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Rental Car Insurance: 2016’s Best Credit Card Coverage

credit-card-rentalWhen most people think of credit-card perks, their minds turn to rewards, low interest rates and convenience. However, credit cards provide a number of other basic benefits that help protect cardholders from both monetary loss and unnecessary hassle. Rental-car insurance is one notable example, covering cardholders in the event of vehicle damage or theft with policies driven primarily by the card networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover).

Credit-card rental car insurance therefore has the potential to be quite valuable to travelers who not only recognize its presence, but also understand the specifics of their coverage. After all, roughly 20% of people always purchase supplemental insurance coverage when renting a car, according to Progressive Insurance, while another 20% do so on occasion. And they do so largely because they aren’t sure whether other forms of insurance extend to rental cars.

So in the interest of helping consumers maximize savings while minimizing risk, CardHub performed an in-depth examination of each major credit-card company’s rental car insurance policy, analyzing the nature of cardholder coverage, identifying the cards with the best policies and ultimately determining whether travelers should pay for any supplemental insurance beyond what’s already in their wallets. The results of this examination can be found below.

Main Findings

 

Best Issuer: Citi credit cards have the most favorable rental car insurance policies.

 

Avoid Renting: A truck, open-bed vehicle, exotic/antique car, large van or full-size SUV if you want credit-card coverage, as many cards exclude them.

 

*Perfect Score = 20%, American Express are the only cards that exclude full-size SUVs, please see methodology for scoring.

Coverage Duration: Almost 40% of cards only cover domestic rentals for up to 15 days.

 

Road Conditions: There’s only a 6% chance you’ll get penalized for driving on a dirt/gravel road, but it’s still best to stick to the pavement.

 

Country Coverage: Only Citi, Chase and Discover cards provide global coverage. Ireland, Israel and Jamaica are the most common exclusions among other issuers.

 

Tire & Rim Damage: More than 60% of cards do not cover all rim/tire damage.

 

Loss-Of-Use Losses: Nearly 10% of cards will not reimburse you for loss of use, which can cost upward of $100.

 

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The Coverage You Can Expect

Example of a Standard Policy Best Policy
Sign-Up None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage None required, but you must decline the rental company’s supplemental coverage
Type Of Coverage Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles Covers costs stemming from damage to or theft of rental vehicles
Coverage Amount The cost of repairs, the vehicle’s book value or the vehicle’s purchase price, whichever is lower. Up to $100,000
Maximum Coverage Duration 30 days 31 days
Vehicle Exclusions Certain popular SUVs and antique, exotic or luxury vehicles, vans, trucks, pick-ups, motorcycles, recreational or off-road vehicles Off-road vehicles
Type-Of-Road Exclusions Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered Accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads are covered
Country Exclusions Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand None
Loss Of Use & Personal Insurance Deductible Both Covered Both Covered
Towing Costs Covered Covered
Tire & Rim Damage Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision Covers damage as a result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision
Claims Process & Limits Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit Call card issuer’s benefits administrator; no claims limit
Full Policy Details American Express Rental Collision Policy Citi Rental Collision Policy

Business credit cards seem to offer similar benefits. However, business cards seem to have policy details slightly enhanced (e.g. covering 31 days instead of 15 days rentals) and a few cards even offer the policy as primary coverage instead of secondary.

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How To File A Claim

Issuer Phone Number Online Support
Best Vday Cards American Express U.S: 1-800-338-1670
Outside U.S : 1-216-617-2500
Here
bank-of-america U.S : 1-800-592-4089
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1468
Here
Best Vday Cards Braclaycard U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here
Best Vday Cards Capital One U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here For Visa
Best Vday Cards Chase Sapphire Preferred: 1-888-320-9961
Freedom: 1-888-320-9656
Slate: 1-877-445-4153
Here
Citi 866-918-4670 Here
Best Vday Cards Discover 1-800-347-0213 N/A
us_bank_correctcolors U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
Here
EMV USAA Visa: 1-866-200-9866
American Express: 1-888-884-6643
Here For Visa
Best Vday Cards Wells Fargo Visa – U.S : 1-800-348-8472
Visa – Outside U.S : 1-804-673-1164
American Express: 1-855-830-3727
Here For Visa

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8 Money-Saving Car Rental Tips

Based on our findings in this report as well as our knowledge of the insurance landscape and our overall money-saving expertise, CardHub’s editors recommend taking the following steps to minimize both the cost and liability associated with renting a car. Be safe out there!

  • Call your insurance company and find out if rentals are covered under your standard policy. Older policies may not offer this coverage.
  • Call your credit card issuer and ask what limitations apply to the car rental coverage provided by your particular type of credit card.
  • It might be wise to accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company if you do not have personal auto insurance and your credit card does not provide sufficient coverage.
  • Long-term rentals might not be covered by your existing auto insurance, as time limitations may be imposed by your policy.
  • Your personal auto policy – if it even covers rentals – only applies when the vehicle is used for personal use, so if you’re traveling for business check what other options are available for you.
  • Rent a car of similar value to your own car in order to increase the likelihood that your existing coverage is also adequate for the rental car.
  • Sometimes, when your existing policy does not offer coverage for a particular type of rental car, you can ask about the possibility of adding an insurance rider for a small fee.
  • If you are not a car owner but drive from time to time, you might want to consider purchasing a non-owner auto insurance policy.

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Detailed Findings

Credit-card rental car insurance policies were previously evaluated at the network level, but we decided to examine coverage at the card level in 2016 after discovering discrepancies among offers on the same network and/or issued by the same company. Where no policy differences existed, cards were grouped by issuer or network for the sake of simplicity.
 

Cards Total Score Vehicles Excluded Clarity on Exclusions Coverage Duration Type of Road Exclusions Country Exclusions Loss of use and deductible on your auto insurance Towing Damage to tires and rims Activation Claims Process Info Accessibility
Max Score 100.00% 20.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Citi Cards 95.50% 20.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 10.00%
USAA Cards 89.50% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Chase Cards 89.50% 15.00% 2.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 7.50%
Wells Fargo Visa Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
U.S. Bank Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
Capital One Visa Cards 87.00% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Barclay Cards 86.50% 15.00% 5.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 3.00% 8.50%
All American Express Cards 84.50% 10.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Discover Cards 83.00% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 5.00% 12.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 8.50%
Wells Fargo American Express Cards 81.50% 15.00% 5.00% 15.00% 5.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa 81.50% 15.00% 2.00% 9.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 5.00% 10.00%
All Other Bank of America Cards 80.50% 15.00% 2.00% 12.00% 5.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 5.00% 3.50%
Capital One MasterCard Cards 80.50% 15.00% 5.00% 9.00% 3.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 10.00%
Bank of America Better Balance Rewards 74.00% 15.00% 5.00% 9.00% 3.00% 3.00% 20.00% 5.00% 2.50% 5.00% 3.00% 3.50%

 

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Methodology

CardHub reviewed the publicly available online car rental policies of all the credit cards currently being offered by the 10 largest issuers, excluding student and co-branded offers, and collected the information needed to answer the following questions: 1) What vehicles are excluded?; 2) What other exclusions do the policies have?; 3) What is the quality of the coverage?; 4) How does one activate the benefit?; 5) How should claims be filed?; and 6) How easy it is to obtain complete policy information?

Where policies were unclear, we contacted the issuers directly and requested clarification. All issuers responded to our questions and confirmed the accuracy of our data.

Each card’s policy was scored using the following criteria:

1) What vehicles are excluded? – Worth 25% total
A. Vehicles excluded – Worth 20%

  • If no exclusions apply – 20%
  • If regular exclusions apply (i.e. exotic, expensive, or antique cars; trucks; vehicles with open beds; and large vans) – 15%
  • If SUVs are not covered – 10%
  • If there is a large number of exclusions – No points

B. Clarity on exclusions – Worth 5%

  • If a full definition of excluded cars is provided (i.e. value and characteristics) – 5%
  • If a partial definitions of excluded cars is provided (i.e. just value or just characteristics) – 2.5%
  • If no description of excluded cars is provided – No points

2) What exclusions do the policies have? – Worth 25% Total
A. Coverage Duration – Worth 15%

  • If the coverage duration is for 30 days and above – 15%
  • If the coverage duration is between 20 – 29 days – 12%
  • If the coverage duration is between 19 – 10 days – 9%
  • If the coverage duration is between 10 – 5 days – 3%
  • If the coverage duration is under 5 days – No points
  • *If a card provides 2 types of coverage, we averaged the 2

B. Road Type Exclusions – Worth 5%

  • If Dirt and gravel roads are covered – 5%
  • If Dirt and gravel roads are partially covered – 3%
  • If Dirt and Gravel roads are not covered – No points

C. Country Exclusions – Worth 5%

  • No country excluded – 5%
  • Up to 2 countries excluded – 4%
  • Up to 4 countries excluded – 3%
  • Up to 6 countries excluded – 2%
  • Up to 8 countries excluded – 1%
  • Over 8 countries excluded – No points

3) What is the quality of the coverage? – Worth 30% Total
A. Rental Company’s Loss Of Use & Your Auto Insurance Deductible – Worth 20%

  • If loss of use is covered – 20%
  • If the deductible portion on your auto insurance policy is covered – 12%
  • If the deductible from your auto insurance and loss of use not covered – No points

B. Towing Expenses – Worth 5%

  • If towing is covered – 5%
  • If towing is not covered – No points

C. Damage to tires and rims – Worth 5%

  • If damage to tires and rims is always covered – 5%
  • If damage to tires and rims is covered only when the result of theft, vandalism or vehicle collision – 5%
  • If damage to tires and rims is not covered – No points

4) How does one activate the benefit? – Worth 5%

  • If activation is standard (cardholders charge the entire rental car purchase on their credit card and decline supplemental insurance/Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) offered by the rental company) – 5%
  • If activation is more complex than the standard – No points

5) How should claims be filed? – Worth 5%

  • If filing a claim requires standard documentation ( i.e. a copy of the accident, a signed claim form, a rental agreement, an itemized bill and a receipt or statement showing to which card the rental was charged to) – 5%
  • If claims require up to 2 documents on top of the standard documentation – 3%
  • If claims require 3 or more documents on top of on top of the additional documentation – No points

6) How easy it is to obtain complete information about the policy? – Worth 10%
A. How easily can one find the info? – Worth 3%

  • Information is prominent within card landing page – 3%
  • Information is not prominent within card landing page; or it is prominent but users need to log in to see the full disclosure – 1.5%
  • Information cannot be easily found on website – No points

B. How easy it is to read the info? – Worth 1%

  • Information is presented in normal size font – 1%
  • Information is in small size font – No points

C. How complete are the policies provided? – Worth 4%

  • Full policy provided – 4%
  • Part of policy provided – 2%
  • Benefits briefly described – 0.5%
  • No key details provided – No points

D. How open and transparent are issuers about the policies? – Worth 2%

  • Transparent about policies – 2%
  • Not transparent about policies – No points

The card with the most accumulated points received the highest score. The maximum number of points is 100%.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Editorial content is not provided or commissioned by financial institutions. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been approved or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution, including those that are CardHub advertising partners. 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. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

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