If you have ever rented a car, 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 trained 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 rental car 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.
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.
3. Coverage Here and Abroad – When renting a car overseas, you have the same coverage as here 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 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 is offered at the rental counter.
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. If your rental car is damaged or stolen 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 you credit card issuer to determine specific coverages needed.
8. Towing Costs are Covered – If you are involved in an accident and a towing service is needed, use the same credit card as for the rental transaction. Towing charges can be refunded and it is much simpler dealing 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.
10. Four wheeled, public road vehicles only – Exotics, expensive or antique cars, motorcycles, pickup-trucks, off-road or recreational vehicles are excluded.
Remember: Take a few minutes to call your credit card company and your auto insurance carrier prior to renting a car. Knowing your coverage before arriving at the rental counter can save you apprehension and money. Let that Ninja hassle someone else! You know you are covered. Now get those keys and get on with your trip. Who has time to spend at the counter when that big ol’ world is calling your name?