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Primary rental car coverage credit cards: A list and pitfalls

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Sep 07, 2016, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

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Most travel credit cards offer some collision damage coverage when you rent a car, but most offer what’s known as ‘secondary’ coverage.

That means if you have damage you’ll need to file a claim with your own auto insurance policy first, which might lead to higher rates on your own policy.

However over the last few years several cards have started to offer primary coverage, which is an improvement.

With primary coverage you don’t have to file a claim with your own insurance provider, saving you the hassle and risk of policy rate hikes.

Below is a list of cards currently accepting applications that generally offer primary coverage. Most card companies don’t actively market this feature, so make sure you call the number on the back of your card to double check the coverage is primary before relying on it for a rental.

With Annual Fees for personal coverage

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
  • United℠ Explorer Card*: $0 Intro for First Year, then $95
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: $450
  • United MileagePlus® Club Card*: $450
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card*: $450

For Business Rentals only

  • Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card: $95
  • Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card*: $99
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: $99
  • United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card*: $95

The information related to the United MileagePlus® Club Card, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card, Marriott Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, and United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

If you have any American Express card, including cards with no annual fee, you can pay $19.95 – $24.95 per rental to secure primary coverage via the Premium Car Rental Protection program. Just make sure you enroll online before your rental.

Other pitfalls to be aware of

For rentals outside the U.S. and Canada, any credit card coverage is considered primary. That’s because U.S. auto insurance policies don’t cover incidents that happen outside the U.S. and Canada, unless you get a special rider, and those are usually only available for travel to Mexico with your own vehicle. So there’s no extra benefit to using a card with primary coverage for most international rentals.

If you use a business credit card for a personal rental, it’s possible you won’t be covered. Business credit card coverage is designed for rentals that are primarily for business use, rather than your own vacation. And some companies may ask for proof that your trip was business in nature before accepting a claim.

Credit card coverage only handles damage to the vehicle you rent. Damage to other vehicles or property is handled by personal liability coverage, which is not offered by credit cards.

*The information related to the United℠ Explorer Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.


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