When you rent a car, rental agents often get pushy, trying to sell you their company’s collision damage waiver (CDW), which covers damage to the vehicle during the rental period.
But what if your credit card company already has you covered?
Whether you need to purchase that CDW (also known as a loss damage waiver, or LDW) depends on the type of coverage you have on your personal car, the value of the vehicle you’re renting and, sometimes, even the credit card you use to pay for the rental and the country where you’re renting.
Most credit cards offer only secondary rental auto insurance (without liability insurance) on a rental vehicle. With secondary coverage, if you get into an accident while driving the rental car, you contact your personal auto insurance company to file a claim. The credit card’s insurance then picks up where your own personal coverage leaves off.
However, a handful of credit cards offer primary coverage for rental car insurance as long as you pay for your rental with the card. Primary insurance covers damage or theft without affecting the personal insurance you carry for your own car.
American Express even offers an affordable option to buy primary coverage when you rent a car with any of its cards. Planning to rent a car? Here are three of the best credit cards you might want to consider that provide car rental insurance.
Best for: Frequent travelers, and people who dine out regularly and attend concerts or other events.
Rewards: Earn 2X points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. All other purchases are worth 1 point. To maximize rewards, redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, where they’re worth 25% more.
You can redeem points for cash, gift cards, products and services offered through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program or third-party merchants. You even can combine points from this card with points from another eligible Chase card.
Other perks: Primary car rental insurance to cover damage to the rental car (no liability coverage). Baggage delay insurance, travel accident insurance and roadside assistance, as long as the trip was purchased using the card. Access to Chase Experiences® for concerts, shows, sports and other events. No blackout dates or travel restrictions when you book your airfare through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee: $95. The $600 cash back (or $750 in travel) sign-up bonus easily offsets that amount, if you spend $4,000 in the first three months from opening your account. Also, the primary car rental insurance coverage is a standout benefit you won’t get with most credit cards.
Bonus: 60,000-point sign-up bonus — worth $600 in cash, or $750 in travel rewards when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® — after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account. This more than makes up for the $95 annual fee.
Best for: Frequent travelers who don’t mind a high annual fee in exchange for premium benefits and rewards.
Rewards: 3X points for every $1 spent on travel worldwide (after earning a $300 travel credit) and dining at restaurants worldwide. 1X point for every $1 on all other purchases. To maximize rewards, redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, where they’re worth 50% more. Combine points from other eligible Ultimate Rewards® Chase cards with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® account to further maximize rewards. Redeem points for cash, gift cards, products and services.
Other perks: Primary car rental insurance for vehicle (no liability coverage), as long as the rental was booked using the card. Annual $300 travel/statement credit reimbursement for travel purchases; complimentary airport lounge access at VIP lounges; access to Chase Experiences® for concerts, shows, premium sports, and other events. Purchase protection, extended warranty, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and roadside assistance as long as the trip was purchased using the card.
Annual fee: $450. Additional $75 for each authorized user.
Bonus: 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening your account. Worth $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred®
Note: This card doesn’t offer primary car rental insurance. However, like all American Express cards, this one offers optional primary coverage available for the first 42 days of vehicle rental in qualifying US states and territories.
Best for: Travelers, especially those planning to rent a car for a long period, who also like earning cash back on groceries and gas.
Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year, then 1% cash back; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. Redeem points for statement credit, gift cards or shopping.
Other perks: Option to purchase primary rental car coverage (not including liability) for $12.25 to $24.95 per rental for up to 42 days. This arrangement beats paying the daily collision damage waiver that most car rental companies offer.
Annual fee: $95.
Bonus: $250 cash back after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.
Which Card Offers Might Bring the Most Joy to Your Wallet
The Chase Sapphire Preferred®, which provides primary car rental coverage, decent rewards and a small annual fee, will appeal to people who like robust rewards and benefits similar to those that come with the steep annual fee you’d pay with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
If you’re an American Express (AMEX) fan, the flat-rate option for primary car rental insurance is probably a better deal than you’d get from a car rental company. You can’t go wrong with the credit card rental car offers from these credit card issuers.