Credit cards that offer car rental coverage

Apr 19, 2021

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When we analyze the best travel credit cards here at The Points Guy, we tend to focus on the most visible benefits they offer, including the best credit card sign-up bonuses or earning rates across different categories of merchants. However, the less tangible benefits on these cards can save you significant time and money when things go wrong, including a trip delay or cancellation, a baggage delay or if you have an accident or need emergency evacuation while traveling.

Another often overlooked perk of many cards is car rental coverage, which can be a huge help if you’re involved in an accident or your rental vehicle is stolen or damaged. Today, I want to highlight the best credit cards that offer primary car rental coverage to give you peace of mind the next time you hit the road.

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In This Post

Credit cards with rental car insurance

Before we get some details out of the way, let’s dive into some of the best rewards credit cards and best travel credit cards that offer primary car rental coverage — meaning that you won’t have to use your personal insurance first to submit a claim. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may find other cards that also offer primary rental car coverage. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of your credit card to find the full details of your auto rental policy. 

Chase credit cards with car rental insurance

With all of those details out of the way, what popular travel rewards credit cards currently offer primary car rental coverage? Here’s a list at time of writing, with important exceptions or details noted where applicable:

Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Select Chase credit cards offer primary car rental coverage when you use your card, or in some cases your Ultimate Rewards points, to pay for the entire rental. Both Sapphire cards — the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred — provide primary car rental coverage. Rentals of up to 31 consecutive days paid for with either card are covered for losses including physical damage and/or theft of the rental vehicle, valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company and reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss.

The Sapphire Reserve provides primary car rental coverage of up to $75,000 for rentals within the U.S. and when traveling internationally. Just by being a cardholder, you’ll also enjoy upgrades and discounts through popular rental car programs such as National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar.

As one of the best premium travel rewards credit cards on the market, you’ll enjoy other perks such as a $300 annual travel credit, complimentary airport lounge access through the Priority Pass Select program and more. Although it comes with a $550 annual fee, it’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. See our full card review for more details.

If you’re intimidated by a large annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also comes with primary rental car coverage with just a $95 annual fee. While it doesn’t come with as many travel benefits as the Reserve, you’ll still enjoy the essentials — and primary rental car coverage of up to the cash value of the rental car.

The Preferred offers an excellent sign-up bonus (80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus earn a $50 statement credit on grocery purchases in the first year of account opening.) For tips on choosing between the two, be sure to check out our in-depth comparison between the two Chase Sapphire cards. 

Related reading: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Ink Business credit cards

The Chase Ink Business cards — Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card — offer primary coverage for normal vehicle types. The coverage provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for charges related to physical damage and/or theft of the rental vehicle, valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company, and reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss.

However, note that you’ll only be covered by primary coverage while renting primarily for business purposes. If you are renting for personal reasons in your country of residence, you’ll only get secondary coverage.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. With this card, you’ll earn 3x points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year) and 1x point per dollar on everything else. This card has a $95 annual fee and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. See our full card review for all the details.

The Ink Business Cash Card currently offers $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services (up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year). Also, you’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (again capped at $25,000 each account anniversary year) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

If you have other eligible Chase cards (such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred), you can convert any rewards earned to Ultimate Rewards points. The Ink Cash has no annual fee, but it charges a 3% fee for all foreign transactions. See our full card review for more information.

Related reading: The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The Ink Business Unlimited Card currently offers $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 in the first three months from account opening. Earning on this card is straightforward: You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. As with the Ink Business Cash, you can convert these earnings to Ultimate Rewards points if you hold a card that earns Ultimate Rewards. There’s also a 3% fee for foreign transactions, but there’s no annual fee. See our full card review to learn more.

Select United Airlines cobranded credit cards

United’s cobranded credit cards through Chase — the United Explorer Card, the United Club Infinite Card and the United Business Card — provide primary coverage with policy terms similar to those highlighted above. You’re covered up to the vehicle’s actual cash value as it was originally manufactured, as long as you charge the rental to your United card and decline the coverage offered by the company when you pick up the car.

The current sign-up bonus on United Explorer Card lets you earn up to 65,000 bonus miles. First, you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months your account is open.

You’ll also get priority boarding and your first checked bag free on United-operated flights, as well as two United Club one-time passes each year and a statement credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100) every four years. The card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, but it does have a $95 annual fee that’s waived your first year. See our full card review for more details.

You can gift airline lounge passes, giving access to the United Club at LAX, for example.
The United Club at LAX. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

The United Club Infinite Card is United’s top credit card offering. It comes with a steep $525 annual fee but comes jam-packed with benefits such as a United Club membership, two free checked bags for you and one companion on your travel itinerary and more. In terms of other rental car benefits, you’ll enjoy complimentary Hertz President’s Circle elite status. The Club Infinite’s sign-up bonus lets you earn up to 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Finally, the United Business Card is best for business owners who tend to fly with United. Its annual fee is $99 but is waived the first year. Cardholders can earn up to a $100 annual United travel credit, two annual, one-time United Club passes and more. Currently, you’ll earn up to 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Capital One credit cards with car rental insurance

Capital One has several business cards that offer primary rental car insurance when you pay for an eligible vehicle with your credit card, and you’ll be covered for damage due to collision or theft. The Capital One Spark Miles for Business and Capital One Spark Cash for Business offers primary rental insurance when you’re renting a car for business purposes. Both cards are Visa Signature business cards that offer coverage up to the car’s actual cash value. Benefits only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply.

The Capital One Spark Cash for Business comes with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that. Cardholders earn a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 within the first three months from account opening. Earn unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases and redeem them at any time with no minimums. You can add employee cards for free, and they’ll get the same car rental benefits. See our full card review for more details.

New cardholders of the Capital One Spark Miles for Business earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles, equal to $500 in travel, after spending $4,500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Earn an unlimited 2x miles on every purchase. This card also has a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year. See our full card review for more details.

Related reading: Credit card showdown: Capital One Spark Cash for Business vs. Spark Miles for Business

American Express credit cards with primary car rental insurance

There are no American Express credit cards that offer primary car rental coverage, although most will offer secondary coverage. But most 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.

Screenshot courtesy of American Express.

Primary vs. secondary coverage

Before I get into the cards that offer primary coverage, it’s important to note that many travel rewards credit cards offer some type of Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage when you rent a car and decline or waive the car rental company’s collision loss/damage insurance. The extent of coverage offered will vary, so it’s important to understand the differences in coverage.

(Photo by @brittneyborowski via Twenty20)
The difference between primary coverage and secondary coverage is important. (Photo by @brittneyborowski via Twenty20)

Credit cards generally offer either primary and secondary coverage. The latter of these two is more common but has some significant drawbacks. The most significant drawback is that secondary coverage kicks in after your own personal car insurance. As a result, you still need to file a claim with your own insurance company if you’re in an accident in a rental car for which you’ve paid with a card that offers secondary coverage. Primary coverage, on the other hand, will apply before your own personal car insurance.

Both types of coverage generally have a published maximum, so make sure the published maximum meets or exceeds the total value of the car you’re renting. Generally, you can be reimbursed the cost to repair the rental car or the actual cash value of the rental car, whichever is less. However, for secondary coverage, you’ll usually only be reimbursed the amount that isn’t covered by any other insurance policies.

It’s also worth pointing out that most secondary policies on credit cards automatically become primary coverage in two common scenarios. First, if you’re renting a car outside the U.S. and your personal car insurance policy doesn’t cover you in that country, the CDW from that card becomes primary. Second, if you don’t own a car (and thus don’t carry car insurance), most secondary coverage offered by credit cards becomes primary as well.

Additional details

Of course, nothing involving insurance is simple, so there are a few other important details to keep in mind when it comes to utilizing or relying upon these benefits:

  • They don’t include liability insurance. While the CDW provisions on credit cards may cover damage to your rental car, they don’t apply to damage you cause to other cars and personal property, nor do they cover injuries to you, your passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident. Your own personal car insurance policy may kick in here though unless you don’t have personal car insurance.
  • They don’t cover all types of cars. If you’re sticking to the normal categories of car rentals like compact, intermediate and full-size, these policies will apply. However, most policies exclude specialty classes of cars like large passenger vans, pick-up trucks, antique vehicles and motorcycles.
  • They have a limit on the number of days. Many readers likely stick to short car rental periods for trips, but if you require a car rental for multiple months, your credit card coverage typically won’t apply.
  • They aren’t always available in every country. While the exact list of excluded countries varies from card to card and issuer to issuer, the most common exceptions I’ve seen are Australia, Italy and New Zealand.
Cuba car city streats
You might be excluded from coverage because of your rental location (Cuba) or the rental type (antique). (Photo by Xavi Talleda Photo Collection / Getty Images)

It’s essential that you read your card’s policy carefully to understand where the coverage won’t apply. A quick call to the customer service number on the back of your card should allow you to get more information — and will let you confirm that your rental vehicle type and country where you’ll be renting are covered. You also need to recognize that you may still be on the hook for a significant expense if you’re in an accident that damages another car, impacts personal property or injures another driver or passenger.

Bottom line

Many of us focus on how many points we can earn and then redeem when considering top travel rewards credit cards, especially when they come with lucrative sign-up bonuses. However, the other benefits can come in handy when traveling and primary car rental coverage can be a lifesaver when you get into an accident.

That being said, it’s essential to review the details of your card’s policy to understand exactly what is (and isn’t) covered. Don’t assume that you’re covered for every possible mishap when you pay for a car rental with a card that offers primary coverage, as many exceptions and exclusions may apply. And realize that credit cards never provide liability insurance. Nevertheless, each of the above cards can be a great option if you’re looking for added peace of mind the next time you rent a car.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson and Stella Shon

Featured photo by Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

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