When 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. One of these benefits is car rental collision protection, which is primarily driven by the card network and not the card issuer.
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 report, CardHub provides an in-depth examination of each major card network’s rental car insurance policy and explains 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 needed.
- All four major card networks provide some form of rental car insurance coverage.
- MasterCard is the only network that does not provide coverage on all of its cards.
- American Express received the highest cumulative score (90%) for its rental car insurance policy, while Discover ranked second (88%), MasterCard ranked third (79%) and Visa ranked last (74%).
- All four major networks require cardholders to charge their 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: 1) exotic, expensive, or antique cars; 2) trucks; 3) vehicles with open beds; or 4) off-road vehicles.
- VISA is the only network that does not cover accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads. MasterCard only covers accidents on dirt and gravel roads if they are “regularly maintained.”
- All card networks exclude rentals that exceed specified time limits, and a lot of cards come with country limitations as well.
- 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.
|Point Allocation||Category||Visa||Discover||MasterCard||American Express|
|5%||Clarity on exclusions||2%||5%||5%||5%|
|5%||Type of Road Exclusions||0%||5%||3%||5%|
|15%||Loss of use and deductible on your auto insurance||15%||9%||15%||15%|
|5%||Damage to tires and rims||0%||5%||5%||5%|
- 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.
CardHub reviewed the publicly available online car rental policies of the four major card networks and collected key information in order to answer the following questions: 1) Who is eligible for car rental insurance coverage?; 2) What vehicles are excluded?; 3) What exclusions do the policies have?; 4) What is the quality of the coverage?; 5) How does one activate the benefit?; 6) How should claims be filed?; and 7) How easy it is to obtain complete information about the policy?
Where the policies were not clear, we contacted the networks directly and requested clarification. American Express, Discover and MasterCard responded to our questions and confirmed the accuracy of our data. Visa declined to clarify issues regarding its policies despite multiple attempts to contact the company.
In the case of card networks that offer more than one type of rental car insurance to participating issuers, we scored each of the packages individually and then averaged them to obtain an overall score. Each card network policy was scored using the following criteria.
- If all cards are eligible for the benefit – 2/2 points
- If just some cards are eligible for the benefit – 1/2 points
- If no cards are eligible for the benefit – 0 points
- If no exclusions apply – 4/4 points
- If regular exclusions apply (i.e. exotic, expensive, or antique cars, trucks, vehicles with open beds, or off-road vehicles) – 3/4 points
- If SUVs are not covered – 2/4 points
- If there is a large number of exclusions – 0 points
- If a full definition of excluded cars is provided (i.e. value and characteristics) – 5/5 points
- If a partial definitions of excluded cars is provided (i.e. just value or just characteristics) – 2/5 points
- If no description of excluded cars is provided – 0 points
- If the coverage duration is for 30 days and above – 5/5 points
- If the coverage duration is between 20 – 29 days – 4/5 points
- If the coverage duration is between 19 – 10 days – 3/5 points
- If the coverage duration is between 10 – 5 days – 1/5 points
- If the coverage duration is under 5 days – 0 points
- If Dirt and gravel roads are covered – 5/5 points
- If Dirt and gravel roads are partially covered – 3/5 points
- If Dirt and Gravel roads are not covered – 0 points
- No country excluded – 5/5 points
- Up to 2 countries excluded – 4/5 points
- Up to 4 countries excluded – 3/5 points
- Up to 6 countries excluded – 2/5 points
- Up to 8 countries excluded – 1/5 points
- Over 8 countries excluded – 0 points
- If loss of use is covered – 5/5 points
- If the deductible portion on your auto insurance policy is covered – 3/5 points
- If the deductible from your auto insurance and loss of use not covered – 0 points
- If towing is covered – 5/5 points
- If towing is not covered – 0 points
- If damage to tires and rims is covered – 5/5 points
- If damage to tires and rims is not covered – 0 points
- 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) – 5/5 points
- If activation is more complex than the standard – 0 points
- 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) – 5/5 points
- If claims require up to 2 documents on top of the standard documentation – 3/5 points
- If claims require 3 or more documents on top of on top of the additional documentation – 0 points
- Information is prominent on credit card network website – 2/2 points
- Information is not prominent on credit card network website; or it is prominent but users need to log in to see the full disclosure – 1/2 points
- Information cannot be easily found on website – 0 points
B. How easy it is to read the info? – Worth 1%
- Information is presented in normal size font – 1 point
- Information is in small size font – 0 points
C. How complete are the policies provided? – Worth 4%
- Full policy provided – 8/8 points
- Part of policy provided – 4/8 points
- Benefits briefly described – 1/8 points
- No key details provided – 0 points
D. How open and transparent are card networks about the policies? – Worth 2%
- Transparent about policies – 2 points
- Not transparent about policies – 0 points
The network with the most accumulated points received the highest score. The maximum number of points is 100%.
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