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This article was last updated Nov 06, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
When you see the warning light come on in your car, it’s never a welcome sign. Or you may get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night or notice you’re running near empty without a gas station in sight — all panic-inducing situations. After pulling to the side of the road, you may wonder how to best proceed. Your credit card may be able to help. Many cards offer roadside assistance benefits that can help you out in a pinch.
Sometimes referred to as roadside dispatch or roadside assistance, these services provided by your credit card are typically a premium service that you won’t find with store cards or cards for bad credit, but are included with more cards than you may think. However, because it’s a premium service, it may not be free. Eligible services covered through your credit card often come with a fee — more on that later. But, if you’re not a member of an auto program like AAA, then your credit card’s roadside assistance can really come in handy.
How roadside assistance works
Roadside assistance benefits are typically pay per use — which means you only pay when you utilize the benefit. The fee varies by issuer — Visa® or Mastercard® — and not all disclose the cost online. However, Visa states it charges $69.95 per eligible service call. This is a one-time fee each time you use the service, unlike auto programs such as AAA that require you to pay an annual membership fee, regardless if you use the benefit or not.
If you constantly experience flat tires, battery burnouts or other issues, it’ll most likely be costly to use your credit card’s pay-per-use roadside assistance benefit. You’d probably be better off using an auto program that charges a flat rate year-round and covers various issues. If you bought or lease a brand new car, the roadside assistance provided by your credit card should be sufficient since your card shouldn’t have many issues. But you never know with cars, so ultimately the decision to join an auto program is up to you.
What roadside assistance is worth
While the cost for auto issues like towing, jump-starts and lockouts vary by vehicle and mechanic, the cost for using your credit card’s roadside assistance is often pre-negotiated. You’ll pay the same flat fee for all eligible services (and maybe more if you require fuel or a new key). However, you may wonder if you’re overpaying for basic services. To put things in perspective, we’ve researched the average prices for some common services provided by credit card roadside assistance programs as well as AAA. We’ll compare them with Visa’s $69.95 pay per use fee. Fees mentioned below are accurate as of the date of publishing.
Independent roadside assistance costs:
- Standard towing (up to 5 miles): $35-$125
- Tire change (must have good, inflated spare): $50-$120
- Jump-starting: $50-$120
- Lockout service: $85-$175
Compared with the prices listed above, Visa’s $69.95 fee per use is fairly reasonable when used occasionally. You can always compare prices when you need assistance and see if the quote a mechanic gives you is less or more than the flat fee provided by your credit card’s roadside assistance and make your decision that way.
Now, let’s take a look at how your credit card’s roadside assistance stacks up against an auto program like AAA. Note: Prices vary by region, so we used Northeast prices below:
- AAA Basic: $52
- Includes: 4 roadside assistance calls per year with towing up to 3 miles, fuel delivery, flat tire service, battery jump-start and replacement, vehicle lockout service up to $50
- AAA Plus: $92
- Includes: 4 roadside assistance calls per year with towing up to 100 miles, fuel delivery, flat tire service, battery jump-start and replacement, vehicle lockout service up to $100
- AAA Premier: $129
- Includes: 4 roadside assistance calls per year with towing up to 200 miles, fuel delivery, flat tire service, battery jump-start and replacement, vehicle lockout service up to $150
It’s clear that AAA is a better bet than your credit card’s roadside assistance program, but again, requires an annual fee. The Basic AAA level is cheaper than Visa’s $69.95 fee per use and provides more coverage — you receive four roadside assistance calls per year with towing up to 3 miles for $52, compared with each Visa towing request costing $69.95 for up to 5 miles. If your car is older and often breaks down, you’re probably better off using a formal roadside assistance program like AAA. And, even if you don’t think you’ll ever need roadside assistance, $52 a year really isn’t going to break the bank — and it’ll be cheaper in the long run if issues do arise.
Issuers that offer roadside assistance
We’ve listed the major credit card issuers, the roadside assistance benefits they offer cardholders and some card recommendations. You may notice Discover is missing, and that’s because it currently does not offer any roadside services for cardholders. Also, Barclays also doesn’t currently offer roadside assistance for its branded cards.
American Express will discontinue roadside assistance beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
Bank of America
All Visa-branded Bank of America cards have pay-per-use roadside dispatch, currently $69.95, that provides emergency roadside assistance, towing and locksmith services. In addition, three Bank of America Mastercard affinity products (Spirit, Virgin and Air France) offer pre-negotiated pay-per-use roadside assistance services, such as jump-starts, tire changes, towing and gas delivery.
Capital One cardholders who have Visa Platinum or Signature cards have access to pay-per-use Roadside Dispatch® through Visa. Similarly, Capital One cardholders who have a Platinum, World or World Elite Mastercard have access to the Master RoadAssist® Service through Mastercard, which is also pay per use. For both Visa and Mastercard’s roadside benefits, the rates for standard service calls are set by Visa or Mastercard, respectively, not by Capital One. The rates for Visa are currently $69.95, but Mastercard doesn’t disclose its rates prior to requesting service.
All Chase Visa credit cards offer roadside dispatch for anything from a tow or jumpstart to a tire change, lockout service, winching or gas delivery. Cardholders pay a flat rate, currently $69.95. All Chase Mastercards offer roadside assistance and the rates vary by service provider (there’s no set rate).
There’s also added roadside assistance coverage for select cards: J.P. Morgan Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, United Club℠ Card (consumer and business), United℠ Explorer Card (consumer and business), United MileagePlus® Presidential PlusSM Card (consumer and business), and The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card. With these cards, if you have a roadside emergency, you can call for a tow, jump-start, tire change, locksmith or gas delivery and you’re covered up to $50 per incident four times a year.
Popular Chase cards with roadside assistance
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Citi discontinued several benefits across its card portfolio in September 2019, including roadside assistance.
All Wells Fargo consumer credit cards have access to 24-hour roadside assistance or dispatch, which is a pay-per-use program. The benefit varies slightly between Wells Fargo Visa and Amex credit cards. For Wells Fargo Visa cards, the set price for a standard service call is currently $69.95 and covers standard towing (up to 5 miles), flat tire changes, jump-starts, winching, lockout service and delivery for up to 5 gallons of fuel. For Wells Fargo Amex cards, the fee is currently $59.95 and covers delivery of fuel or other standard fluids (up to 5 miles), jump-starts, lockout service and tire changes. Additional terms apply.
The information related to J.P. Morgan Card, United Club℠ Card, United MileagePlus® Presidential PlusSM Card, and The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card has been independently collected by CompareCards and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.