Choosing the Right Card for Worldwide Car Rental Insurance Coverage

Jul 17, 2019

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One of the benefits offered by many top travel credit cards is car rental insurance, either primary or secondary coverage. Primary coverage is more valuable, as it kicks in before your personal insurance rather than after. Each card can be different on details, ranging from maximum coverage amounts to which countries are excluded in “worldwide” coverage. The variables can make it hard to know which card is best to use for your rental car when you’re abroad.

Common Exceptions to Worldwide Travel Insurance

Often your benefit terms will list a few exceptions to “worldwide” coverage.

For example most, if not all, issuers won’t cover certain types of vehicles such as exotic cars, antiques, large vans and more. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be eligible for coverage through your credit card if you plan on renting a Lamborghini or 15-person van. Some issuers also list a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) limit for rented cars. For example, Barclaycard World Mastercard cardholders aren’t covered if the car rented is worth more than $50,000.

Most issuers also list countries where coverage is not available.

For Visa cardholders, you’ll probably find that Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel and Jamaica are all explicitly listed as countries where coverage is not offered. Elite Mastercard cardholders will probably see a list that includes New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Italy (coverage varies) and Germany (coverage varies). Amex, which offers primary rental car insurance as an add-on with any Amex card, lists Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand as exceptions.

Additionally, there will be language noting that benefits are not available where card coverage is against the law, where it’s in violation of territory terms of the auto rental agreement or when coverage is prohibited by individual merchants.

To find out specific coverage details, check with your card’s benefits administrator and the auto rental company before you travel.

Cards That Don’t List Country Restrictions for Worldwide Coverage

There are some cards that don’t exclude specific countries from their coverage within the terms and conditions of their benefit packages. Until now, Citi has been a popular issuer for car rentals for this reason. With a slash in travel benefits from Citi taking effect in September, many cardholders are wondering which cards offer similar coverage for their trips abroad.


(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)


Most of Chase’s cards no longer list specific country exceptions, including popular cards such as:

Barclaycard US

None of the Barclays US cards that offer worldwide car rental insurance list specific country restrictions. Some of their top cards include:

  • JetBlue Plus Card
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
  • Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

Request a Letter of Coverage

When traveling abroad, the best way to ensure you’ll be covered is to ask your issuer for an official letter of coverage that specifies the country where you’ll be renting the car. Some countries, including tourist favorites like Ireland, require a letter of coverage that specifically lists that country as covered in your plan before they will allow you to decline the rental agency’s coverage.

Ireland requires a letter of coverage before you can decline the rental agency’s coverage on a car rental. (Photo by maydays/Getty Images)


Simply call the number on the back of your card to request a proof-of-coverage letter, then print out a hard copy to present to the rental car company.

Bottom Line

One of the benefits of having a diverse portfolio of credit cards in your wallet is the ability to pick and choose which card you use, depending on your destination. That way, if you’re traveling to Costa Rica and your Elite Mastercard doesn’t offer coverage in that country, you can simply use a Visa or Amex card that does.

When choosing a card to pay for your car rental, make sure you fully understand the details of its benefits, including how and where you’re covered. It’s never a bad idea to call your issuer and the rental company for clarification on coverage details and get any information you’ll need to have with you in order to be covered by your credit card.

Featured photo by Julentto Photography/Unsplash.

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