Which Credit Card Is Best for Car Rentals?

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Credit cards for car rentals are almost always necessary. You may never find a car rental agency that allows you to pay in cash for a vehicle. While there are some that will take debit cards, they require a $200 deposit on top of the expected charges to ensure that they get all the money owed to them. That's why it's best to have a credit card on hand.

If you are trying to find the right credit card for renting a car, you might be surprised by just how many options there are on the market. Here is a look at which credit card is best for car rentals.

Why Do Rental Car Agencies Require Credit Cards?

If you don't think you should have to use a credit card to rent a car, think about matters from the rental agency's perspective. They are entrusting you with a piece of their property worth $20,000 - $100,000, depending on what you rent. The last thing they want is to take a cash payment and watch all that money drive away. You may not have plans to steal the car, but they don't know that. Plus, they need a way to get money for any damage you may cause to the vehicle. With the unlimited charging potential on a credit card, they are safest when you use that for payment.

Top Issuer Car Rental Credit Cards

Many major credit cards offer insurance protection for car rentals at no additional cost. This may mean you don't have to purchase additional coverage from the rental agency. Of course, to find this information you are going to have to read the terms and service of any credit card you have. Or, you could apply for a new credit card with car rental benefits.

Technically any credit card can be among the best credit cards for rental cars, depending on what you need it for. If you want to get some money out of this, charge your cashback card. If you want to pay low interest, use your low interest credit card. Here is an overview of the insurance coverage you will get through different credit card companies:

  • 14712486_sAmerican Express: Amex credit cards offer basic insurance coverage, but you may need to upgrade for a fee to get enough full coverage on your rental car. This fee will allow for up to $50,000 in protection, though this depends on the type of credit card you have.
  • Visa: Visa offers basic coverage for car rentals, up to the actual cash value of the vehicle. This is available on all Visa credit cards. However, coverage will vary based on location and the type of car you rent.
  • MasterCard: MasterCard offers car rental benefits only to Gold, Platinum, World, and World Elite cardholders, worth up to the $50,000 in repairs. If you do not have one of these kinds of MasterCards, you may need to use one from another provider.
  • Discover: Discover offers credit cards with car rental benefits, but only on higher credit score cards such as the Platinum card. The value for coverage is up to $50,000.

If you need a credit card with car rental coverage, turn to one of these companies. It is one of the best ways to avoid additional fees.

Travel Rewards for Car Rentals

Here's another tip for you. If you have a credit card with travel rewards, it may allow you to get free car rentals. Many credit cards that offer airline rewards will allow you to use those rewards on car rental costs. The fact is, you don't have to go anywhere to use them. You can rent a car in your home town and use them. Here are a few airline rewards credit cards from our partners that offer this feature:

  • Capital One® VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: This card allows you to use your earned miles on car rentals, as well as other items. It offers a 0% intro  APR and no annual fee.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: You can use your rewards with this card for 20% off car rentals if redeemed through their Ultimate Rewards program. Just note that there is $95 fee after the first year with this card.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard- This card, which earns you 2x points on all purchases, allows you to redeem your points towards car rentals and other travel purchases. There are no caps on your rewards and they don't expire during the life of the account, so long as it's in good standing. The annual fee for this card is $89, waived the first year.

Sometimes car rentals can be more affordable than you think. If you are like 60 percent of all consumers, you may already have a rewards credit card you can use. If that doesn't describe you, get a good credit card before renting your next vehicle.

*Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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