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rental-car-signThe question arises every time you rent a car: Do I really need rental car insurance?

Many rental agencies offer damage waivers for about $15 to $25 a day, selling peace of mind along with expanded coverage. But these waivers are often no better than the coverage you already have with your favorite credit card.

Depending on where you rent, the rental company’s liability for injury or property damage may be anywhere from $25, 000 to $50, 000. This could still leave a big bill for you to pay, but your credit card may also step in — sort of. All four major card networks offer rental insurance, but vary substantially in benefits and requirements.

In some cases, car-rental customers may want to purchase full coverage from the car-rental company to avoid the hassle of making a claim or reporting an accident to their primary insurer and the credit card issuer. Make sure you’re comfortable with that process before relying on your credit card’s secondary coverage.

You can also get primary coverage for your car rentals with these two credit cards:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the Nerds’ favorite travel cards, so it helps that it offers primary rental car insurance at no extra cost. You’ll earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Plus, the card has one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market: Earn 50, 000 bonus points after you spend $4, 000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

It has an $0 for the first year, then $95 after that, and doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.

If you’re a loyal United flyer and often rent cars, the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card might be the right choice for you. It offers 2 miles on every dollar spent on United flights and 1 point on all other purchases, plus a decent sign-up bonus: Start with 30, 000 bonus miles after you spend $1, 000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card has a $0 for the first year, then $95 after that, and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get your first checked bag fee waived with cardmembership.

What to know about credit card rental coverage

Before we review the rental car insurance benefits offered by each network, you should know that:

  • Generally, your credit card offers secondary rental insurance. This means that it will only pay for the cost of certain damages not covered by your regular car insurance policy.
  • As the cardholder, you must book the rental car with your credit card under your name to receive coverage. Only carrying a card that offers rental car insurance isn’t sufficient.
  • Typically, you must refuse the coverage offered by the rental car agency to receive rental car insurance benefits from your credit card. We’ll discuss exceptions to this general rule below.
  • This article applies to consumer credit cards. While many business credit cards offer rental car insurance, coverage levels could be substantially different from the benefits described below.
  • Cards in the same network may have varying levels of coverage. Some issuers don’t offer rental car insurance at all, while others set terms that differ from the network standard. Call your bank or check your card’s benefits statement to learn more about your specific card’s benefits.


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