Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the top card for booking rental cars
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
In August 2021, Chase refreshed the Chase Sapphire Reserve to include new bonus-earning categories.
They now are:
- 10 points per dollar on Chase Dining booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 10 points per dollar on hotel and car rental purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal* annually.
- 5 points per dollar on airline travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal*
- 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining
- 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases
*after you spend $300 on travel purchases annually.
That second bullet is what we'll focus on today. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders already had an incentive to use this card to pay for car rentals thanks to its various travel protections. Now, thanks to those earning rates, they have yet another reason to use it for this purpose.
Here's why the Chase Sapphire Reserve might just be the best credit card for car rentals.
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Chase Sapphire Reserve: A great choice for car rentals
The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently offers 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. It comes with other excellent benefits, too, such as:
- $300 annual travel credit.
- Priority Pass Select membership, offering access to more than 1,300 airport lounges around the world.
- Application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth up to $100).
- At least one free year of DoorDash DashPass when you register by March 31, 2022
But some of the best parts of the card are two special benefits that put it miles ahead of any other credit card when it comes to renting cars.
Primary rental car insurance
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers primary insurance when you use it to book your rental car. Just decline the rental company's in-house collision damage waiver (CDW) and Chase will automatically cover you for theft or damage. If you've purchased a rental agency's insurance before, you know how expensive it can be. You could easily save $15 or more per day simply by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve for the bill.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve's coverage provides reimbursement for damages caused by collisions or theft, up to $75,000. Just note that it only covers the rental vehicle, and won't cover things like personal injuries or damages to other vehicles or objects. There are also plenty of exclusions, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles, and you'll render the coverage moot if you do things like off-roading or if you are under the influence of an intoxicant. However, for normal, everyday driving needs, this insurance can be a real money-saver.
I've had a wonderful experience with this coverage in the past. Chase has previously reimbursed the damage charges from my rental car in full (a $2,300 debacle), and it took them less than three weeks to cut me a check.
10x points on car rentals
The other reason you might want to reach for the Chase Sapphire Reserve first is that it earns 10 points per dollar on car rentals through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. TPG valuations peg Chase points at 2 cents each. Earning 10 points per dollar means you're getting a 20% return on these transactions.
Booking rental cars through the Chase Travel Portal
Since you have to book car rentals through the Chase Travel Portal to qualify for that 10x earning rate, it's worth looking at how rentals reserved this way work.
In my experience, I've found the rental prices posted by Chase to be competitive (or even lower) than other online travel agencies. Here are some recent booking scenarios with the same time frame and location that demonstrate Chase's price parity with other portals.
Chase Travel Portal
There do appear to be some cases when the Chase Travel Portal prices rental cars a bit higher than a competing website. Notably, Costco Travel generated a lower number than any other site on a few occasions.
In this situation, you've got two choices:
- You could use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to book the cheaper rate, still earning 3 points per dollar.
- You could stick with the more expensive rate through the Chase Travel Portal and earn 10 points per dollar
It all depends on how much value you receive from Chase points. If you consider them to be worth 2 cents each (like us), earning 10 points per dollar is a solid 20% return that might be worth a little extra spending.
But with all things equal, here are the prices of a compact car from each of the above sites and the number of Chase points you'd earn, along with the return you could expect from them based on TPG's valuations.
- Chase Travel Portal: $490, earns 4,900 points worth $98
- Priceline: $489, earns $1,467 points worth $29.34
- Kayak: $487, earns 1,374 points worth $27.48
Although it's slightly more expensive to book through Chase, you might still want to do so given the value of the rewards you earn.
Very few other travel credit cards present the same value proposition — both in terms of earning points as well as in comprehensive protections — as the Chase Sapphire Reserve when it comes to renting cars. With its ability to save you on expensive insurance and simultaneously earn you 10 Chase points per dollar, even an occasional renter could reap hundreds of dollars in savings each year. Road warriors might even save thousands.
Apply here: Chase Sapphire Reserve