Have you ever been tempted to buy car rental insurance? You know, so you can just turn in the keys and walk away if anything bad happens?
Well… In case you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s a fair chance that such coverage is redundant (not to mention overpriced).
I say this for two reasons. First, your own car insurance likely covers rentals that are using in place of the insured vehicle. Second, if you rent a car with a credit card, then you’re likely covered by the card issuer.
Curious as to what’s covered? Read on.
Visa car rental insurance
Visa covers theft or damage plus any administrative or loss-of-use charges that are imposted by the rental agency. Note that, if your regular car insurance policy provides coverage, then Visa’s coverage only reimburses you for the deductible. This coverage applies to all drivers on the rental agreement.
To qualify, you have to pay for the entire rental with your eligible card and refuse the agency’s coverage. There are, of course, a number of exclusions, so be sure to check out their full policy.
MasterCard car rental insurance
Like Visa, MasterCard covers damage or theft if you pay with an eligible card (but not all cards are eligible, so be careful). The coverage is secondary to any other coverage that you might have, and it extends to all drivers on the rental agreement. MasterCard covers loss-of-use but, unlike Visa, does not cover administrative fees.
Here again, there are a number of exclusions. However, they only provide a brief overview on their website so you’ll have to call them at 1-800-MC-ASSIST for full details related to their coverage.
Discover car rental insurance
Like Visa and MasterCard, paying for your car rental with a (non-student) Discover card means that you’re covered.
Unlike Visa and MasterCard, Discover provides coverage for collisions only, and it’s limited to $25k (and secondary to any other coverage you might have). And, unfortunately, the coverage only applies to the person named on the Discover card. Discover also covers loss-of-use, but not administrative fees.
While most of their exceptions (beyond the above) are similar to those of the other card issuers, it’s worth noting that Discover’s coverage is also limited to the United States and Canada. For additional details, check out their policy.
American Express car rental insurance
And last but not least, American Express…
AmEx covers theft and damage like Visa and MasterCard (plus loss-of-use and administrative fees), but limits the coverage to primary and secondary cardholders. As with the other cards, you have to pay in full with your eligible card.
There are a number of exclusions associated with Amex’s coverage and there are also some differences in coverage for different card types. Thus, you’d be well advised to call 1-800-338-1670 for details.
A few miscellaneous notes…
For starters, things like personal injury or liability are not typically covered by any of the card issuers. Also, this sort of protection is generally limited to credit cards, so be aware if you’re renting with a debit card. And finally, yes, credit card car rental insurance typically applies to rentals through Priceline or Hotwire.