Credit Cards and Car Rental Insurance: Are You Protected?
Your credit card might cover you when you rent a car. One of the basic tenets of credit cards and rental car insurance has always been if you charge the rental to your credit card, it's possible that you have sufficient insurance coverage between your normal auto policy and the coverage offered by the card issuer. Getting the coverage you need on a rental car may be possible with the combination of your auto policy and your credit card issuer, but it is always important to read the fine print of any contract.
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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021
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Does your credit card offer enough coverage when you rent a car? (image by chattahbox.com)
Does your credit card offer enough coverage when you rent a car? (image by chattahbox.com) We’ve covered the myriad of car insurance issues when you rent a car many times. One of the basic tenets of renting a car has always been that if you charge the rental to your credit card, it’s possible that you likely have sufficient insurance coverage between your normal auto policy and the coverage being offered by the card issuer. A new report by CreditCards.com indicates that it may be time to rethink that idea.
According to the report, a rental car company has begun adding extra fees – ones they’ve had on their rental agreements for years – that they incur when a customer damages a rental car, such as fees for taking a rental vehicle out of commission, which results in lost income for the rental agency.
These extra fees aren’t covered by anyone. Your auto insurance company will not pay them, as they’ll only handle damages. The aforementioned credit card companies won’t pay for them either, leaving consumers on the hook to pay these fees out of their own pockets.
Getting the coverage you need on a rental car may be possible with the combination of your auto policy and your credit card issuer, but it is always important to read the fine print of any contract. So you need to know what your credit card issuer will and will not pay for in the event you wreck an automobile you’ve rented. This way, you also know when you’re really getting cheap car rentals and when the extra fees will pile up.
Since many of us don’t read that fine print, which in this case, would be listed under “exclusions” to the insurance protection offered by the credit card companies, we’re covering some of the bigger exclusions here. They cut a wide swath. So they cannot be ignored.
The big five (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diners Club) all exclude certain types of vehicles from their coverage. While we can see the need to exclude high performance vehicles, exotic cars and motorcycles from such coverage, we cannot say the same for excluding pickup trucks – a vehicle that every credit card company excludes from coverage.
Many of the credit card issuers also refuse to cover SUVs and luxury models as well. So if you’re renting something beyond the typical family sedans most car rental places have as their primary rentals, you probably will not have the standard insurance policy of your credit card protecting you.
How Long Will Insurance Companies Cover Your Rental?
Another across the board exclusion is the length of time the insurance is in effect – as in how long you can rent the car and be covered. These limits range from the industry low of 15 days by Visa, up to 45 days for Discover. Discover’s 45 day policy only covers commercial accounts, though.
Certain countries are excluded from coverage as well. So if you’re renting a car overseas, you’ll need to know if the country you’re in presents such problems. Discover is the only card issuer that doesn’t have countries excluded from coverage, and the other four issuers all exclude Jamaica, Ireland and Israel. Some issuers go well beyond those three nations. Real users provide feedback through reviews, often showing unexpected bumps in the road.
Finally, each card’s insurance policy has a policy limit, just like auto insurance. Visa’s coverage is limited to actual cash value of the rental car, whereas Diners Club offers coverage up to $100,000. Discover offers a maximum payout of just $25,000.
Don’t fret – it is possible to ensure you have the proper amount of insurance coverage without resorting to purchasing the expensive, non-insurance plans offered by all car rental companies. A little research and reading (and remembering) the fine print of your credit card agreement can give you peace of mind that you’re covered if you wreck a rental car.
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How Can You Be Sure You Have The Right Coverage?
Whether you’re buying insurance or applying for a credit card, you should always compare your options. See what the fees are and what you’re getting. Make sure you know everything you can up front. The same goes when choosing a car rental company.
Car rental companies offer extra insurance coverage in case of a disaster. Most of the time, your auto insurance or credit card companies will cover you. To quote car insurance options, enter your zip code and answer a few questions in our calculator. Then get quotes from companies near you and see which plan makes sense for your driving needs.