2012 Credit Card Auto Rental Insurance Study

CardHub-2012-Credit-Card-Auto-Rental-Insurance-StudyWhen most people think of credit card perks, their minds turn to rewards, low interest rates, and the like. However, credit cards naturally provide a number of far-reaching standard benefits that help protect cardholders from both monetary loss and unnecessary hassle. Two of the most important such benefits are rental car collision protection and extended warranties. This study, together with the 2012 Credit Card Extended Warranty Study, provides an in-depth examination of the policies of the four major credit card networks as they relate to these important benefits.

To provide context, roughly 20% of consumers always purchase supplemental insurance coverage when renting a car, according to a study from Progressive Insurance, and another 20% do so on occasion. Sitting atop the list of reasons for such purchases is confusion as to whether personal auto insurance extends to rental cars. Indeed, 62% of consumers do not believe their personal auto insurance automatically covers rental cars, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Similarly, 24% aren’t sure whether their credit cards provide any sort of coverage either.

In this study, we will address what type of rental car insurance coverage consumers automatically receive through their credit cards, how they can take advantage of it, which credit cards offer the best insurance coverage, and whether any other forms of supplemental insurance are therefore needed.

Key Findings

  • All four major card networks provide some form of rental car insurance coverage.
  • MasterCard is the only network that does not provide coverage to all cardholders.
  • VISA’s rental car insurance received the highest cumulative score (87%), while Discover ranked second (85%), American Express ranked third (82%), and MasterCard last (73%).
  • All four major networks necessitate that cardholders charge the entire rental car purchase on their credit card and decline supplemental insurance/Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) offered by the rental company in order to be eligible.
  • None of the four major networks provides coverage for the rental of exotic, expensive, or antique cars; trucks; vehicles with open beds; or off-road vehicles.
  • VISA and MasterCard are the only two networks that do not cover accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads. As if that weren’t enough, MasterCard also has a confusing stipulation that excludes accidents occurring on roads that aren’t regularly maintained.
  • VISA, MasterCard, and American Express exclude from coverage rentals in certain countries as well as rentals that exceed specified time limits. Discover is the only network to provide coverage in all of the countries that its cards are accepted.
  • American Express is the only network not to provide coverage for renting certain popular SUVs, including the Suburban and Tahoe from Chevrolet, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX450, Range Rover, and full-sized Ford Bronco.
  • Overall, the fine print and level of complexity of card network insurance policies makes it difficult for consumers to understand and count on them.

Visa Discover MasterCard American Express
Likelihood of Coverage 52% 60% 40% 47%
Ubiquity 20% 20% 10% 20%
Vehicles Excluded 17% 20% 20% 12%
Events Excluded 15% 20% 10% 15%
Quality of Coverage 25% 15% 25% 25%
Logistics 10% 10% 8% 10%
Activation 5% 5% 5% 5%
Claims Process 5% 5% 3% 5%
OVERALL SCORE 87% 85% 73% 82%
Overall Score


In compiling this report, we contacted Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express in order to answer the following six important questions: 1) Who is eligible for network rental car insurance coverage? 2) What vehicles are excluded? 3) What events are not covered? 4) What is covered? 5) How does one activate the benefit? and 6) How should claims be filed?

We then scored and ranked the networks based on three general criteria: the likelihood that cardholders will be covered when and if they have to file a claim with their credit card company, the quality of coverage they will receive in such an event, and the difficulty of the claims process. The breakdown of the scoring is as follows:

  • Likelihood of Coverage: 65%
    • Ubiquity on Network Cards (i.e. likelihood of coverage with network card): 20%
    • Vehicles Not Covered: 25%
    • Events Not Covered: 20%
  • Quality of Coverage: 25%
  • Logistics: 10%
    • Activation: 5%
    • Claims Processing: 5%

Likelihood of coverage was given the most weight for the simple reason that nothing else matters if a consumer isn’t eligible for coverage. The claims process was given relatively little weight both because little difference exists between the claims processes of the different networks and given that a consumer who files a rental car insurance claim with his or her credit card network generally will not be deterred by a requirement to submit an extra document or two, for example.

The scores for each category are based on our subjective opinion of how each network’s policy compares to an ideal policy. In our opinion, an ideal policy would be one based on common sense, where the average consumer would know what to expect without having to read the fine print. For example, an ideal policy would apply to all car rental agencies that accept one’s card, rather than providing coverage in only a select number of countries where the card is accepted. Finally, it is important to note that the objective of this study is to help consumers make informed decisions about which credit card to apply for. As a result, the study only takes into account credit cards – both general-consumer credit cards and business credit cards – that are accepting new applicants. While we acknowledge that some consumers may be subject to older policies than those presented in this study, and that is a risk that consumers should keep in mind, it would be unfair to judge networks based on outdated policies for cards no longer being offered.

Detailed Card Network Results

Below you will find the network-specific responses on which the above scores were based, along with commentary outlining how these scores were reached.

Who is Eligible? (Indicates “Ubiquity on Network Cards”)

Score: 20/20

  • This benefit is available on all Visa Traditional Credit, Visa Rewards Credit, and Visa Premium Rewards cards.
  • You are eligible only if you are a valid cardholder whose name is embossed on an eligible U.S.-issued Visa card. Only you as the primary renter of the vehicle and any additional drivers permitted by the auto rental agreement are covered.

Score: 20/20

  • All Discover credit cards provide rental car insurance coverage.

Score: 10/20

  • The majority of MasterCard cards offer MasterRental/CDW (rental coverage). It is available for MasterCard Gold, Platinum, World and World Elite products (business and consumer). Issuers (banks) may also include the benefits on standard MasterCard cards, as well.
  • The covered MasterCard cardholder and those designated in the vehicle rental agreement/contract as authorized drivers.

American Express
Score: 20/20

  • All US Consumer and Small Business American Express Cards feature the Car Rental Loss & Damage Insurance (CRLDI).The Basic and any Additional Cardmembers that have an eligible Card issued in his or her name are eligible for coverage.

Score Justification: VISA, Discover, and American Express give rental car insurance coverage to all of their credit cardholders and as such received perfect scores in terms of ubiquity. MasterCard followed with a 10/20, as cardholders have to check whether their cards are covered and cannot benefit from the peace of mind provided by blanket coverage.

Back To Table


What Vehicles are Excluded? (Corresponds to “Vehicles Not Covered”)

Score: 17/25

  • Excluded worldwide are: expensive, exotic, and antique automobiles; certain vans; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles.
    • Certain Vans: This benefit [rental car insurance] is provided for only those vans manufactured and designed to transport a maximum of eight (8) people including the driver and which is used exclusively to transport people.
    • Examples of excluded expensive or exotic automobiles are the Aston Martin, Bentley, Bricklin, Daimler, DeLorean, Excalibur, Ferrari, Jensen, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, Porsche, and Rolls Royce. However, selected models of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, and Lincoln are covered.
    • An antique automobile is defined as any vehicle over twenty (20) years old or any vehicle that has not been manufactured for ten (10) years or more.

Score: 20/25

  • Off-road, antique, or limited edition motor vehicles; trucks, recreational vehicles, campers, pickup trucks, and mini-buses; limited edition motor vehicles or high-value, exotic, high performance or collector type.
    • High value motor vehicles are motor vehicles whose replacement value exceeds $50,000.
    • Antique vehicles defined as any vehicle over 25 years old, or any vehicle which has not been manufactured for 10 or more years.

Score: 20/25

  • All trucks, pickups, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, cargo vans, campers, off-road vehicles, and other recreational vehicles.
  • All sport utility trucks. These are vehicles that have been or can be converted to an open, flat bed truck (including, but not limited to, Chevy Avalanche, GMC Envoy, and Cadillac Escalade EXT).
  • Trailers, motorbikes, motorcycles, and any other vehicle having fewer than four (4) wheels.
  • Antique vehicles (vehicles that are more than twenty (20) years old or have not been manufactured for at least ten (10) years), or limousines.
  • Any rental vehicle that has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price that exceeds $50,000 USD.

American Express
Score: 12/25

  • Expensive autos, which means autos with an original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $50,000 ($75,000 for all Platinum, Centurion, small Business Platinum and small Business Centurion) or more when new.
  • Exotic cars regardless of year or value, including but not limited to Chevrolet Corvette, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Dodge Viper and Stealth, Plymouth Prowler, Mitsubishi 3000 GT, Nissan 300 ZX, Jaguar XJS, Acura NSX, Mercedes SL, SLK, S Coupe and E320, Coupe and Convertible, BMW M3, Z3 and 8 series, Cadillac Allante. All Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin, Lotus, Bugatti, Vector, Shelby Cobra, Bentley, Rolls Royce.
  •  Trucks, pick-ups, cargo vans, custom vans; full-sized vans, including but not limited to Ford Econoline, or Club Wagon, Chevy Van or Sportvan, GMC Vandura and Rally, Dodge Ram Vans and Ram Wagon. (However, trucks and pick-ups are eligible for coverage under all small Business Cards).
  • Vehicles which have been customized or modified from the manufacturer’s factory specifications except for driver’s assistance equipment for the physically challenged.
  • Vehicles used for hire or commercial purposes.
  • Mini-vans used for commercial hire.
    • Note: Passenger Mini-Vans (not Cargo Mini-Vans) with factory specified seating capacity of 8 passengers or less, including but not limited to Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, Ford Windstar and Nissan Quest are covered when rented for personal or business use only.
  • Antique cars, which means cars that are 20 years old or have not been manufactured for 10 or more years.
  • Limousines.
  • Full sized sport utility vehicles, including but not limited to, Chevrolet/GMC Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX450, Range Rover or full-sized Ford Bronco.
  • Sport/utility vehicles when driven “off-road.”
    • Note: Compact sport/utility vehicles, including but not limited to, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Four Runner, Chevrolet Blazer and Isuzu Trooper and Rodeo are covered when driven on paved roads.
  • Off-road vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, recreational vehicles, golf or motorized carts, campers, trailers and any other vehicle which is not a Rental Auto.

Score Justification: While the four card networks have similar coverage exclusions, they have exclusions nonetheless, which is why none received a perfect score. In terms of their relative hierarchy, the primary differentiating factors were simplicity and coverage of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Discover and MasterCard tied for first in this category with scores of 20 because they provide clear definitions of what expensive/exotic/antique vehicles are and, more importantly, cover SUV rentals. VISA also covers SUVs, but it came in third with 17/25 because its list of exclusions was not as clear as those of the higher scoring. American Express finished last in this category with 12/25 given that it does not cover a number of popular SUVs (e.g. Suburban, Tahoe, Land Cruiser, Range Rover) and makes a confusing distinction between full-sized SUVs (not covered) and compact SUVs (covered).

Back To Table


What is Not Covered? (Corresponds to “Events Not Covered”)

Score: 15/20

  • Countries Excluded: Theft or damage from rental transactions which originated in Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland.
  • Time Limit: Rental periods that either exceed or are intended to exceed fifteen (15) consecutive days within your country of residence or thirty-one (31) consecutive days outside your country of residence.
  • Road Conditions: Damage due to off-road operation of the rental vehicle is not covered. (Includes when the rental car is on un-paved roads.) A road would not be excluded because it is dirt/gravel or unpaved. Any road that is maintained and/or recognized by a municipality would be considered eligible. The intent of the exclusion is to not afford coverage to incidents that occur when someone takes a rental car “off-road”.
  • Any obligation you assume under any agreement (other than the deductible under your personal auto policy).
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement or this benefit.
  • Injury of anyone or damage to anything inside or outside the rental vehicle.
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings.
  • Personal liability.
  • Expenses assumed, waived, or paid by the auto rental company or its insurer.
  • Cost of any insurance or collision damage waiver offered by or purchased through the auto rental company.
  • Depreciation of the rental vehicle caused by the incident including, but not limited to “diminished value.”
  • Expenses reimbursable by your insurer, employer, or employer’s insurance.
  • Theft or damage due to intentional acts, or due to the driver(s) being under the influence of alcohol, intoxicants, or drugs, or due to contraband or illegal activities.
  • Wear and tear, gradual deterioration, or mechanical breakdown.
  • Items not installed by the original manufacturer.
  • Theft or damage due to hostility of any kind (including, but not limited to, war, invasion, rebellion, insurrection or terrorist activities).
  • Confiscation by authorities.
  • Vehicles that do not meet the definition of covered vehicles.
  • Leases and mini leases.
  • Theft or damage as a result of the authorized driver’s and/or cardholder’s lack of reasonable care in protecting the rental vehicle before and/or after theft or damage occurs (for example, leaving the vehicle running and unattended).

Score: 20/20

  • Countries Excluded: None
  • Time Limit: Rentals that exceed 31 days (or 45 days if the insured is an employee of an organization which has provided a card to the insured for business use).
  • Road Conditions: Road conditions are not specified in our policy so it doesn’t matter where the accident happens, you’d be covered.
  • Personal injury or personal liability.
  • Any dishonest, fraudulent or criminal act of the insured.
  • Forgery by the insured.
  • Loss due to war confiscation by authorities.
  • Loss due to nuclear reaction or radioactive contamination.
  • The insured being intoxicated, as defined by the laws of the jurisdiction where the loss occurred, or under the influence of any narcotic unless prescribed by a physician.
  • Use of the rented automobile to carry passengers and property for hire.
  • Use of the rented automobile by a person other than the one authorized to operate the rented automobile by the terms of the rental agreement.
  • Intentional damage to the rented automobile by the insured.
  • Damage which is due and confined to wear and tear, freezing, mechanical or electrical breakdown or failure.
  • Damage to tires unless the loss is coincident with a covered loss.
  • Use of the rented automobile in tests, races, or contests.
  • The rented automobile being operated or located in any territory prohibited by the terms of the rental agreement.

Score: 10/20

  • Countries Excluded: Coverage is not available for vehicles rented in the following countries: Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel and Jamaica.
  • Time Limit: Vehicles with a rental agreement/contract that exceeds or is intended to exceed a rental period of fifteen (15) consecutive days from a rental agency are not covered.
  • Road Conditions:
    • Damage sustained on any surface, other than a bound surface such as concrete or tarmac, is not covered. (An accident on a dirt or gravel road is not covered)
    • Damage sustained on any road not regularly maintained by a municipal, state or federal entity is not covered.
  • Other coverage exceptions:
    • This coverage is not all-inclusive, which means it does not cover such things as personal injury, personal liability, or personal property. It does not cover you for any damages to other vehicles or property. It does not cover you for any injury to any party.
    • Any personal item stolen from the interior or exterior of rental vehicles.
    • Vehicle not rented by the eligible MasterCard cardholder or authorized user on eligible MasterCard account.
    • Any person not designated in the rental agreement/contract as an authorized driver.
    • Any obligations you assume other than that which is covered under MasterRental or your primary vehicle insurance or other indemnity policy.
    • Any violation of the written terms and conditions of the rental agreement/contract.
    • Any loss that occurs while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; racing; reckless driving (as defined by a police report or citation issued to the cardholder).
    • Losses involving the theft of the rental vehicle when the renter or authorized driver cannot produce the keys to the rental vehicle at the time of reporting the incident to police and/or rental agency, as a result of negligence.
    • Mechanical failures caused by wear and tear, gradual deterioration, or mechanical breakdown.
    • Subsequent damages resulting from a failure to protect the rental vehicle from further damage.
    • Blowouts or tire/rim damage that is not caused by theft or vandalism or is not a result of a vehicle collision causing tire or rim damage.
    • Rental vehicles where Collision/Damage Waiver coverage was accepted/purchased by you or given to you by the rental agency.
    • Any damage that is of an intentional or non-accidental nature, caused by the renter or authorized driver(s) of the rental vehicle. [Except for residents of the state of New York, this exclusion is modified by the following limitation. This exclusion does not apply if: 1.) an individual or joint cardholder is liable for damages to the rental vehicle under the rental agreement/contract or liable for the charges from damages to the rental vehicle under the credit card agreement; 2.) the individual or joint cardholder is a victim of domestic violence and did not cooperate in or contribute to the damage; 3.) the damage arises out of a pattern of criminal domestic violence; and 4.) the perpetrator of the damage is criminally prosecuted for the act or acts causing the damage for which a claim is being made under this coverage. For New York state residents, this modification does not apply and is not in effect.]
    • Depreciation, diminishment of value, administrative, or other fees charged by the vehicle rental company.
    • Losses resulting from any kind of illegal activity.
    • Losses as a result of war or hostilities of any kind (including, but not limited to, invasion, terrorism, rebellion, insurrection, riot, or civil commotion); confiscation or damage by any government, public authority, or customs official; risks of contraband; illegal activity or acts.
    • Any loss involving the rental vehicle being used for hire, for commercial use, or as a public or livery conveyance.
    • Theft of, or damage to, unlocked or unsecured vehicles.
    • Value-added tax, or similar tax, unless reimbursement of such tax is required by law.
    • Interest or conversion fees that are charged to you on the covered card by the financial institution
    • Vehicle keys or portable Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

American Express
Score: 15/20

  • Countries Excluded: For all consumer cards, small business Platinum Cards and small business Centurion cards, no coverage is provided for vehicles rented in Australia, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Jamaica and New Zealand. All other small business cards only provide coverage within the geographic scope of the United States, its territories and possessions.
  • Time Limit: Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance covers eligible Rental Autos when rented under a written rental agreement from a Rental Company for no more than 30 consecutive days.
    •  Note: In no event shall coverage be provided when the Cardmember rents a Rental Auto beyond 30 consecutive days from the same Rental Company, regardless of whether the original agreement is extended, or a new written agreement is entered into, or a new vehicle is rented.
    • Additionally, no coverage will be provided when the Primary Renter rents a Rental Auto for more than 30 consecutive days out of a 45 day period within the same geographic market/location (75 mile radius).
  • Road Conditions: Accidents on dirt or gravel roads would be eligible for coverage.
    • Off-road operation of the vehicle would not be eligible for coverage.
  • Vehicles which have been customized or modified from the manufacturer’s factory specifications except for driver’s assistance equipment for the physically challenged.
  • Operation of the Rental Auto in violation of the terms and conditions of the Rental Company agreement (including but not limited to losses occurring when: a person not permitted to operate the vehicle pursuant to terms of the rental agreement was in possession or control of the vehicle; or, driving the vehicle outside of the authorized rental territory).
  • Leased or mini-leased vehicles.
  • Costs attributed to the Commercial Car Rental Company’s normal course of doing business;
  • Intentional damage.
  • Illegal activity, such as losses where the Rental Auto was used for, or involved in illegal activity or felony.
  • Pre-existing conditions, damage or defect;
  • Alcohol intoxication on the part of the driver, as defined in the state where the Accident occurred.
  • Voluntarily taking any drug or acting under the influence or effect of that drug (unless taken as prescribed or administered by a Doctor).
  • War or military activity.
  • Radioactivity.
  • Confiscation by authority.
  • Wear and tear, including gradual deterioration.
  • Damage which is due and confined to freezing, mechanical or electrical breakdown or failure unless such damage.
  • Results from a theft covered by the Policy.
  • Failure to return keys to the Rental Company when the vehicle is stolen.
  • Theft or damage to unsecured vehicles.
  • Theft of or damage to tires (flats or blowouts), unless damaged by fire, malicious mischief, vandalism, or stolen, unless the loss is coincident with and from the same cause as other loss covered by the Policy.
  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance does not cover, and benefits will not be paid for:
    • Sales tax related to repair of damages, unless reimbursement of such sales tax is required by law;
    • Damage to any vehicle other than the Rental Auto;
    • Damage to any property other than the Rental Auto, owner’s property, or items not permanently attached to the Rental Auto;
    • The Injury of anyone or anything;
    • Expenses assumed, waived or paid for by the Rental Company or its insurer;
    • Expenses covered by the Cardmember’s personal auto insurer, employer or employer’s insurer, or authorized driver’s insurer;
    • Value added tax or similar tax, unless reimbursement of such tax is required by law;
    • Diminishment of value;
    • Any Rental Auto used for hire or commercial purposes; and
    • Depreciation, unless reimbursement for depreciation is required by law.
  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance will not pay claims arising from any Injury for which the Cardmember or Passenger (a) received medical treatment, (b) received a recommendation for medical treatment, or (c) took prescribed drugs or medicine, in the 90-day period before the Cardmember’s or Passenger’s coverage commenced under this insurance.
  • In addition, Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance does not provide coverage for liability.

Score Justification: Discover clearly ranked first in this category and received a perfect score because it does not impose country restrictions or time limits on most cardholders and covers accidents regardless of the type of road on which they occur. (One could argue that since Discover does not boast the same level of international acceptance as the other networks, its lack of country restrictions is unimportant. However, there is something to be said for knowing that you have rental car insurance coverage wherever your card works around the world).

The other networks all had key shortcomings:

  • VISA and MasterCard both have exclusions based on road type. VISA does not cover accidents occurring on roads that are not maintained and/or recognized by a municipality. MasterCard not only has a similar exclusion to VISA’s, but it also does not cover accidents occurring on unpaved roads, which is something that could come into play more often than you’d think, considering the road conditions in many vacation spots around the world. This type of exclusion not only decreases their coverage relative to the other networks, but consumers also have no way of knowing which roads are regularly maintained.
  • VISA, MasterCard, and American Express do not cover rentals exceeding a certain number of days, which is problematic for extended trips.
  • VISA does not cover parts of vehicles not installed by the original manufacturer, and American Express does not cover vehicles that have been at all customized (as if you’re supposed to know what, if anything, has been modified in a rental car).
  • MasterCard and Amex don’t cover certain taxes related to the repair of damaged vehicles (which can be up to 20% in certain countries).

Of these exclusions, we felt that the lack of coverage based on road type was the most important, which is why Visa and American Express beat out MasterCard, tying for second in this category with scores of 15/20. VISA very well could have placed behind American Express due to the fact that it does not cover accidents occurring on roads that are not regularly maintained, but we felt that it must be given credit for the fact that it is the only network that will cover damage to a car’s tires or rims, whether it occurs as a result of a covered event or not. MasterCard received a 10/20 in this category because it covers neither accidents occurring on unpaved roads nor those on roads that are not regularly maintained, as if a consumer who rents a car will be able to anticipate coming across these roads..

Back To Table


What is Covered? (Corresponds to “Quality of Coverage”)

Score: 25/25

  • Loss of Use: Covered
    • Valid loss-of-use charges imposed and substantiated by the auto rental company through a fleet utilization log.
    • This benefit reimburses you for the covered theft or damage as well as valid administrative and loss-of-use charges imposed by the auto rental company and reasonable towing charges that occur while you are responsible for the rental vehicle
  • The Visa Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver benefit (“Auto Rental CDW”) provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.
  • Reasonable and customary towing charges, due to covered theft or damage, to the nearest qualified repair facility.
  • In your country of residence, this benefit is supplemental to, and excess of, any valid and collectible insurance from any other source. We will reimburse only for that damage or theft not payable by any other party.
  • Outside your country of residence or if you do not have automobile insurance, you do not have to claim payment from any other source of insurance before receiving the benefit.

Score: 15/25

  • Loss of Use: Not covered.
  • Your Discover Card comes with a Card Rental Insurance Plan that provides $25,000 of secondary collision damage insurance when you rent a car using your Discover Card and decline coverage offered by the rental agency.

Score: 25/25

  • Loss of Use: Covered
    • Reasonable loss of use charges imposed by the vehicle rental company for the period of time the rental vehicle is out of service. Loss of use charges must be substantiated by a location and class specific fleet utilization log.
  • Pays for covered damages (physical damage and theft) to a rental vehicle when your eligible MasterCard card is used to initiate and pay for the entire rental transaction.
  • MasterRental will pay the lesser of the actual repair amount, wholesale market value less salvage and depreciation, the rental agencies purchase invoice less salvage and depreciation or $50,000 per incident for which the eligible MasterCard cardholder or any other authorized driver is legally responsible to the rental agency.
  • MasterRental will pay for covered damages on a secondary basis only for which you or any other authorized driver is legally responsible to the rental agency.
  • Covered damages include:
    • Physical damage and theft of the vehicle, not to exceed the limits outlined below.
    • Reasonable towing charges to the nearest factory authorized collision repair facility.
    • If you or an authorized driver’s primary vehicle insurance or other coverage has made payments for a covered loss, MasterRental will cover your deductible and any other eligible amounts not covered by other insurance.
    • Coverage is secondary to any other applicable insurance or coverage available to you. Coverage is limited to only those amounts not covered by any other insurance or coverage benefit. Note: In certain parts of the United States and Canada losses to rental vehicles that are covered by your personal vehicle insurance policy liability section may not be subject to a deductible, which means that you may not receive any benefits from this program. Please, contact your insurance provider for full coverage details pertaining to your personal vehicle insurance policy.
    • If you have no other insurance or your insurance does not cover you in territories or countries outside of the United States, MasterRental is considered primary coverage.

American Express
Score: 25/25

  • Loss of Use: Covered
    • “Loss of Use” means the unavailability of a Rental Auto and consequent loss of revenue by the Rental Company due to damage or theft. Unless otherwise required by law, the Rental Company must submit a fleet utilization log indicating that during such time:
      • 1. no other Rental Auto was available; and
      • 2. there was a demand for a Rental Auto.
  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance reimburses a Cardmember for payments for damage to or theft of a Rental Auto that the Cardmember is required to make, up to the lesser of: 1) the actual cost to repair the Rental Auto, 2) the wholesale Book value minus salvage and depreciation costs, or 3) the purchase invoice price of the Rental Auto minus salvage and depreciation costs. The coverage also reimburses the Cardmember for reasonable charges (those charges incurred at the closest facility that are usual and customary in the vicinity in which the loss or disablement took place) imposed by the Rental Company, such as towing or storage and Loss of Use.
  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance covers no other type of loss. For example, in the event of a collision involving the Cardmember’s Rental Auto, damage to any other driver’s car or the Injury of anyone or anything is not covered.
    • Note: This policy does not provide liability or any other coverage such as Uninsured Motorists, benefits under any Worker’s Compensation law, Disability benefits law or other mandated Government Plans.
  • For Platinum, Centurion, Small Business Platinum and Small Business Centurion cardmembers, the following coverages are also provided:
    • Personal property is covered up to a maximum of $1,000 per person and $2,000 per vehicle
    • Medical payments coverage is a maximum of $5,000 per person
    • Accidental Death &Dismemberment is $200,000 for the cardmember and $20,000 per passenger in the rental vehicle
  • What Excess Coverage Means: Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance is an excess insurance plan, and all benefits except those for Accidental Death and Dismemberment will be paid on an excess Reimbursement Basis. This means that this excess coverage will reimburse the Cardmember only for losses/expenses not covered by plans, such as a partial collision damage waiver, any personal auto insurance, employer’s auto insurance or reimbursement plan or other sources of insurance. When these other plans apply, a Cardmember must first seek payment or reimbursement and receive a determination based on the stated terms of such other Plans, that any such Plans do not provide coverage before this excess coverage will reimburse the Cardmember.
  • When redeeming Membership Rewards redemption certificates, coverage is provided only to Rental Autos rented in the U.S. Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles. Simply decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This coverage is excess to your other sources of insurance. Coverage applies for the first 30 days of an auto rental if rented from a Car Rental Company.

Score Justification: While the exact coverage amounts may differ slightly among the four networks, their policies pretty much ensure that you will not have to pay anything out of pocket in the event of damage to or theft of your rental car. The primary differentiating factor is therefore whether tangential costs (e.g. loss of use and towing) are covered or not. VISA, MasterCard, and American Express cover these costs (American Express also covers certain cardholders’ medical expenses and VISA covers a cardholder’s deductible for events covered by his or her own insurance company), and they ranked first in this category with perfect scores as a result. Discover came in fourth with a score of 15/25 because it neither covers things like loss of use or towing costs.

Back To Table


How Do Cardholders Activate Benefit? (Corresponds to “Activation”)

Score: 5/5

  • For the benefit to be in effect, you must:
    • Be the primary renter, and
    • Initiate and complete the entire rental transaction with your eligible Visa card, and
    • Decline the auto rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW/LDW) option, or similar provision.

Score: 5/5

  • The collision damage waiver coverage is provided automatically when the entire rental fee is charged or debited to your account. It is not necessary to notify the company (FIC).
  • You must decline the loss/damage waiver offered by rental agency.
  • You must rent vehicle in your own name and sign rental agreement.

Score: 5/5

  • Initiate and pay for the entire rental agreement/contract (tax, gasoline, and airport fees are not considered rental charges) with your covered MasterCard card. If a rental company promotion/discount of any kind is initially applied toward payment of the rental vehicle, at least one (1) day of rental must be billed to your covered MasterCard card.
  • You must decline the optional Collision/Damage Waiver offered by the vehicle rental company.
  • You must rent the vehicle in your own name and sign the vehicle rental agreement/contract.
  • You must rent a vehicle (including minivans and sport utility vehicles that are designed to accommodate nine passengers or fewer) that is intended for bound surfaces, such as concrete and tarmac.

American Express
Score: 5/5

  • In order to activate the coverage you must reserve and pay for an auto rental with your eligible American Express Card and be the primary renter.

Commentary: To receive coverage, each of the four major networks requires cardholders to make rental car purchases with their cards, be the primary renters, and decline the full supplemental insurance plan offered by the rental car company. Therefore, they all tied for first in this category with perfect scores.

Back To Table


How Do Cardholders File Claims? (Corresponds to “Claims Processing”)

Score: 5/5

  • All incidents must be reported immediately following the theft or damage, but in no event later than forty-five (45) days following the date of the theft or damage, or your claim may be denied.
    • Submit the following documentation to the Benefit Administrator:
    • The completed and signed Visa Auto Rental CDW Claim Form. Your completed claim form must be postmarked within ninety (90) days of the date of the theft or damage, even if all other required documentation is not yet available, or your claim may be denied.
    • A copy of your receipt or monthly billing statement as proof that the entire vehicle rental was charged and paid for with your eligible Visa card.
    • A statement from your insurance carrier (and/or your employer or employer’s insurance carrier, if applicable) or other reimbursement showing the costs for which you are responsible and any amounts that have been paid toward the claim. Or, if you have no applicable insurance or reimbursement, a notarized statement of no insurance or reimbursement is required.
    • A copy of the declaration page from your automobile insurance carrier.
  • The following documents must be obtained from the auto rental company and provided to the Benefit Administrator within 365 days:
    • A copy of the accident report form.
    • A copy of the initial and final auto rental agreement(s).
    • A copy of the repair estimate or itemized repair bill.
    • Two (2) photographs of the damaged vehicle, if available.
    • A police report, if obtainable.

Score: 5/5

  • In order to file a claim, written or verbal consent must be sent as soon as reasonably possible. Call claims service center: 1-800-252-4670, or go to company website (www.chubb.com) and print form and send by mail or fax.
  • The insured must send the company written notice of claim, including the insured’s name and policy number, within 90 days after a covered loss occurs. If notice cannot be given within that time, it must be given as soon as reasonably possible. To file a sworn Proof of Loss, the insured must send the following information to the company or its authorized representative:
    • A copy of the Account statement showing the automobile rental transaction
    • A copy of the automobile rental agreement
    • A copy of the police report
    • A copy of the initial claim report submitted to the automobile rental agency
    • A copy of the paid claim presented by the automobile rental agency for the collision damage for which the insured is responsible
    • Proof of submission of the loss to, and the results of any settlement or denial by the applicable insurance carrier(s).
    • If no other insurance is applicable, a notarized statement from the Insured to that effect.

Score: 3/5

  • Call 1-800-MC-ASSIST to request a claim form. You must report the claim within thirty (60) days of the loss or the claim may not be honored. You may choose to assign your benefits under this insurance program to the rental agency from which you rented your vehicle. Please contact 1-800-MC-ASSIST for further details.
  • Submit the following documentation within one hundred eighty (180) days of the incident or the claim will not be honored:
    • Completed and signed claim form.
    • Eligible MasterCard receipt showing the vehicle rental.
    • Eligible MasterCard statement showing the vehicle rental.
    • The rental agreement (front and back).
    • Copy of valid driver’s license (front and back).
    • Copy of the declarations page of any primary vehicle insurance and other valid insurance or coverage.
    • Police report when the vehicle is stolen, vandalized (regardless of the damage), or involved in a collision that requires the vehicle; to be towed, in a multi-vehicle collision, or the vehicle is not drivable. Itemized repair estimate from a factory authorized collision repair facility.
    • Copy of vehicle rental company promotion, if applicable.
    • Copy of the vehicle rental location class specific fleet utilization log, if loss of use charges are being claimed. You must secure this log from the rental agency.
    • Any other documentation that may be reasonably requested to validate a claim.

American Express
Score: 5/5

  • In order to file a claim, you can contact the Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance* Claims Department directly at 1-800-338-1670 or you can use the claim filing website, www.yourcarrentalclaim.com.
  • Needed documentation:
    • Car rental agreement or contract
    • Personal and/or business insurance information
    • Police report
    • Other documents as needed
  • Claims must be filed within 60 days of the incident.
  • Cardmember cooperation with issues related to their benefits is required. If all required documentation is not received within 180 days of the date of loss (except for documentation which has not been furnished for reasons beyond the Cardmember’s control), coverage may be denied.

Score Justification: Not much difference exists among the different networks’ claims processes, as they all require the documents that one would assume to be needed in order to process an insurance claim. The only thing that really stood out was MasterCard’s requirement that cardholders provide their car rental receipts in addition to their card statements displaying the rental transaction as documentation. Given that not everyone keeps their receipts, MasterCard was ranked last with a score of 3/5, while VISA, Discover, and American Express all tied for the top spot with perfect scores.

Back To Table

Previous Credit Cards Go Social and Why You Should Care   What Binding Credit Card Arbitration Means for Your Wallet Next

Our content is intended for general educational purposes and should not be relied upon as the sole basis for managing your finances. Furthermore, the materials on this website do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any legal questions, please consult an attorney. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.