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When to use American Express Premium Car Rental Protection

June 13, 2021
16 min read
Car accident on road
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

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 even offer primary coverage – which means you don't have to file with any other insurance first – but secondary coverage is much more common.

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While most American Express credit cards don't automatically offer primary car rental coverage (many offer secondary coverage, though), most will offer the option to purchase a 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.

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, if something does happen to your rental vehicle, you'll need to file with any other insurance you have (such as your personal car insurance or travel insurance) before attempting to submit a claim to Amex.

This is less than ideal as it can cause your insurance premiums to go up. It can also be a problem if you have a high deductible on any of the policies you carry since you could be out-of-pocket for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That's why it's a good idea to try and get primary rental car insurance whenever possible.

If you carry an Amex card that is eligible for the issuer's secondary insurance, beware some types of vehicles are excluded from coverage. These include:

  • 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
  • Campers

Additionally, any rental vehicle rented in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, or any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list is excluded.

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If you want to know whether a particular American Express card provides secondary coverage, American Express's website shows policies for all 65 cards that include this coverage. Different cards provide different levels of coverage, so be sure to check the policy for your particular card.

Related: 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 include secondary coverage on rental cars — offer the opportunity to purchase primary coverage at a reasonable flat cost per rental. Primary coverage means that you don't have to file with any other insurance before filing with American Express. Enrollment required for select benefits.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Express)

The following table compares the lower and higher levels of the optional Premium Car Rental Protection policies with a secondary policy included with The Platinum Card® from American Express. Remember, though, the included secondary car rental policies differ across American Express cards, so yours might not be exactly like the one outlined below.

DetailsIncluded policy on the Amex PlatinumPremium policy — lowerPremium policy — higher
Cost$0$19.95 ($15.95 California residents, $12.25 Florida residents)$24.95 ($17.95 California residents, $15.25 Florida residents)
Type of CoverageSecondaryPrimaryPrimary
Maximum rental length30 consecutive days42 consecutive days (30 days for Washington State residents)42 consecutive days (30 days for Washington State 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 California residents)$100,000 ($250,000 for California residents)
Maximum accidental death or dismemberment benefit for each eligible passenger and/or authorized driver$20,000$7,500 ($150,000 for Calif. residents)$10,000 ($40,000 for Florida residents and $250,000 for California 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 Florida residents)
Explicitly included vehicle typesNonePick-up truck, cargo or passenger van and sport utility vehiclePick-up truck, cargo or passenger van and sport utility vehicle (gross vehicle weight must be under 10,000lbs)
Excluded countriesAustralia, Italy, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country listAustralia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country listAustralia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, New Zealand and any country on the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned country list

Related: Can’t find a car rental? Here are seven secrets that may help

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 manufactured by the maker, have had any part customized or modified (except for driver's assistance equipment for a physically challenged driver)
  • Vehicles for hire or commercial purposes
  • 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, moving trucks/vans, 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: A $2,000 lesson in card benefits — Reader mistake story

What cards are eligible for Premium Car Rental Protection?

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

How do I enroll in Premium Car Rental Protection?

To enroll, visit the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection page and click Enroll Now. You’ll need to log into 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 than 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 at 1-866-518-0259.

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 specific car rental reservation, be sure to terminate your enrollment before the rental by calling 1-866-518-0259 or the number on the back of your card. Otherwise, you'll continue to be charged for coverage each time you rent a vehicle using an enrolled card.

Related: 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 when you use that credit card to pay for a 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 have said is more straightforward than filing claims through other issuers' benefits administrators

Related: Comparing car rental elite status

Best cards for Premium Car Rental Protection

If you're going to enroll in the Premium Car Rental Protection program, which American Express card should you use? TPG has a guide of the best American Express cards, but here are some of the 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 Hilton Aspire card, 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: Apply for the best credit card offers using the CardMatch Tool

How to file an Amex Premium Car Rental Protection claim

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

If something does go wrong while you're on the road, here's what you need to do to take advantage of American Express Premium Car Rental Protection.

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.

Next, call your rental agency to inform them of what has happened and that you have notified the authorities and will be filing a claim through American Express.

Then call the number on the back of your enrolled card to report the incident and begin the claims 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 that 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

If your claim is approved, it will be payable either to the cardmember or directly to the rental agency, depending on the circumstances and coverage.

Related: 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 with a valuable option when deciding how to insure themselves best if renting a vehicle. Competing credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card include primary car rental insurance just by using the credit card to pay for the rental. However, note that the third-party insurance provider that Chase and some other issuers, such as Capital One, use has a poor reputation for accepting claims.

If you don't have a card that provides primary auto rental coverage in your wallet, though, 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: When to buy travel insurance versus when to rely on credit card protections

Related information

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Eric Rosen.

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.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.