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Many credit cards offer some type of coverage when you rent a car. However, many times the coverage offered is secondary, meaning you’ll need to file with any other insurance policies you have before you can file with the credit card’s insurance policy.
Some premium credit cards offer primary car rental coverage, but always check that your rental will be covered, as some types of vehicles, rental locations and rental lengths may be excluded. No American Express credit cards offer primary car rental coverage, although most offer secondary coverage. But all American Express credit cards offer an optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy that can be added to rentals made using the card for a small fee. This guide looks into this optional coverage and discusses when it makes sense to enroll.
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 your personal car insurance first unless you don’t have personal car insurance.
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, including cargo vans, vans with a seating capacity over eight passengers, any truck that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more, antique cars, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, recreational vehicles, motorized carts and campers, are excluded.
If you want to know whether a particular American Express card provides this coverage, American Express’ website shows policies for all 54 cards that include this coverage. Different cards provide different amounts of coverage, so be sure to check the policy for your particular card.
What is American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection?
All American Express cards — even those that don’t offer the secondary coverage described above — offer premium 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 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.
|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 Medical Expense Benefit (per person in your car, secondary)||$5,000||$7,500||$15,000|
|Maximum Accidental Death or Dismemberment Benefit for Cardmember||$200,000||$50,000||$100,000|
|Maximum Accidental Death or Dismemberment Benefit for Each Eligible Passenger||$20,000||$5,000||$10,000|
|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)|
|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|
Even with the Premium Car Rental Protection, the following rentals are still excluded:
- Any truck other than a pick-up truck
- Cube vans or box trucks
Any vehicle more than 20 years old or that has not been manufactured for 10 or moreyears
Limousines, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, motor bikes, mopeds, recreational vehicles, any motorized cart including a golf cart, campers and trailers
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 the American Express account associated with the card you want to enroll, choose the plan you’d like and review the program’s terms and conditions.
If you enroll a card on which you’re the primary cardholder, the cards held by any authorized users on that account will also be enrolled. Additionally, any other cards on which you’re the primary cardholder will be enrolled, including future cards for which you might be approved. But, if you enroll a card on which you’re an authorized user, only your card will be enrolled.
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.
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 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 or an Amex Offer
Best Cards for Enrolling in 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 solid choices. Note, the estimated return rate for these cards is based on TPG’s latest valuations.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card ($450 annual fee, 4.2% return on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies)(See Rates & Fees)
- The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express ($0 annual fee, 3.8% return on general spending) (See Rates & Fees)
- Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee, 2.85% return on general spending in billing cycles where you make 30+ purchases)
The American Express Premium Car Rental Protection policy provides cardmembers another option when deciding how to best insure themselves when renting a vehicle. It’s still usually better to use a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that includes primary car rental insurance just through using the credit card for the rental. But, American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection policy can be useful for longer rentals and some difficult-to-insure rentals like pick-up trucks, vans and sports utility vehicles.
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