The 7 Best Car Rental Credit Cards of 2019

Make sure to use one of these cards when you're renting a vehicle

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Car rental companies require you to have the proper insurance before you can drive off in a rental car. You can pay an additional daily rate to use their insurance, use your own insurance, or use the insurance from your credit card. In most cases, you have to rent with a credit card anyway, so using the right credit allows you to decline the car rental company's insurance and avoid paying your personal insurance deductible if something does happen to the vehicle. Here, we've reviewed the best credit cards for renting a car. Our list includes:

  • Best for No Country Exclusions: Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Best Premium Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Best for Rewards: United MileagePlus Explorer Card
  • Best for Longer Rental Periods: Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
  • Best for Small Businesses: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • Best for Hotel Stays: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
  • Best for Business Flights: United Explorer Business Card

To take advantage of the car rental benefit, you’ll have to use your credit card to pay for the rental and decline the Collision Damage Waiver/Loss Damage Waiver offered by the insurance company. Pay close attention to whether your credit card provides primary or secondary coverage, which vehicles are covered, and whether you’re covered if you’re traveling internationally.

Best for No Country Exclusions: Chase Sapphire Preferred®

What we like: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers primary coverage on vehicles you rent using your credit card. Because it’s primary coverage, the credit card’s benefits kick in first and you may be able to avoid making a claim with your personal auto insurance provider.

You’re covered up to the cash value of most rental cars for up to 31 days within or outside your country of residence. Coverage includes physical damage or theft to the rental car, valid loss-of-use while the vehicle is being repaired and reasonable towing charges. Certain types of vehicles are excluded, including luxury and antique vehicles.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a signup bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. It’s worth up to $750 toward travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

What we don't like: The Chase Sapphire Preferred pays the highest rewards on travel and dining purchases. If you don't travel much or you primarily cook at home, you may not be able to earn enough rewards to offset the annual fee.

  •     Minimum Credit Required: Good
  •     Annual Fee: $95
  •     Intro APR: None offered
  •     Ongoing APR: 17.74% to 24.74% variable
  •     Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
  •     Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
  •     Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  •     Signup Bonus: 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Best Premium Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Courtesy of Chase

What we like: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also offers primary coverage on every car rental, but also offers premium rewards on all your purchases. You’ll get special car rental privileges when you use your card to book with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercard.

You’ll earn three points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining and one point for every dollar you spend on everything else. The signup bonus is 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months - the bonus is worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Other premium perks include $300 annual travel statement credit and $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

What we don't like: The Sapphire Reserve has one of the highest annual fees of any credit card on the market. You must spend heavily on travel and dining purchases to offset the annual fee and get the most value from the credit card.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
  • Annual Fee: $450 for the primary cardholder; $75 for additional authorized users
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 18.74% to 25.74% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Best for Rewards: United℠ Explorer Card

United Explorer Card Image

What we like: The United Explorer Card is another credit card that provides worldwide primary coverage on most types of vehicles, with the exception of “expensive, exotic, and antique” vehicles.

As an additional incentive for renting, you’ll earn additional reward miles when you rent with certain rewards partners, including Hertz, Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental.

You can earn up to 65,000 bonus miles after meeting the spending requirements. Ongoing, you’ll earn two miles per dollar spent at restaurants, on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel, on tickets purchased from United, and one mile per dollar on everything else.

What we don't like: The United Explorer Card offers a free checked bag benefit, but it only applies to you and one other travel companion. If you have more than one person traveling with you, they'll have to pay for their checked bags.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
  • Annual Fee: $95, waived in the first year
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 18.24% to 25.24% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 in total purchases in the first 6 months your account is open. 

Best for Longer Rental Periods: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card
Courtesy of American Express

What we like: American Express offers a premium add-on rental policy that you can use with any American Express Credit Card. The policy covers 42 days (most other credit cards only cover you for 31 consecutive days). You get up to $100,000 in primary coverage and coverage for accidental death, secondary coverage for medical expenses and personal property coverage.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express pays a $250 cash back bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months. Ongoing, earn six percent cash back on up to $6,000 in supermarket purchases each year; three percent back on U.S. gas stations and select department stores; and one percent cash back on everything else.

What we don't like: The premium add-on rental comes with a $24.95 enrollment fee for each rental period - which is less expensive than the car rental company's comprehensive coverage but more expensive than credit cards that offer the benefit for free. Liability coverage isn't included.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • Ongoing APR: 14.49% to 25.49% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: 2.7% of the amount after conversion to U.S. dollars
  • Welcome Offer: $250 back when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months

Best for Small Businesses: Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Chase Ink Business Preferred
Courtesy of Chase

What we like: Use your Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to pay for a car rental for a business trip and get primary coverage on rentals for up to 31 consecutive days. Coverage applies to rentals in the U.S. and most foreign countries. 

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. It’s worth $1,000 towards travel if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel, shipping, Internet/cable/phone, and social media and search engine advertising each anniversary year; earn one point per dollar on everything else.

What we don't like: Coverage is secondary when you use your credit card to rent vehicles for personal reasons while traveling in the U.S. You'll have to use another credit card to get primary coverage for personal rentals.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Intro APR: None offered
  • Ongoing APR: 17.74% to 22.74% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $15 or 5% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months

Best for Hotel Stays: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
 Courtesy of American Express

What we like: Like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, the Hilton Honors Surpass Credit Card offers a premium add-on rental policy that gives you primary coverage for rentals up to 45 days. You get up to $100,000 in primary coverage and coverage for accidental death, secondary coverage for medical expenses and personal property coverage.

The Hilton Honors offers a generous rewards program that pays 12 Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every dollar you spend with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; six points for each dollar you spend at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations; and three points for every dollar spent on all other purchases.

You'll get complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status with your card and you'll earn a weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.

What we don't like: The premium add-on rental comes with a $24.95 enrollment fee for each rental period and doesn't include liability coverage.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Good
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Intro APR: Not offered
  • Ongoing APR: 17.24% to 26.24% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $5 or 3% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Welcome Offer: 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card membership.

Best for Business Flights: United℠ Explorer Business Card

United Explorer Business Card
 Courtesy of Chase

What we like: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open. Get primary auto rental collision damage coverage when you rent for business purchases. Coverage will reimburse up to the actual cash value for theft and collision damage. 

You'll earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores; and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. Add employee cards at no additional cost to earn miles for their purchases, too.

You and one traveling companion will receive priority boarding and get the first checked bag free as long as you use your card to make your travel reservations.

What we don't like: You won't receive auto collision coverage if you use the card to rent a vehicle for personal use.

  • Minimum Credit Required: Excellent
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Intro APR: Not offered
  • Ongoing APR: 17.74% to 24.74% variable
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 5% of the transfer amount
  • Cash Advance Fee: $15 or 5% of the cash advance
  • Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

About Our Reviews

We are committed to researching and recommending the best financial solutions and products for our readers. The Balance has partnered with CardRatings and may receive commissions from links within our content, but these have no bearing on our reviews or recommendations. The above content has not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any card issuers prior to publishing.