Which Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance Coverage? These Are The Best

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Which credit cards offer primary rental insurance

Which Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance Coverage?

Rental car agencies will offer extra insurance options when you pick up the car, but knowing which credit cards offer primary rental insurance coverage can help you decide how much (if any) you want to pay for. Not all policies are created equal, and the cards are not uniform by any means in how their policies work.

What is Primary Rental Insurance Coverage?

The key word is “primary”, meaning that this is your go-to, first option. By having “primary”, this is your first coverage. Other cards will offer “secondary” coverage, meaning it can fill in the gaps from what the rental car company’s insurance didn’t cover (assuming you bought it). Rental agencies will offer you Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). Only waive these if you know you have primary insurance coverage from your own policy or from your credit card.

Primary rental insurance for rental cars means this is your first call after an accident, theft, or other type of damage to your rental. Not dealing with “secondary” policies can reduce the amount of paperwork and number of agencies involved when something goes wrong. That’s already stressful enough without adding more insurance agents and more companies putting you on hold. Secondary coverage typically involves your own insurance policy, as well. Who wants to call them to make a claim and have your rates go up ever month? No thanks.

Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance

Things To Know Before You Rent A Car

Before digging into which cards DO offer this benefit, there are some things to know about how to use this perk. Not taking the right steps before the accident can mean you’re stuck with the bill. Here’s what you need to know in advance:

  • You need to reserve and pay for the rental car with the credit card whose insurance you want to fall under. (Sounds like a no-brainer, but this means paying with a different card and then supplying this card for the security deposit during rental won’t cut it)
  • You must list all drivers on the rental agreement. If the person driving during the accident isn’t on the paperwork, you’ll have a mountain of problems.
  • When picking up the car, decline the rental company’s CDW / LDW. If you want your coverage to be primary, don’t accept theirs.

Charges that a rental agency can hit you with during an accident include not only repair costs but also towing to the repair shop and something called “loss of use”. This is what the rental agency claims they’re losing every day that car can’t be rented by other customers.

These Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance

Noticeably absent from this list: Citi. You won’t find a single card from Citi on this list, after they revamped their perks and benefits back in September. None of their credit cards offer primary rental insurance any longer. Barclays, Bank of America, and Discover also don’t offer primary coverage.

Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance

Chase Credit Cards

Coverage is primary with these Chase cards and provides reimbursement up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. That includes using your card to pay or your points through the Chase portal with Ultimate Rewards earning cards.

Personal Cards
Business Cards

One thing to remember on the business cards. The primary coverage only works when the rental is being used for business purposes.

American Express rental car coverage

American Express Cards

Surprisingly, they’re all created equal. Why? Not a single one of American Express‘ credit cards offer primary rental insurance. Here’s why they’re on the list: they all offer an option for it. The fee isn’t bad: $19.95 to $24.95. Fees vary depending on the card you’re using and the options selected. The Premium Car Rental Protection option moves your secondary coverage (default) to primary when using your Amex cards. Enroll in advance when reserving the car.

The only cards that will earn a bonus on the rental are the Blue Business Plus and Blue Business Cash cards, since they earn 2X or 2% on every purchase.  Every other card will earn 1.5X or less.

USAA credit cards offer primary rental insurance

USAA Credit Cards

There’s a reason why their slogan is “I’m a USAA member for life!” Many people swear by them for their customer service and perks for military. When low-fee or no-fee credit cards offer primary rental insurance, that’s a win. USAA is only open to members of the military, veterans, and eligible family members. If you qualify, this is a great option for a card to cover your rental cars. All of their cards offer this perk equally.

U.S. Bank Visa Credit Cards

U.S. Bank offers primary rental insurance on all of their credit cards, as well. Benefits breakdowns per card can be seen here, but they all offer primary rental insurance if you decline the insurance from the rental agency and pay for the full cost of the rental with your U.S. Bank credit card. All cards offer this perk equally — both personal and business cards.

Notable Exceptions to Primary Rental Insurance Through Credit Cards

Not to make you think insurance could be simple, there are exceptions. Aside from the business / personal use exception listed above, there are other things to know.

Where You’re Driving the Car

Most rental coverage doesn’t cover certain places. Aside from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and their countries you basically can’t do business with (Cuba, South Sudan, North Korea, etc.), there are other countries often not covered. The most common countries blocked from coverage policies: Australia, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica & New Zealand. Renting a car in these countries? Take a longer look at your coverage options before picking up the car.

Special Cars

Most coverage only applies to standard cars. Anything from compact to full-sized sedan should be good. If you’re renting a Hummer or a Ferrari, you’re probably not covered. “Non-standard” is a catch-all term that means cars that are overly pricey or likely to lead you to risky driving (off-road, super fast) won’t be covered. This also applies to large vehicles like an RV or a huge van for your family reunion.

Non-Standard Driving Behavior

Speaking of going off-roading, check your coverage terms. If you’re doing something outside of normal street driving, you might not be covered. Racing, driving off-road without a special policy addition, or committing a crime behind the wheel (DUI, for example) can void your coverage.

Length of Rental

The Amex policy above covers 42 days. However, Chase and USAA coverage periods are for 30 days. If you’re getting a long-term rental, check with the insurance provider to see what changes after 30 days.

Credit Cards Offer Primary Rental Insurance

A Note About the Other Car(s) and Other Driver(s)

You were in an accident, but you’re OK. You’re safe, and your credit cards offer primary rental insurance. Everything is going to be fine…until you get a huge bill. These primary insurance policies through credit cards cover your rental car. YOUR rental car. That’s it. Did you damage another car? Hit a fence or damaged someone’s property? These fall under liability insurance, which isn’t in the policies.

Was the car damaged because someone else ran into you and doesn’t have insurance? This type of coverage falls under Uninsured Motorist and/or Underinsured Motorist policies. Primary coverage from your credit card won’t cover cases where the rental car agency wants to pursue these UM policies.

The policies also won’t cover physical injuries to you, your passengers, or other people. They basically accomplish 1 thing: make sure you don’t owe the car rental agency money for damaging or losing the car. Anything else is usually left out. Guess who foots that bill if you haven’t planned for it.

Final Thoughts

Knowing that credit cards offer primary rental insurance is great, because it can save money and paperwork during the rental process if something should go wrong. However, it’s not as simple as it looks on the surface. You might escape this ordeal without owing anything to the rental agency for damages, but it won’t cover medical bills or paying for the repairs to a car you bumped into. Take all of these things into consideration when renting a car, so you can make the best, most informed decision possible to protect yourself. No one else is going to look out for you. As a final note: it won’t hurt to get a letter or document of some kind showing that you have primary rental insurance coverage. I’ve been rental counters that wouldn’t let me decline coverage without proving (in writing) that I have it from another source.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Good morning Ryan, I am not sure you have to list all drivers if renting with Thrifty and Dollar—and are a member of their rewards program. When I reserved a car last week I noticed the following on the Thrifty site:

    Authorized Drivers
    As a Member, can I have an Authorized Driver?
    For rentals in the United States and Canada by members of the Program in those countries, renter’s spouse or domestic partner may operate the car without registering as an Authorized Operator or paying a fee, provided he or she is at least 25 years old and has a valid driver’s license from a jurisdiction acceptable to Thrifty. If under the age of 25, an age differential charge may apply.

    • Interesting. Didn’t know that. I wonder what the legal headaches are like if there’s an accident involving someone not named on the paperwork, though…

  2. This is what I found on USB site.

    If you do have personal automobile insurance or other insurance covering this theft or damage, the Auto Rental CDW benefit reimburses you for the deductible portion of your personal automobile insurance and any unreimbursed portion of valid administrative and loss-of-use charges imposed by the auto rental company, as well as reasonable towing charges resulting from covered theft or damage of the rental vehicle while it is your responsibility.

    • Here’s what I read from one of the cards I just clicked on: “Receive Auto Rental coverage by charging your entire rental transaction amount to your eligible card and declining the extra collision insurance (or loss damage waiver) from the rental company. If your rental car is damaged or stolen while you’re traveling, you can be covered! It’s your ticket to significant savings and increased peace of mind. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions may apply.”
      https://benefits.usbank.com/personal/personal.html

  3. When I look at the terms of the US Bank insurance they never mention primary or secondary , but they do talk about covering what your other insurance doesn’t (including substantiated loss of use charges). Can you give a link to what support primary.

  4. Citibank-COSTCO Visa *Business* card offers PRIMARY coverage, both in USA and internationally. I only have the Business version, so can’t say for certain if same terms apply to the Personal card – perhaps another reader can help out with that research. Here is a cut-and-paste of terms from Citibank site regarding Business Costco card:
    In the United States, the coverage provided by this benefit is primary. Outside the United States, the coverage provided by this benefit is primary even if you have another insurance policy.

    • Thanks for pointing this out! The page I’d gone to (where you can apply for credit cards) hadn’t listed this perk on their cards. Now that I found a benefits explainer page, it turns out ALL of the US Bank cards offer this. Updated the article. Thanks 🙂

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