Best credit cards for rental car coverage

Jun 22, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


When you pick up a rental car, the rental agency may confront you with a confusing list of car insurance add-ons and protections available for purchase. And although it might seem like a good idea to buy rental car insurance, you might not need to. After all, some of the best travel rewards cards provide car rental coverage that may let you skip the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW).

In particular, some of the top rewards cards automatically offer a CDW when you pay for your car rental with your card. This waive

r can cover the rental car if you’re in an accident or if it’s stolen or damaged. So, today I’ll discuss the best cards that provide car rental coverage and answer some common questions regarding this benefit.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

The best credit cards for rental car coverage

These cards offer primary car rental coverage on most rentals. This guide focuses on cards that provide primary coverage and discusses the difference between primary and secondary coverage. I’ll also highlight a few low- or no-annual-fee cards that offer secondary car rental coverage near the end of this guide.

Related: The ‘car rental apocalypse’: Why renting a car is challenging in 2021

In This Post

Primary vs. secondary car rental coverage

Mustang GT rental car hertz
(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Some travel rewards cards provide a primary or secondary auto rental collision damage waiver. And some business credit cards provide secondary coverage when you’re renting a vehicle in your country of residence for personal reasons. However, secondary coverage only kicks in after your car insurance and any other types of insurance, such as travel insurance.

So, if you are in an accident in a rental car and you paid for the rental with a card that provides secondary coverage, you’ll likely need to file claims with multiple insurance companies. Primary coverage, on the other hand, applies before any other type of insurance. So, with primary coverage, you’d only need to file one claim.

Both types of coverage usually have a published maximum, so make sure it meets or exceeds the total value of the car you’re renting. Generally, primary insurance will reimburse you for the rental car’s cash value or the cost to repair it, whichever is less. However, secondary insurance will only reimburse you for the amount not covered by any other insurance policies.

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 car insurance policy doesn’t cover you in that country, the CDW from that card may become primary. Second, if you don’t own a car and don’t carry a car insurance policy, most secondary coverage offered by credit cards will become primary.

Related: 11 common rental car mistakes — and how to avoid them

What’s covered (and what’s not)

(Photo by @brittneyborowski via Twenty20)
The car rental coverage provided by credit cards doesn’t cover everything. (Photo by @brittneyborowski/Twenty20)

The auto rental collision damage waiver benefit provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft, up to the actual cash value of most vehicles. Usually, the CDW only covers physical damage or theft of the rental vehicle. Some cards also cover loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental company and towing charges to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility.

To be covered by a credit card CDW, you must decline the rental company’s CDW or similar provision. You may also need to refuse other types of insurance that the car rental company offers you. And it’s important to remember that some rental vehicles may not be eligible for coverage. In particular, it’s essential to keep the following provisions in mind if you rely upon these benefits:

Liability insurance isn’t included

Although the collision damage waiver provided by your credit card may cover damage to your rental car, it won’t take care of any damage you cause to other vehicles and personal property. And the credit card CDW typically does not cover injuries to you, your passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident. Your car insurance policy may kick in here, but it’s a good idea to check your policy or call your provider to confirm.

If you don’t own a car, consider purchasing non-owner car insurance. Many insurance companies offer this type of insurance, but they don’t always advertise this coverage online. It’s worth pricing out policies with several companies, as I’ve found prices tend to vary greatly.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

Not all car types are covered

RV by a lake
Recreational vehicles typically aren’t eligible for a collision damage waiver. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

If you stick to the standard categories of car rentals such as compact, intermediate and full size, your credit card’s car rental policy should apply. However, most policies exclude specialty-class vehicles, including large passenger vans, pickup trucks, antique vehicles and motorcycles. In addition, many policies exclude leases and micro-leases. And most policies exclude rentals through person-to-person car-sharing companies such as Turo.

Related: Are Turo car rentals covered by credit card insurance?

There’s a limit on the number of days

Many readers likely stick to short car rental periods for trips. But if you need a car rental for multiple months, your credit card coverage typically won’t apply.

Related: Can’t find a car rental? Here are 7 secrets that may help

Some countries are excluded

Although the exact list of excluded countries varies from card to card and issuer to issuer, the most common exceptions I’ve noticed are Australia, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Northern Ireland and New Zealand. Regardless of where you’re traveling, it’s best to call the customer service number on the back of your card to ensure your destination is covered when renting a car outside the United States.

Related: Why renting a car may now be the most challenging part of your journey

Ensure your rental is eligible

(Photo by Hero Images / Getty Images)
Call the number on the back of your card before renting a vehicle to find out about insurance coverage. (Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images)

It’s essential that you read your card’s policy carefully to understand what is and isn’t covered. If you have any doubts about your coverage, you can call the customer service number on the back of your card. Doing so will allow you to get more information and confirm that your policy covers your rental vehicle type in the country you’ll be visiting.

Related: How I saved nearly $250 on a one-day car rental by taking a $110 Uber ride

Top cards with primary car rental coverage

This section will discuss some of the best credit cards that offer primary car rental coverage when you use your card to pay for the entire rental. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may find other cards that also offer primary coverage. In particular, I’ve excluded cards that offer primary car rental coverage for current cardholders but aren’t currently accepting applications.

Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred both provide primary car rental coverage for rentals in most countries. In addition, these cards offer coverage for rentals of up to 31 consecutive days. In particular, this policy covers losses, including physical damage and 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 details of the policies vary slightly between the two cards, though. So, be sure to read the guide to benefits for full details at the following links:

Related: Sapphire showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the hottest premium travel rewards credit cards on the market despite its $550 annual fee. It currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. After that, you’ll earn 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining purchases. Plus, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you access to great perks like a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, travel protections and an up-to-$100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. See the full Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review for more details.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is easily one of the best travel rewards cards with a sub-$100 annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers a better sign-up bonus of 100,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. In addition, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points on travel and 3x points on dining. See the full Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review to learn more.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Ink Business cards

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

Note that you’ll only be covered by primary coverage while renting primarily for business purposes, renting outside your country of residence for personal reasons or if you do not have automobile insurance. Conversely, if you are renting for personal reasons in your country of residence and have automobile insurance, you’ll only get secondary coverage.

Related: Your guide to the Chase Ink Business credit cards

The Ink Business Preferred 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 from account opening. With this card, you’ll earn 3x points on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services 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 points on everything else. This card has a $95 annual fee. See the Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card review for more details.

Official application link: Ink Business Preferred

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 per dollar spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year). You’ll also earn 2% cash back per dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants (again capped at $25,000 annually) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

You can combine these earnings with other eligible Chase cards to essentially convert them to Ultimate Rewards points. Unfortunately, the Ink Cash charges a 3% foreign transaction fee but doesn’t charge an annual fee. See the full Chase Ink Business Cash credit card review for more information.

Official application link: Ink Business Cash

The Ink Business Unlimited Card currently offers $750 cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. And earning 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. In addition, there’s a 3% fee for foreign transactions but no annual fee. See the full Chase Ink Business Unlimited credit card review to learn more.

Official application link: Ink Business Unlimited

United Airlines cards

Polaris business class seat
Polaris business-class seat. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

As mentioned above, the following four currently available United credit cards offer primary car rental coverage when you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. This coverage provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Related: 4 reasons someone in your family needs a United credit card

Here’s a bit more about each of these cards.

The United Explorer Card currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x United miles on United purchases, dining and hotel stays when booked directly with the hotel. This card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived your first year. See the full United Explorer credit card review for more details.

Official application link: United Explorer Card

The United Quest Card currently offers 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn 3x miles on United purchases (immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit) and 2x miles on all other travel, dining and select streaming services. The card has a $250 annual fee. See our post about who should (and shouldn’t) get the United Quest card for more details.

Official application link: United Quest Card

The United Club Infinite Card currently offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You’ll earn 4x miles on United purchases and 2x miles on dining and all other travel. The card has a $525 annual fee. See the full United Club Infinite credit card review for more details.

Official application link: United Club Infinite Card

The United Business Card currently offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x miles on United purchases, at gas stations, at restaurants, at office supply stores and on local transit and commuting. The card has a $99 annual fee, waived the first year. See the full United Business credit card review for more details.

Official application link: United Business Card

Capital One Spark Business cards

Woman withdrawing money from ATM
(Photo by Astrakan Images/Getty Images)

Two cards in the Capital One Spark family of business cards — the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business — offer a primary auto rental CDW when you rent a vehicle for commercial or business purposes. And you’ll get secondary coverage when renting for personal reasons. The cards provide reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft, up to the actual cash value of most rentals. Coverage applies to rentals of 31 days or less. Benefits are only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply.

The current sign-up bonus for the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a $500 cash bonus when you spend $4,500 in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2% cash back on all purchases. The card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. See the Capital One Spark Cash for Business credit card review for more information.

Official application link: Capital One Spark Cash for Business

The current sign-up bonus for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business is 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x Capital One miles on all purchases. And miles can be redeemed at a fixed value of one cent each or transferred to airline partners. The card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year. See the Capital One Spark Miles for Business credit card review for more information.

Official application link: Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Top cards with secondary car rental coverage

Woman holding a car and her wallet on the street
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

If you don’t have a card that offers primary car rental coverage, your next best bet is a card that provides secondary coverage. Many credit cards offer secondary car rental coverage. So, I’ve only highlighted a few of my favorite options below.

American Express cards

Most American Express cards offer secondary car rental coverage. You can see the entire list of cards that offer secondary car rental protection on the American Express website. If you don’t need primary coverage, you can use one of these cards and decline the rental company’s coverage.

But, if you’re looking for primary coverage, all American Express cards offer an optional Premium Car Rental Protection policy that can be added (for a small fee) to your rental using the card. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

American Express premium car rental coverage landing page
(Screenshot courtesy of feeservices.americanexpress.com)

You can add Premium Car Rental Protection to any American Express card. Here are some of the best Amex cards in terms of the return you could receive when renting a car. Note that the estimated return rate for these cards is based on TPG’s latest valuations.

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred card and Hilton Aspire cards 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: 9 rental car rewards programs you need to know about

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
The Capital One Venture Card offers 2x earnings on everything, as well as car rental coverage. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offer auto rental CDW coverage. Coverage is secondary when you rent within your country of residence and primary when you rent outside your country of residence. However, benefits are only available to accounts approved for the Visa Signature card. Terms apply.

Related: Capital One Venture Card vs. Capital One VentureOne Card: Which one is right for you?

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card currently offers 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x Capital One miles on all purchases and the card has a $95 annual fee. See the full Capital One Venture credit card review for more details.

Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card currently offers 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. You’ll earn 1.25x miles on all purchases. The card has no annual fee. See the full Capital One VentureOne credit card review for more information.

Official application link: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited

Woman holding a wallet
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

If you’re looking for a no-annual-fee card that offers secondary car rental insurance, the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited might be a good pick. These cards provide coverage for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad. Coverage within your country of residence is secondary, but coverage outside your country of residence is primary.

Both cards offer a sign-up bonus of $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The Chase Freedom Flex has rotating 5% bonus categories (on up to $1,500 spent on purchases each quarter you activate), while the Chase Freedom Unlimited earns at least 1.5% on all purchases.

Although neither card has an annual fee, both cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. See the Chase Freedom Flex credit card review and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card review for more information.

Related: Credit card showdown: Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Bottom line

Many consumers focus on the number of points they can earn and then redeem when choosing a new travel rewards card. But, credit card travel protections can come in handy on the road. In particular, credit card car rental coverage can provide significant value.

However, it’s essential to review the details of your card’s policy to understand what is (and isn’t) covered. For example, don’t assume that you’re covered for every possible mishap when you pay for a car rental with a card that offers car rental coverage, as many exceptions and exclusions apply. And keep in mind that credit cards rarely provide liability insurance or coverage for peer-to-peer rentals.

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 EMS FORSTER PRODUCTIONS/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.