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Best Credit Cards for Car Rental of 2019

Jennifer Blocker
Updated on: 01/14/2019

While it’s easy to focus on the big perks offered by rewards credit cards, like sign-up bonuses, free checked bags, bonus categories for purchases, lounge access and outsized redemption values, there’s one often overlooked benefit that can easily save you hundreds of dollars. If you frequently rent a car, or even rent one just once or twice a year, you’re going to want to get a credit card that offers rental car insurance. If you do, you can skip the expensive add-on insurance offered by the rental agency and save a ton of cash.

Get Free Rental Car Coverage With Your Credit Card

Whenever you rent a car, you’ll be offered some sort of insurance by the agency. Depending on who you rent from, they’ll call it either a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or a Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). Getting this added coverage is important because it can protect you financially in the case of an accident. But it can be expensive, sometimes adding $30 or more per day to a rental. Luckily, there’s no reason forego the coverage and the peace of mind it offers. Some credit cards will give you this insurance for free. You just have to pay for your rental with the right credit card.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Rewards Program
Venture® Rewards
about this credit card:
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
    • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
    • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
    • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Travel Benefits

Premium Hotel Benefits:

Enjoy perks, such as room upgrades and free breakfast, at over 900 Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection properties.

No Foreign Transaction Fee:

You’ll never have to pay additional fees to use your card while traveling abroad.

Complimentary Concierge Services:

24/7 assistance for dinner reservations, booking travel and special access to sporting and entertainment events.

Why should you get this card?

  • A Generous Sign-up Bonus: The 50,000-mile sign up bonus can be redeemed for $500 worth of travel.
  • Earnings Add up Quickly: Every dollar you spend earns 2 miles, not 1.5 or 1 like other cards. There are no categories or promotions to keep track of.
  • It’s Easy to Redeem Miles: Find the best travel deal, pay with your Venture Rewards card and redeem your miles for a statement credit to erase your purchase. Or just redeem your miles online from the Capital One Rewards Center.

Our Expert's Conclusion

With a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles and the ongoing earning power of two miles for every dollar spent, there’s a good case for owning the Venture card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and you’ll have $460 to spend on travel once you’ve made the required $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. That makes this card a solid contender for your everyday spending. However, if you’re not going to be able to spend a minimum of $3,000 a year on the card, you would be better off selecting a card that has no annual fee.

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Venture® Rewards
about this credit card:
    • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
    • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
    • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
    • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
    • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
    • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn

Travel Benefits

Travel Upgrades and Savings:

Free upgrades and discounts at select hotels and resorts are part of the Visa Signature card benefits.

Complimentary Concierge Service:

Enjoy free assistance 24-hours a day, even while you’re traveling.

No Foreign Transaction Fee:

Use your card anywhere in the world and never pay additional fees.

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potential: You’ll get bonus points for every purchase you make. No matter what you buy, you’ll earn 1.25 miles for every dollar spent. Those miles will add up fast.
  • Hassle-Free Redemptions: Miles can be applied to any travel purchases, not just airfare. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or limited award space because you buy the travel you want and then apply miles to the purchase.
  • No Annual Fee: It’s hard to be a rewards card that does not charge an annual fee. Every reward you earn is essentially free!
  • Sign-Up Bonus: For a no-fee card, 20,000 miles is an excellent sign-up bonus. It’s worth $200 in travel. All you have to do is spend $1,000 during the first three months you have the card.

Our Expert's Conclusion

If you’re looking for a no-fee rewards card that offers a solid sign-up bonus and hassle-free redemptions, than the the VentureOne card from Capital One is a great option. You’ll get 20,000 miles worth $200 for spending just $1,000 in 90 days, plus you’ll earn a generous 1.25 miles per dollar for every purchase.

Getting the card is a risk-free proposition because it won’t cost you a penny. Whatever miles you earn with the card are pure profit because there aren’t any fees. You can even use the card while traveling internationally, since there are no foreign transaction fees either.

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

To apply for this offer please contact
Barclaycard

Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
0% (first 12 billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening)
Regular APR
18.24%, 22.24% or 25.24% variable based on your creditworthiness
Annual Fee
$89 (waived first year)
Rewards Program
Barclaycard Arrival Rewards
about this credit card:
    • Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
    • NEW - Control Your Card - Instantly secure your accounts by locking your cards with Barclays SecurHold™, plus set transaction limits and block certain purchase categories for you or your authorized users. Available only on the Barclays mobile app.
    • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
    • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
    • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing

Travel Benefits

24/7 Concierge:

You have access to a complimentary concierge any time of day. This service works like a personal assistant to help with reservations, hard-to-find items, and more.

No foreign transaction fee:

You can earn miles outside the U.S. without worrying about extra fees.

Why should you get this card?

  • Valuable Sign-Up Bonus: This card comes with a sign-up bonus worth $700 toward any travel purchase.
  • Excellent Everyday Earning: You’ll get 2 miles for each dollar you spend. That will add up fast.
  • Easy to Redeem: Your miles aren’t tied to a loyalty program. Just buy the flight you want and redeem miles toward that purchase. There are no blackout dates or limited award space.

Our Expert's Conclusion

The short answer is absolutely. Depending on your travel and spending habits, this card may or not make sense for you after the first year when you start paying the annual fee, but earning 70,000 miles after meeting the minimum spend and earning 2X miles on all purchases are tremendous benefits. Not only that, but if this becomes your go-to card, miles will rack up fast, and with the 5 percent redemption bonus, that’s like earning 2.1 percent back on every purchase, every day. This card is just as good as any other cashback card currently on the market.

  • Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • NEW - Control Your Card - Instantly secure your accounts by locking your cards with Barclays SecurHold™, plus set transaction limits and block certain purchase categories for you or your authorized users. Available only on the Barclays mobile app.
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
Rating: 93/100
Citi Premier℠ Card

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
18.24%-26.24%* (Variable)
Annual Fee
$95
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
about this credit card:
    • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
    • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
    • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
    • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Travel Benefits

No Foreign Transaction Fees:

Never pay an extra fee to use this card outside the U.S.

Concierge Service:

Citi Concierge provides help with travel, shopping and dining.

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potental: Generous double and triple point-earning categories, including all travel and gas purchases.
  • Discount on ThankYou Travel Purchases: Get a 25 percent rebate when redeeming for travel through the ThankYou Rewards travel portal.
  • Flexible Redemption Options: You’ll always find a use for your points with 15 airline transfer partners.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: This card is great for earning rewards while traveling abroad.

Our Expert's Conclusion

You can get excellent value out of ThankYou points, particularly if you transfer them to airlines and redeem for expensive premium cabin tickets. If you are a traveler that often books the cheapest economy class ticket, then there can also be strong value in redeeming points through the ThankYou program’s travel portal thanks to the 25 percent discount offered by this card.

If you are interested in domestic award travel or simple award redemptions, this card may prove to be too complex. Instead, consider cards with more domestic transfer partners. You may not get quite the same value for your points, but there will be more availability and easier redemptions.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% to 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
Rewards Program
MileagePlus®
about this credit card:
    • Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
    • Plus, earn an additional 20,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $8,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months after your account is open.
    • 2 miles per each $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations.
    • 2 miles per each $1 spent on United purchases.
    • 1 mile per each $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open.
    • No blackout dates.

Travel Benefits

Priority Boarding:

The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding.

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection:

Cardholders receive the benefits of the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC) program when booking through an LHRC travel specialist.

Complimentary United Club Passes:

Enjoy airport lounge access with two free United Club passes every year you have the card.

Why should you get this card?

  • Big Sign-Up Bonus: The 60,000-mile sign-up bonus can get you at least $750 in travel. If you are strategic with your miles, it could be worth over $1,500.
  • Free Checked Bags: Between you and your companion, you can save up to $100 in checked baggage fees per round-trip booking.
  • Extra Award Availability: Cardholders get access to extra saver level award space and guaranteed standard level award space when flights are available for purchase.

Our Expert's Conclusion

If you’re looking for a great sign-up bonus to help you book free flights with United or one of its Star Alliance partners, the MileagePlus Explorer card might be just what you need. With a 60,000-mile sign- up bonus, you’ll be well on your way.

Since the annual fee waived for the first year, you have time to see if the card is right for you before making a long-term decision. After the first year, the annual fee will be 95 .

  • Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Plus, earn an additional 20,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $8,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months after your account is open.
  • 2 miles per each $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations.
  • 2 miles per each $1 spent on United purchases.
  • 1 mile per each $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open.
  • No blackout dates.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% to 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Rewards Program
Ultimate Rewards®
about this credit card:
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
    • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018.
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • No foreign transaction fees.
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
    • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel Benefits

Concierge Service:

No matter the time of day, Chase promises that a representative will answer your call to answer questions about your card or to assist with travel arrangements, dining reservations, show tickets and more.

No Foreign Transaction Fee

No fees for using the Sapphire Preferred for non-U.S. dollar purchases abroad or online.

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potential: You’ll earn two points for every dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases, and one point per dollar for everything else.
  • Big Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers a lucrative 60,000 points sign-up bonus
  • Transfer Partners: The Ultimate Rewards program offers several great airline and hotel transfer partners. Popular airline options include United Airlines and Air France, and great hotel chains include Hyatt and Marriott.

Our Expert's Conclusion

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for just about everybody. Whether you’re just getting started with travel rewards cards or you’re a frequent business traveler, this card offers many great benefits including a big sign-up bonus, a great earning rate on spending and a host of other travel benefits.

On top of that, 0 bonus points are a great way to pad your Ultimate Rewards balance or to get you started. And because you always earn double points on travel and dining purchases, the mid- range annual fee of $0 first year, then $95, makes this a great card to keep beyond the first year and to also keep at the top of your wallet.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Compare Rental Car Insurance Credit Cards

Compare all credit cards by RE® Value, which is an estimate of how much you will earn during first year of credit card use minus annual fees.

Credit Card
Bonuses & Rewards
First Year Rewards
FEES
RE® value
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 48,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$980
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$980
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 20,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 30,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$500
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$500
Citi Premier℠ Card

Citi Premier℠ Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,285
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,190

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,360
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$1,360

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 40,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,071
FEES
-$99
RE® value
$972
Hilton Honors American Express Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 75,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 72,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$470
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$470
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 100,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 48,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,362
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,267
Marriott Rewards® Premier Business credit card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Business credit card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 75,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$911
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$911
Hilton Honor American Express Ascend Card

Hilton Honor American Express Ascend Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 125,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 72,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$630
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$535
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,429
FEES
-$400
RE® value
$1,029
RCI® Elite Rewards® MasterCard®

RCI® Elite Rewards® MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 2,500 Rewards sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 Rewards for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$265
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$265
SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

Bonuses & Rewards
  • $0 sign-up bonus.
  • $240 for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$240
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$240
U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Select Rewards Card

U.S. Bank Business Edge™ Select Rewards Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 20,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$386
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$386
American Express Gold Card

American Express Gold Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 35,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,168
FEES
-$250
RE® value
$918
The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,720
FEES
-$550
RE® value
$1,170
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,512
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,417
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,632
FEES
-$450
RE® value
$1,182
Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,347
FEES
-$495
RE® value
$852

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card

Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,411
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$1,411
Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card

Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 36,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,633
FEES
-$450
RE® value
$1,183

What You Need to Know About Rental Car Insurance

As with any insurance, nothing’s simple when it comes to rental car coverage. To help you navigate this potential minefield, we’ve put together a little guide covering the basics. What’s covered? Do you really need to worry about added insurance? Is it worth getting a card just for rental cars? What if you don’t have your own personal insurance? Let’s take a look.

  • Primary vs. Secondary Insurance

    If you have car insurance on your own car, you’re most likely already covered for your rental, particularly if you have comprehensive and liability coverage. If you aren’t sure, you definitely need to check with your insurance company. This is very important if you decide to decline the CDW or LDW offered by the rental agency and coverage is not supplemented by your credit card. You could be in serious trouble financially if you’re in an accident and don’t have any coverage at all.

    There are two types of car rental insurance offered through credit cards: secondary and primary. Secondary insurance kicks in after your personal car insurance coverage is exhausted. It’s essentially added insurance that pays for the costs not covered by your primary insurance, which in this case would be your personal auto insurance. If a credit card includes auto rental coverage, it’s most likely secondary insurance. Check with the card issuer to figure out what coverage they offer, if any.

    If you add CDW or LDW coverage through the rental car company, it will become your primary insurance. That means that your personal insurer won’t see a claim if you have an accident and damage the rental. This is the most expensive option, but also the most hassle-free.

    While you may have to pay $30 or more a day, you’re personal insurance rates won’t go up if you have an accident. It also means that if you damage the rental card, you can simply hand off the keys to the rental company and have them deal with the details. You won’t have to negotiate coverage with your personal insurer or your credit card issuer.

    There is another way, though. There are some credit cards that actually offer primary rental insurance as a free benefit. If you rent often, you’re going to want one of these cards. We’ll get into the specific cards to look for at the end of the article, but Chase is the major issuer offering this perk. Most other banks, if they offer any rental coverage at all, will give you secondary insurance.

  • Liability Coverage

    If you’re getting auto rental insurance through your credit card, it probably does not include liability coverage. That is, it will only cover damages done to the rental car itself. So if you’re at fault, and you cause damage to other cars and personal property or injuries to yourself and others, you’re liable for those expenses.

    In many cases, you’re personal auto insurance will kick, but not always. And many states require some liability coverage to be built into the cost of the rental itself, but this is usually a small amount that wouldn’t be enough to cover a major accident.

    So what do you do? You can ask the rental company for the amount of liability coverage included with the rental. If it’s not enough, make sure your personal car insurance offers additional coverage. Some rental companies will offer supplemental liability coverage, too. Be sure to ask about this if you need it. It’s different than the standard CDW and LDW they offer.

  • Domestic vs. International Rentals

    If your credit card offers secondary auto rental insurance, it will become primary coverage when you rent internationally as long as your personal auto insurance does not cover you while traveling abroad. Most policies don’t.

    That’s great, but you might still want to consider buying insurance through the rental agency. If you do, then you won’t have to deal with the hassle of contacting the card company and waiting for the process to work itself out.

    If you’re on vacation abroad, you probably don’t want to spend your time dealing with insurance. If you bought through the rental agency, it becomes their responsibility to work out the details of the coverage. Depending on the cost and your schedule, it might be worth the extra cost to avoid any hassle that could potentially ruin your big vacation.

    Another issue with international rentals is that many cards don’t offer coverage in specific countries. Presumably there are legal reasons for this, but the important part is to make sure you have some sort of coverage. The list of excluded countries sometimes varies, but often includes Australia, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica and New Zealand.

  • Which Cars Are Covered

    Credit card car rental insurance doesn’t typically cover every type of car. You’ll be safe with the standard categories of rentals, such as compact, intermediate and full-sized cars, but you might not be covered for specialty cars.

    If you plan to get a passenger van, pick-up truck, antique car, motorcycle or any sort of high-end luxury vehicle, be sure to contact your card issuer to see if you’ll be covered. If not, contact your personal auto insurance company. You may not be covered there, either. Many insurers won’t cover cargo trucks, like U-Hauls, either.

  • If You Don’t Have Personal Auto Insurance

    Believe it or not, some people don’t own a car. If you don’t, then you won’t have any coverage through personal car insurance. The good news is that, like international rentals, any secondary coverage through a credit card will automatically become primary coverage.

    The bad news is that the coverage probably won’t include liability. Again, check with your card issuer and the rental agency. If you’re not going to be covered for liability, you may be stuck getting rental agency’s extra coverage.

  • Paying With Points or Miles

    Unfortunately, most cards won’t offer protection unless you pay for at least one full day, if not the entire rental, with the card. That means that if you pay for a rental entirely with points or miles, you won’t get coverage through your card.

    There is one exception to this rule, though, and that’s the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you get a rental through the portal with your Ultimate Rewards points, you will have rental coverage through your Chase credit card.

  • How Long Will You Be Covered

    Another limit to credit card auto rental insurance is the length of the coverage. Some cards limit their insurance to a maximum of 15 consecutive days or less, while others offer over 40 days. Check with your card issuer if you’re planning on renting for a long period of time. Remember, you can always return a rental and get a different car part way through your vacation, thus resetting the time limit.

Credit Cards With the Best Rental Coverage

If you ever rent a car, you’re going to want a credit card that has the best auto rental insurance benefits. That means you should look for a card that comes with primary coverage. Most just offer secondary, which kicks in only after you personal auto insurance, which means that the accident will go on your record and your rates will likely go up.

While it’s harder to find a card with primary rental coverage, there are still plenty of options. Let’s take a look at some of these cards.

  • Chase Sapphire

    Both of the Chase Sapphire cards — Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® — offer primary car rental coverage for up to 31 days. That’s a fantastic benefit, making these already great cards even more appealing.

    These cards are part of the excellent and flexible Ultimate Rewards program. You can either transfer the points you earn to a variety of travel partners, including seven airlines, or redeem them directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. If you do that, you can still get rental coverage even if you pay with points. That’s something no other credit card allows you to do.

    The Sapphire Preferred is the more affordable of the two cards. It has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. You’ll get a 60,000-point sign-up bonus, double points for travel and dining purchases and 25 percent more in travel redemptions made through the UR portal.

    That means that your points would be worth 1.25 cents each through the UR website, instead of the standard value of one cent. That’s not bad considering that the prices are competitive with other websites and that you can get just about any travel you want, including hotels, airfare and car rentals.

    The Sapphire Reserve is notably more expensive with a $450 annual fee that is not waived the first year. While the sign-up bonus is the same as the Preferred’s, you’ll get a lot of other perks with this card that can justify the added cost.

    Right off the bat, you’ll get an annual $300 travel credit that will automatically be applied to your account, covering any travel purchases you’ve made. That alone brings down the net cost of the card to just $150. You’ll also get complimentary airport lounge access with a Priority Pass Select membership, reimbursement for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees and triple points for travel and dining purchases.

    Your points are worth more, too. You’ll be able to get 50 percent more travel through the UR portal, which translates to 1.5 cents per point. So the 60,000-point sign-up bonus is worth $750 in travel through the portal with the Reserve card. This card definitely pays for itself if you use all of the perks and benefits.

  • Chase Ink Business

    In addition to the Sapphire cards, small business owners might consider the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card or Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card. They both offer primary rental coverage, though you must be using the car for business purposes in order to qualify.

    Both are excellent cards that have some nice bonus earning categories for purchases and solid sign-up bonuses. If you travel enough, though, the Ink Business Preferred will be more lucrative since you’ll be able to squeeze more value out of your points through travel redemptions. The Ink Cash has no annual fee, and the Ink Business Preferred costs $95 a year.

  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards

    Yet another option from Chase that offers primary rental coverage is The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card. This is definitely more of a niche product, with a hefty $450 annual fee and co-branding with a high-end hotel chain, but it has a lot to offer.

    You’ll get two free nights at a Ritz-Carlton as a sign-up bonus, which can be quite valuable if you choose the right hotel, plus an annual $300 travel credit, $100 hotel credit with any two-night Ritz stay and Priority Pass Select membership for free airport lounge access. When you stay the Ritz-Carlton, you can upgrade to Club Level three times every year. You’ll also get instant Gold Elite Status the first year you have the card.

    If you stay at the Ritz, this card will pay for itself. If you don’t, or you don’t very often, then the Sapphire Reserve is probably a better choice for a premium card because of its added flexibility.

  • United MileagePlus Cards

    It may seem strange at first that all of the United MileagePlus credit cards offer primary auto rental insurance, but it makes a lot more sense once you realize that Chase issues the cards. Obviously these cards are designed for frequent United customers. If you don’t use the carrier, they probably won’t do you much good since they earn United miles that can only be redeem through United’s frequent flyer program, MileagePlus.

    Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card is the base offering from United. It has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year and offers free checked bags, priority boarding, two United Club passes and a solid sign-up bonus.

    The MileagePlus Club card offers complimentary United Club lounge access, a slightly bigger sign-up bonus, more free checked bags per passenger and slightly more earning potential. You’ll get 1.5 miles per dollar spent, instead of one mile per dollar with the Explorer card. It comes with a sizable $450 annual fee that is not waived the first year.

  • American Express

    If one of the Chase cards aren’t a good option for you and you still want primary coverage for car rentals, consider getting an Amex card. You’ll have to pay extra—either $19.95 or $24.95, depending on the level of coverage you want—but that’s a flat fee for a rental of up to 42 consecutive days. Just go to the Amex Premium Car Rental Protection webpage and elect to upgrade your secondary insurance to primary.

    Like other credit card rental car insurance programs, American Express does not offer liability coverage. Don’t let the extra cost fool you into thinking it’s somehow better.

    You have to have an American Express card to get this coverage, but there are a lot of options. Any Amex card will do, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, American Express® Green Card or American Express® Blue, Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and more.

FAQs

Need more info? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

  • What does the rental car insurance you get with a credit card actually cover?

    That depends on the card, but in most cases you’ll get secondary coverage against damages done to the rental car itself. With secondary coverage, your personal auto insurance will kick in first and the credit card’s coverage will take care of the anything not covered by your personal insurance. It’s a nice benefit to have, but if you’re at fault, the accident will go on your record with your insurance company and your rates may increase.
    Some cards offer primary insurance, which also covers just the damages done to the rental. The difference is that this coverage will kick in before your personal insurance. In many cases that would mean that your insurance company will never even be notified of an accident. In other words, your rates won’t go up.
    None of these options include liability coverage, which is for damage done to other cars and property and any injuries to you or anyone else. If you’re at fault in an accident, you’ll still be liable for those expenses. You’re personal auto insurance may cover some or all of that, or the rental agency might have some liability coverage built into the cost of the car. You’ll have to check with both your insurer and the rental company to see if you’ll be covered.
    Many rental car companies may also offer added liability coverage, which is different than the standard LDW or CDW coverage they offer. The cost for this add-on insurance varies by company and location.
  • Can I rent a car without a credit card?

    It is possible, but it can be tricky. Rental companies consider renting to someone without a credit card to be a risky proposition. They assume that if you don’t use a credit card, you can’t get one. And if you can’t get a card, then you probably have poor credit. Letting someone who’s a credit risk drive off with an expensive vehicle is something rental companies want to avoid.
    However, an increasing number of rental car agencies will accept a debit card as payment. Unfortunately, there are some conditions. They may require your debit card to have a Visa or MasterCard logo, and some agencies will even perform a credit check on you before renting. They want to make sure you have the proper funds to cover the rental.
    If they let you rent, you could be required to pay a deposit. This takes the place of the hold that rental companies typically put on a credit card. The deposits can be over $200, depending on the company and location.
    It’s really much easier to rent a car with a credit card if you can. You’ll save a lot of time and hassle.
  • Does Discover offer car rental insurance with its cards?

    Yes, all Discover cards, including the popular Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Miles, offer coverage for car rentals. The coverage is secondary, meaning that it will kick in after your personal car insurance. Discover will cover up to $25,000 in damages to the rental car through its Rented Vehicle Damage or Loss Insurance.
    You must pay for the entire rental with your Discover card in order to receive coverage. Note that Discover is no different than other card companies in that the insurance does not include liability coverage. That means that if you’re found to be at fault in an accident, you’ll be responsible for any damages done to other vehicles and injuries to yourself and anyone else involved.
    The rental agency may include some liability coverage in the base price of the rental, or you may be covered through your personal auto insurance. Check with the rental company and your insurer to confirm that you have coverage. If you don’t, you may be able to purchase liability coverage, which is separate from the CDW or LDW insurance, through the rental company.
  • What rental car coverage do you get with Visa Signature credit cards?

    Visa covers cardholders who pay for the entire rental with their qualifying card. The insurance is secondary to your personal auto insurance. It provides reimbursement for the damage or theft of a rental vehicle for up to its actual cash value. The cardholder and any additional drivers permitted by the auto rental agreement will be covered.
    The insurance also pays for loss-of-use charges imposed by the rental company. That’s the amount of money they did not make because they cannot rent the car. Towing charges due to theft or damages may also be covered.
    Coverage is good for up to 15 consecutive days for U.S. rentals and 31 consecutive days internationally.
    There may be other limits to the coverage, so be sure to contact your issuer or Visa to confirm your coverage. Certain classes of vehicles, such as vans, trucks and high-end luxury and sports cars, may not be covered.
    As with any credit card rental car insurance, Visa Signature cards do not offer liability coverage. That means that any damage done to anything or injury done to anyone inside or outside of the vehicle is not covered. If you are at fault in an accident, you will be held liable for costs associated with those damages and injuries.
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