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Best credit cards with car rental insurance: Protect yourself and earn miles, points or cash back

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Best credit cards with car rental insurance: Protect yourself and earn miles, points or cash back

Meghan HunterBest credit cards with car rental insurance: Protect yourself and earn miles, points or cash backMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Locking in the best price on your car rental for vacation is important but you should also make sure you’re properly covered in the event of an accident and that you earn travel rewards or cash back for your rental. A variety of credit cards offer coverage on rental cars, so you don’t have to check the box for insurance when you pick up the car.

Here’s a review of why you’ll benefit from using a credit card that offers primary car rental coverage:

The best credit cards for car rentals

The information for the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Ink Business Cash card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

CardIntro bonusAnnual fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account$95
United℠ Explorer CardFor a limited time, earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. $95 annual fee, waived the first year
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account$0
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card$500 bonus (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account$0
Any of the best American Express cardsvariesvaries
Using one of the best credit cards for car rentals will cover you in case of an accident. (Photo by RossHelen/Shutterstock)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

You’ll get primary rental insurance when you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for your car rental and decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW).

The Chase Sapphire Reserve rental-car insurance applies to rentals of 31 consecutive days or less in the U.S. and most foreign countries. (Always call the benefits administrator to verify coverage.) You’re covered for damage from collision or theft but not damage to other vehicles or property, or for injuries. Because the coverage is primary, you won’t have to file a claim with your own insurance company first.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has fewer exclusions than the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you’re renting a high-end car, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a better bet.

When you apply and are approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Even in the far-flung islands of the Maldives, you can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points for using the Sapphire Reserve for a car rental. (Photo by Jag_cz/Shutterstock)

The sign-up bonus is worth up to $750 in travel benefits when you redeem points for flights, hotels, car rentals and more through the Chase travel portal. With Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each on travel booked through the Chase site.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll also get:

  • 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining
  • statement credit of up to $300 for travel purchases (i.e., airfare, Airbnb, hotels, car rental or Uber) each account anniversary year
  • Priority Pass Select membership for access to airport lounges
  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • No foreign transaction fees

The card comes with a $550 annual fee, which is not waived the first year. However, you can offset this fee with perks like the $300 travel statement credit and airport lounge access.

These perks and the primary car rental insurance coverage make the Chase Sapphire Reserve our top pick among premium travel credit cards to use for rental cars. Here’s our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers excellent travel protections, including primary car rental insurance that covers damage due to theft or collision to your rental car, when you pay for the rental with your card. This is great for personal trips, since many cards restrict the primary insurance to business trips. You also earn 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining and there are no foreign transaction fees.

We recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred as a first credit card for beginners to the miles-and-points hobby. And it’s our top pick to use for car rentals if you aren’t interested in a premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you sign up and are approved, you’ll earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account.

You can redeem the sign-up bonus for $600 in cash back or $750 in travel booked through the Chase travel portal. You will get potentially more value if you transfer points directly to airline and hotel partners like Hyatt.

You’ll also get:

  • 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel and dining worldwide
  • 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchase
  • Trip delay reimbursement – Get up to $500 back per ticket when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours

The card has a $95 annual fee. Here’s our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with primary rental car coverage — just in case. (Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock)

United℠ Explorer Card

If you want to earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles, the United Explorer card is a good choice because it comes with rental car insurance for most rentals under 31 days when you charge the entire amount of the rental to your United Explorer Card. This insurance kicks in before you have to file a claim with your personal insurance company.

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. The 60,000 MileagePlus miles are easily good for a round-trip coach ticket within the U.S. as those tickets start at only 25,000 miles.

You’ll also get:

  • 2x United Airlines miles $1 spent on United Airlines purchases
  • 2x United Airlines miles $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • 1x United Airlines mile $1 spent on everything else

You can read our review of the United Explorer Card here.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are our favorite flexible points. You’ll also get primary car rental coverage when renting a car for business purposes.

The Ink Business Preferred card comes with a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

That’s enough for:

Use the Chase Ink Business Preferred to book a car for your next business trip and get primary rental car coverage plus valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. (Photo by Tanasan Sungkaew/Shutterstock)

With the Ink Business Preferred, you also get:

  • 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year)
  • 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all other purchases
  • Up to $600 in cellphone insurance when you pay your phone bill with the card

The card’s $95 annual fee is not waived the first year. And the cellphone insurance perk actually works.

This is a small-business card but you might qualify without realizing it. Check our step-by-step guide to completing a Chase business-card application.

This card comes under the Chase’s 5/24 rule. You’ll find our review of the Chase Ink Business Preferred here.

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Cash card comes with primary rental car insurance coverage when used for renting a car for business purposes and the highest-ever Ink Business Cash welcome bonus — $500 cash back (50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. It’s an awesome deal and the card has no annual fee.

Ink Business Cash cardholders can pair their card with another card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to travel partners, like Hyatt. (Photo by Hyatt)

The Ink Business Cash also comes with:

  • 5% cash back (5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on phone, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year
  • 2% cash back (2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • 1% cash back (1x Chase Ultimate Rewards point) on all other purchases

The primary car rental insurance is for rentals for business purposes and you have to pay with your Chase Ink Business Cash card. It provides only secondary coverage when renting for personal use. I’ve kept this card in my wallet for years because it has no annual fee. And I always use it to earn 5% cash back (5x points) at Staples when shopping for my vacation rental business. Bonus points like that really add up. Here’s our review.

Top American Express cards

Most American Express cards include secondary rental car coverage, but all Amex cards offer primary car rental coverage for a small additional fee, which can definitely be worth it.

You can enroll and see more details about the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection program online. What makes this program unique is that you pay ~$25 (~$18 for California residents and ~$15 for Florida residents) per rental for up to 42 consecutive rental days (30 consecutive rental days for Washington State cardholders).

Most car rental companies charge this same price daily. The American Express Premium Car Rental Protection program does not, however, cover rentals in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand.

You can read more about the best American Express card offers. Applying for Amex small-business cards will not hurt your chances for card approvals with Chase (if you’ve applied for many new cards recently) because Amex small-business cards do not appear on your personal credit report.

So if you qualify, applying for an Amex small-business card can be a great way to earn bonuses for free travel.

Understanding primary vs. secondary car rental coverage

One of the biggest causes for confusion with credit cards is understanding how the popular “car rental insurance” perk actually works. It’s important to understand the difference between primary and secondary coverage. 

Say you charge a car rental to a credit card that offers secondary car rental insurance and decline the collision damage waiver (CDW) offered by the car rental agency. Lots of folks do this in order to save money, because the CDW can get pricey (it isn’t uncommon for it to double the cost of your rental).

If you have a car insurance policy in the U.S. and you get in an accident in the U.S., the secondary car rental credit card insurance will only cover what’s left over after you file a claim with your primary car insurance provider. You will still be responsible for the deductible through your insurance company and you will need to report the accident to them, which can lead to an increase in your premium. The secondary insurance on your credit card also would not cover damage to the other car, any property damage or injuries to you or others.

If you don’t have a car insurance policy in the U.S., secondary rental car insurance on a credit card will work as primary rental car insurance and will usually pay for physical damage to the car and damage due to theft, loss-of-use charges and towing charges for the rental car. You’d still liable for damages to other property and persons.

Young Woman Inspecting Car Rental Blemish
For a $95 annual fee on your card, you can save hundreds of dollars in rental car insurance. (Photo by pathdoc/Shutterstock)

Similarly, outside the U.S. most secondary credit card rental car insurance will actually be primary rental car insurance and will pay for physical damage to the car and damage due to theft, loss-of-use charges and towing charges for the rental car. You will still be liable for damage to other property and persons.

By comparison, if you charge the rental to a credit card offering primary car rental coverage and decline the collision damage waiver offered by the car rental agency, the credit card insurance will usually pick up the bill for physical damage and damage due to theft, loss-of-use charges, and towing for the rental car if you get into an accident (up to the coverage limit) without requiring you to file a claim with your personal car insurance company.

That said, like secondary car rental insurance, the primary car rental insurance will not cover damage to the other car, any property damaged, and injuries to you or others. And you are still liable for those damages. Your personal car insurance policy may cover those claims.

Using a card that offers primary car rental insurance when you decline the collision damage waiver through the car rental agency can end up saving you a lot if something happens.  Most credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance coverage, but a handful offer primary rental car insurance coverage.  

Bottom line

Our best credit cards for car rentals are:

Credit card companies that offer primary rental car insurance only pay for damage to your rental car, not damage to the other cars, property or personal injuries. 

Don’t rely on your credit card’s rental car insurance if you’re not comfortable with the risks. Check with your insurance company to see if you’ve got liability coverage for personal injuries through your policy.

To learn more about traveling with points to save money (and hassle), be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Have you ever had to use your credit card’s primary car rental coverage?  Tell me about your experience in the comments below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I need to apply for a credit card for car rentals only? Can you help me Please. Thank you!!!!

chase credit card rent a car

USBank Altitude Reserve also offers primary CDW.

Is the CSR coverage good in Australia?

Great site, info. Thanks for very useful concise info

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