Updated: Aug 15
If you have ever rented a car or van, you have probably encountered a pushy salesperson. Make no mistake, behind the rental counter, is a Ninja who is highly skilled at separating you from your money. They are experts in the art of upselling and instilling uncertainty and doubt in you about walking away without purchasing the rental company’s insurance. They are hoping you are unaware of your current rental coverage and that you haven’t read this article.
According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 62% of consumers don’t believe their personal auto insurance automatically covers rental cars. Similarly, 24% aren’t sure whether their credit cards provide any sort of coverage. Did you know that using a personal credit card for the purchase of a car or van rental can be one of the best ways to protect yourself financially in case of an accident? Here are the typical benefits and limitations that are common across the major four networks, Visa, Amex, MasterCard, and Discover.
Note: Much of the information discussed in this article is a compilation of resources available online and through phone calls to customer service hotlines. It’s important to contact your card’s issuer to verify its coverage policy BEFORE you rent a vehicle.
Car or Van Rental: 10 Things to Remember
1. Car Rental Benefits Come Second – Credit card rental car insurance is typically secondary coverage. Claims should be filed with your personal auto insurance company first.
2. Deductibles are Paid Up To $500 – The credit card company will pay up to $500 to your personal car insurance carrier toward your deductible.
National Rental Car coverage? How About Abroad?
3. Coverage Here and Abroad – When renting a car overseas, you have the same coverage as national rental cars in the US, with the exception of a few foreign countries. Some credit card companies do not cover rentals in countries deemed high risk. If you plan on renting a car abroad, call your credit card company for specific exclusions.
4. Purchase the Rental Car on One Credit Card – Use one credit card for the entire rental transaction. Similarly, the same name needs to be on the credit card as on the rental agreement. Do not split up the rental bill with your girlfriend ahead of time. Doing so will forfeit all of the coverage.
5. Decline the Rental Car Company’s Insurance – To guarantee your credit card coverage, you must decline what the rental counteroffers.
Go For Economy Car Rental
6. Resist the Urge to Splurge – Rent a car of similar value to your own car. This is not the time to test drive that cute convertible or Mercedes. Save that for the local dealership, not the rental counter. In case of theft or damage to your rental car, most credit card coverage caps at $50,000.
7. Keep the Rental Time to Under 15 Days – If your rental period exceeds 15 days, call your credit card issuer to determine specific coverages needed.
8. Towing Costs are Covered – If you are in an accident and there is a need for towing service, use the same credit card as for the rental transaction. You can get a refund for towing charges and it is much simpler to deal with the same credit card company for expenses.
9. Operate the Rental Car in a Lawful Manner – Driving recklessly, under the influence, or against warnings posted while driving the car can void the credit card coverage. Using the rental car as a vehicle for hire (i.e. “Uber” driver) can also negate coverage.
Why Economy Car Rental?
10. Four-wheeled, public road vehicles only – Exotics, expensive or antique cars, motorcycles, pickup trucks, off-road or recreational vehicles are excluded.
So, get on with your trip. Who has time to spend at the counter when that big ol’ world is calling your name?