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Many travel rewards credit cards offer insurance for rental cars and more, but the policies are full of exclusions and exceptions that can leave you unsure about what’s covered. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr examines one such exclusion that appears to be changing for the better.
Reader Cheryl wrote in to the TPG team with a bit of good news:
“I decided to apply for an IHG credit card, and received my card today. While reading the enclosed information about the Collision Damage Waiver, I could not find any country rental exemptions. I was very happy to find that when I called the Chase customer service number, they informed me that all countries were covered worldwide.”
The Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is a common ancillary benefit of many credit cards. Generally, it provides secondary rental car insurance coverage for any damage you cause to a rental car. However, many cards have historically excluded certain countries or regions from coverage.
Cheryl’s message (and confirmation from Chase) indicates that the CDW benefit on the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card no longer has such exclusions. In fact, that’s now the case for all Chase credit cards. This news got the TPG team thinking about which countries are excluded by each card brand, so today I’ll look at the top cards that offer CDW as a cardholder benefit to see precisely how far and wide the coverage extends, and where it’s unavailable.
If there’s one crucial bit I learned while researching for this post, it’s that every card has its own fine print, qualifications, exclusions, and eligibility criteria when it comes to rental car insurance. Before you bank on being covered, read your cardholder benefits and call your credit card issuer to confirm the details of your policy.
Credit Card Car Rental Insurance Coverage Basics
First, here are a few essentials that apply to almost all credit cards:
- I am 99.9% confident in saying that liability coverage is never going to be a part of your benefit. Collision Damage Waivers and similar Car Rental Loss and Damage (CRLD) Insurance covers theft and damage to your rental car; that’s it.
- The majority of credit cards that offer CDW or CRLD insurance will operate as secondary insurance to your primary car insurance. This means the coverage will only pay for what your regular car insurance will not. There are also some cards that operate as primary insurance.
- Generally, pick-up trucks, full size SUVs, and antique, luxury, and off-road vehicles are excluded from coverage. For example, American Express excludes any car with an MSRP above $75,000. There’s no driving a Lamborghini and thinking AMEX will pick up the tab for your wreck.
- You must decline insurance from the car rental agency to be eligible.
- In order to be eligible for your card’s coverage, you must pay for your rental in full with your card, your account must be in good standing, and the rental must be in your name.
- Business credit and charge cards operate differently than personal cards with respect to CDW policies.
With the basics out of the way, let’s look at the major card brands and see which countries are excluded.
Countries Excluded: Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand
I count no fewer than 51 American Express issued (not co-branded) cards that offer a standard CRLD.
American Express offers a premium option to all cardholders for a flat fee of between $15.95-$24.95 per rental period (not per rental day), depending on the amount of coverage you want and your state of residence. It’s considered primary coverage, meaning you won’t have to file a claim with your insurance company.
Based on which option you select, the coverage is for between $75,000- $100,000 of primary coverage for damage or theft and accidental death or dismemberment, up to $15,000 for excess medical expenses per person, and up to $5,000 for excess personal property coverage. Those amounts vary in a couple of states, so be sure to read the fine print. Liability is still not included in the coverage.
There is also no deductible for this coverage. Cardmembers enroll once, and then this charge is added to all future rentals. You can read the details and enroll here.
Premium Amex cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express offer secondary medical coverage and accidental death or dismemberment coverage for drivers and passengers.
Countries Excluded: Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand
Remember that card issuing banks can apply further restrictions and eligibility criteria beyond what MasterCard requires.
Countries Excluded: Israel, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Jamaica
I’m curious — what does Visa know over American Express and MasterCard that it does not exclude New Zealand and Israel?
Countries Excluded: None
This used to be a moot point for Discover: having no exclusions is great, but there were many parts of the world where you couldn’t use Discover cards in the first place. However, Discover’s network is expanding, and its cards are becoming more widely accepted. Products like the Discover it® Miles card are now legitimate options for getting CDW in many countries around the world.
Countries Excluded: Australia, Italy, New Zealand
Diners Club offers primary coverage, which applies to physical damage and theft of the vehicle, reasonable loss of use charges, reasonable towing charges, and includes secondary personal effects insurance. Protection for covered damages applies to rental cars with a retail price of up to $75,000.
Exceptions to the Above
As discussed at the beginning, all Chase credit cards with CDW policies now have no country exclusions. Last year the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card CDW changed from secondary to primary insurance, making it an even stronger candidate for best all around travel rewards credit card. The fact that the policy covers some SUVs and luxury models like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac makes it even better.
MasterCard World and World Elite cards like the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard also do not have any country exclusions.
I’ve caught the following clause in the fine print pertaining to rental car insurance from most card issuers:
“If providing benefits under this policy would violate U.S. economic or trade sanctions, then the policy would be void.”
Therefore, while Cuba and Iran are not specifically called out as exclusions, if you have a wreck in those countries, you might not be covered.
With Chase no longer excluding any countries, these cards head to the top of the list. If you’re looking for coverage from a useful travel rewards card, the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus Business Card are great candidates, especially because they earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. While I haven’t filed a CDW claim with Chase, I have filed lost and delayed baggage claims. Those claims are also outsourced to third party insurers, but Chase walked me through each step of my claim, and was there to advocate for me until it was closed. If the service is similar for rental car insurance, I would be very pleased.
Remember, liability is not included in any of the coverage discussed above, and always ready the fine print of your policy before hitting the road!
What experience have you had using a credit card’s CDW coverage? The Points Guy Assessment: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.