cards, and users have access to cashback on everyday debit card spending for up to a year.
Ink Business Preferred: A business credit card offered by Visa, this is a great choice for business-related travel and purchases. With a modest annual fee of $95, this caters to those who travel frequently and offers rewards for common business expenses. Another bonus: it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.
United Explorer Card: For those who find themselves flying United more than other airlines, this is a good option to get rewarded for staying loyal to the airline. Fliers earn two miles per dollar spent on dining, hotels, and United purchases. Also, the annual fee is waived the first year and only costs $95 after that.
Whether you go with Amex, Capital One, Citi, or another, know that specific terms apply. Check if there are any exclusions on card benefits and rental coverage, especially outside of your country of residence. For example, Visa and Mastercard exclude coverage for rentals in Israel, Jamaica, and Ireland, while American Express cards exclude Italy, Australia, and New Zealand.
People who rent cars more frequently might want to consider getting a credit card that offers travel rewards (if they don’t already have one). While other insurance policies are likely to offer some of the coverage needed for rentals, having a travel-centered credit card offers some significant benefits—and rental insurance is just one of the many perks.
Reading the fine print on a rental agreement can be boring, but getting car insurance doesn’t have to be. Insurify makes it quick and easy to get coverage from your own policy. If getting a new credit card isn’t an option or you just want to save on rates, use our tools to find the best deal on car insurance policies. We help you compare quotes side-by-side so you can save.
Do I need to have my own car insurance policy if I rent a car?
Nope! One of the best things about renting a car is that you get the ease of transportation without paying any of the other expenses that come with car ownership. However, you still want to make sure you’re covered if an accident happens. This is where coverage offered by your credit card or other policies comes in handy.
How do I make sure my credit card’s rental car coverage applies?
Be sure to pay for the rental with the right card! People might forget to use their travel cards when they go on vacation. In order to get your card’s coverage, make sure you’re paying for the rental with the appropriate card and decline any other coverage from the car rental agency that you might already have.
How do I know what credit card is right for me?
There are countless credit cards out there, but here are some tips for which one might be best for car rental insurance. Check if the coverage is primary or secondary. If secondary, you might want to consider other policies you have. Speak with an agent and go through the benefits package in detail to see what is—or isn’t—covered.
If I can’t get a credit card, how else can I get protection on a rental?
Credit cards can offer great perks but might require a certain credit score or an annual fee. Thankfully, you don’t need credit card coverage to feel safe in a rental—you can rely on your own car insurance policy too. Insurify makes it easy to find affordable rates from trustworthy companies. Just spend a few minutes setting up your profile to get your free quote today!
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Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.
Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.