Paying $500 in rental car damage — reader mistake story

Jan 13, 2020

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Connie, who negated one of her credit card benefits by putting the wrong name on a rental contract:

My husband and I decided to take a quick and cheap weekend trip to visit family in Sacramento. Knowing that my Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a primary rental car insurance benefit, I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book a rental car for 6,710 points for two days. My husband normally drives when we’re together, so I thought it would be more convenient to put his name on the reservation instead of mine.

While we were having lunch, our rental car was hit while parked on the street. With no note or witnesses, I called Chase to file a claim only to learn that we were not covered, because the name on the reservation did not match the cardholder name. We would have been covered if I had added my husband as an authorized user, but alas, I had previously cheaped out on that because of the $75 fee. I added him without hesitation later that night!

The damage totaled a little over $1,000, so we ended up using our existing auto insurance policy and paid the $500 deductible. If only I had put my own name on the reservation or added my husband as an authorized user in the first place, we wouldn’t be out $500. That charge more than doubled the cost of our quick and “cheap” weekend trip.

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Some credit card benefits (like elite status or lounge access) are granted to you simply by virtue of being a cardholder, while others (like trip cancellation and interruption protection) don’t apply unless you actually pay with your card. The auto rental collision damage waiver benefit on the Sapphire Reserve card falls into the latter category, as Chase specifies in the terms and conditions that you’re only covered when you use your card (or rewards from the same account) to complete a rental car transaction as the primary driver. However, additional drivers listed on the rental agreement are also covered.

By state law, there’s no fee for adding drivers in California, so Connie could have avoided this mistake by simply paying with her card and including her husband’s name on the contract. Several other states have similar laws for additional drivers, but adding a spouse or family member as an authorized user is an excellent solution if you commonly rent vehicles on your own and don’t otherwise need individual Sapphire Reserve accounts. Authorized users don’t get their own $300 annual travel credit or an application credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, but they do receive a Priority Pass membership and are eligible for travel protections, so there’s value beyond the collision damage waiver benefit.

Related: Credit cards that offer elite status for rental cars

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Connie a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images.

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