When to use American Express’ Premium Car Rental protection

4d ago

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Some credit cards offer insurance when you rent a car using your card that covers the rental car if you’re in an accident or if the rental car is stolen or damaged. A small number of premium travel rewards credit cards offer primary coverage — which means you don’t have to file with any other insurance first — but secondary coverage is much more common.

While most American Express credit cards don’t offer primary car rental coverage (though many offer secondary coverage), most will offer an optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy that provides primary coverage. The optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy can be added to rentals made using an eligible Amex card for a small fee.

This guide looks at this optional coverage and discusses when it makes sense to enroll.

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In This Post

What car rental protection is automatically provided by American Express cards?

The secondary car rental loss and damage insurance included with many American Express cards will cover you when an eligible rental car is damaged or stolen. However, since the insurance is secondary, you’ll need to file with any other insurance you have first (such as your personal car insurance or travel insurance). This is less than ideal as it can cause your premiums to go up before you get access to any benefits offered by your credit card. It can also be a problem if you have a high deductible, which is why it’s a good idea to try and get primary rental car insurance whenever possible.

If you have an eligible card, you’ll get coverage when you use that card to pay for your entire rental and decline the collision damage waiver offered by the rental car company. However, some vehicles are excluded, including cargo vans, custom vans, vans with a seating capacity over eight passengers, cube vans, box trucks, any truck that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more, antique cars, limousines, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, recreational vehicles, motorized carts and campers. Additionally, any rental vehicle rented in Australia, Italy, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list is excluded.

If you want to know whether a particular American Express card provides secondary coverage, American Express’s website shows policies for all 60 cards that include this coverage. Different cards provide different levels of coverage, so be sure to check the policy for your particular card.

Related reading: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

What is American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection?

Most American Express cards — even those that don’t offer the secondary coverage described above — offer the opportunity to purchase primary coverage at a reasonable flat rate cost per rental. Primary coverage means that you don’t have to file with any other insurance before filing with American Express.

The following table compares the lower and higher levels of the optional Premium Car Rental Protection policies with a secondary policy that comes included with The Platinum Card® from American Express. Although I’ve provided the details of the policy that comes with the Amex Platinum, remember that the included secondary car rental policies differ across American Express cards.

Details Included policy on The Platinum Card) Premium Policy — Lower Premium Policy — Higher
Cost $0 $19.95 ($15.95 CA residents, $12.25 FL residents) $24.95 ($17.95 CA residents, $15.25 FL residents)
Type of Coverage Secondary Primary Primary
Maximum rental length 30 consecutive days 42 consecutive days (30 WA residents) 42 consecutive days (30 WA residents)
Maximum loss/damage of rental car benefit $75,000 $75,000 $100,000
Maximum accidental injury benefit (per person in your car, secondary) $5,000 $7,500 $15,000
Maximum accidental death or dismemberment benefit for cardmember $200,000 $75,000 ($150,000 for CA residents) $100,000 ($250,000 for CA residents)
Maximum accidental death or dismemberment benefit for each eligible passenger $20,000 $7,500 ($150,000 for CA residents) $10,000 ($40,000 for FL residents and $250,000 for CA residents)
Maximum loss/damage of personal property benefit per person in your car $1,000, up to $2,000 total $2,500, up to $5,000 total $5,000, up to $10,000 total ($15,000, up to $25,000 total for FL residents)
Explicitly included vehicle types None Pick-up truck, cargo or passenger van and sport utility vehicle Pick-up truck, cargo or passenger van and sport utility vehicle
Excluded countries Australia, Italy, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list

Related reading: The Critical Points: Here’s how to avoid letting rental car companies take advantage of you

What is excluded from Premium Car Rental Protection coverage?

Even with the Premium Car Rental Protection, rentals longer than 42 consecutive days (30 consecutive days for Washington state residents), as well as the following rental types, are excluded:

  • Any truck other than a pick-up truck
  • Cube vans or box trucks
  • Leased or mini-leased vehicles
  • Vehicles that, after manufacture by the maker, have had any part customized or modified (except for driver’s assistance equipment for a physically challenged driver)
  • Any vehicle more than 20 years old or that has not been manufactured for 10 or more years
  • Limousines, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, motorbikes, mopeds, recreational vehicles, any motorized cart including golf carts, campers or trailers

Additionally, you won’t be covered for:

  • Costs attributed to the rental company’s normal course of doing business and expenses assumed, waived or paid for by the rental company or its insurer
  • Damage that has occurred prior to possession of the rental car
  • Tires, unless other damage occurs to the rental car from the same accident or theft of the entire rental car occurs
  • Defect in the manufacture of the rental car
  • Diminished value, unless required by law
  • Depreciation, unless reimbursement for depreciation is required by law
  • Wear and tear, including such effects caused gradually over time
  • Any property other than the rental car and personal property
  • Lost items
  • Animals, furniture, art, money, securities, tickets or documents
  • Items left in the rental car after the cardmember or authorized driver has relinquished possession
  • Any injury, except coverage for a covered person described under the accidental injury expense benefit and accidental death or
    dismemberment benefit
  • Any injury or physical condition of a covered person existing before an accident

And, benefits will not be paid if the loss for which coverage is sought was contributed to or caused by any of the following:

  • Violation of the rental agreement with the rental company
  • Acts by a covered person to intentionally damage or injure
  • Consumption of alcohol at or in excess of the legal blood alcohol level for operating a motor vehicle in the state or locality in which the accident occurred
  • Being under the influence of any drug unless taken as prescribed or administered on the advice of a physician or dentist
  • War or act of war, whether declared or undeclared
  • Actual, alleged or threatened discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, escape, release of or exposure to any hazardous biological, chemical, nuclear or radioactive material, gas, matter or contamination
  • Confiscation by a governmental authority
  • Freezing and mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, except where it results from theft
  • The rental car being left unattended and unlocked or a window not completely closed
  • Pushing or towing anything
  • Violation of criminal law, or commission of a criminal act, whether cited or charged, by or behalf of the covered person
  • Participation in a riot, civil disturbance or insurrection
  • Suicide, attempted suicide or intentionally self-inflicted injury while sane
  • Failure of the cardmember or authorized driver to surrender all the vehicle keys following possession
  • A rental car used outside the rental territory authorized by the rental company
  • A rental car used for any manner of racing or team sport
  • A rental car used for hire, whether for hire to carry persons or property
  • Off-road operation of the rental car
  • Any disease, illness or infirmity

Related reading: A $2,000 lesson in card benefits — Reader mistake story

What cards are eligible for Premium Car Rental Protection?

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Not all Amex cards are eligible for enrollment. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Most American Express cards are eligible to be enrolled in the Premium Car Rental Protection program. However, corporate cards (which are different than business cards) and card accounts issued by a third-party bank partner of American Express are not eligible for enrollment. Additionally, eligibility may vary by your state of residence and enrollment status of other card accounts you previously opened.

Related reading: The different flavors of American Express Platinum — which one is right for you?

How do I enroll in Premium Car Rental Protection?

To enroll, simply visit the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection page and click Enroll Now. You’ll need to log in to your American Express account, select the card you want to enroll, choose the plan you’d like and review the program’s terms and conditions.

As a Florida resident, coverage is less expensive for me that it will be for residents of other states.

You can enroll cards for which you are the primary cardholder online, but will need to call to enroll authorized user cards.

You won’t be charged anything until you use an enrolled card to rent a car, at which point the premium will automatically post to your account. You’ll remain enrolled until you explicitly terminate your enrollment. So, if coverage won’t be necessary for a subsequent car rental, be sure to terminate enrollment prior to the rental by calling 1-866-518-0259. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be charged for coverage each time you rent a vehicle using an enrolled card.

Related reading: Is credit card travel insurance sufficient on its own?

Reasons to enroll in Premium Car Rental Protection

Although the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection policy isn’t expensive at $12.25 to $24.95 per rental, it’s still usually better to use a credit card that automatically provides primary car rental protection simply by using the credit card to pay for the rental. However, there are some reasons why you might want to use an American Express card and enroll in the Premium Car Rental Protection program instead:

  • None of your credit cards offer primary car rental loss/damage insurance
  • You’re renting a pick-up truck, cargo van, passenger van or sport utility vehicle and none of your cards offering primary car rental insurance cover this type of vehicle
  • You need to rent a vehicle for up to 42 days and none of your cards offering primary insurance cover a rental of the length you need
  • You value the medical expense benefit and property loss benefit, both of which provide secondary coverage but aren’t included in the benefits provided by most credit cards
  • You want or need to use an American Express card, perhaps due to better points earning, an Amex Offer or a claims process that many readers claim is more straightforward

Related reading: Comparing car rental elite status

Best cards for Premium Car Rental Protection

If you’re going to enroll in the Premium Car Rental Protection policy, which American Express credit card should you use? TPG has a guide of the best American Express cards, but here are some of my top choices based on their estimated return on car rentals. Note, the estimated return rate for these Amex cards is based on TPG’s latest valuations.

The information for the Amex Green and Amex EveryDay Preferred card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related reading: Apply for the best credit card offers using the CardMatch Tool

How to file an Amex Premium Car Rental Protection claim

(Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.)
It’s best to start your claim as soon as possible. (Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images.)

Your first step should be to report any damage that occurs to your rental car — including vandalism, theft or an accident — to the appropriate law enforcement agency as soon as reasonably possible. Then call the number on the back of your enrolled card as soon as reasonably possible to report the incident and begin the claim process.

If required, you’ll be sent a claim form. This form, and all other requested documentation, must be returned to the Premium Car Rental Protection Claims Unit within 60 days following the date of the damage or theft. If the required documentation is not received within 60 days of the date of loss — except for documentation which has not been furnished for reasons beyond your control — coverage may be denied.

Required documentation may consist of, but is not limited to:

  • Itemized bill for repair or replacement of the rental car or item
  • Report from law enforcement agency, such as a police report
  • Photos of the damaged vehicle
  • Copy of all claim documents and correspondence provided by the rental company
  • Copy of the written rental agreement with the rental company
  • Death certificate and/or itemized medical bills and medical records
  • Signed authorization to obtain medical records
  • Completed claim form
  • Documentation from the rental company indicating that the covered person was responsible for the damages or loss
  • Receipts or proof of ownership for the stolen or damaged item

Related reading: Paying $500 in rental car damage — reader mistake story

Is Amex Premium Car Rental Protection worth it?

The American Express Premium Car Rental Protection policy provides cardmembers another option when deciding how to best insure themselves when renting a vehicle. If you have a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that includes primary car rental insurance just by using the credit card for the rental, you’ll likely want to use that card.

While your first choice should be using a card that offers primary rental car protection, if you don’t have one in your wallet then the American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection policy can be a great choice for a reasonable fee. This is also a good option if you’re booking a longer rental or a type of vehicle that’s otherwise difficult to insure, like pick-up trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.

Related reading: When to buy travel insurance versus when to rely on credit card protections

Related information

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Card, please click here.

Featured photo by Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images.

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