Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals of April 2021

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

We publish unbiased reviews; our opinions are our own and are not influenced by payments from advertisers. Learn about our independent review process and partners in our advertiser disclosure.

When we were choosing the best cards for car rentals, we put primary rental car insurance coverage as a top feature to have because it means you don't have to tap your own car insurance first if you have it. All but one card on our list offer primary coverage, and the one that doesn’t saves you an annual fee. We also looked at affordability, rewards, and other perks that may be of interest when renting a car. Here are our top picks.

Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals of April 2021

Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals of April 2021
Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals of April 2021

Best Overall, Best Insurance Coverage : Chase Sapphire Preferred

Our Rating Among Cards With Rental Car Insurance
4.6
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Current Offer

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year after account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services. 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes out ahead in this category, thanks to the fact that you get primary auto rental coverage good for up to the cash value of your vehicle. This coverage is also good within the U.S. and abroad, although some limits and car exclusions apply. You also earn 2 points per dollar spent on rental cars and other travel expenses, and those points are worth 25% more when you use them to rent cars or book other travel through Chase. On top of that, you can earn a top-notch new-cardholder bonus, all for a reasonable $95 annual fee.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Good bonus compared to other travel cards with similar annual fees

  • Option to transfer points to eligible airline and hotel programs, often at a 1-to-1 ratio

  • Points are pretty valuable when redeemed for travel

  • Some premium travel insurance benefits

Cons
  • No credits to cover incidental airline fees or other travel-related costs

  • Few everyday purchase categories earn extra points

Highlights
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards(R). Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards(R). For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022.
  • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.
  • With Pay Yourself Back(SM), your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review

Best for Businesses : Ink Business Preferred

Our Rating Among Cards With Rental Car Insurance
4.5
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Current Offer

Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 20.99% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
Cash Advance APR (%) 24.99%
Cash Advance Fee Either $15 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

If you rent a car for business purposes often, it can make sense to sign up for a business credit card that offers auto rental coverage. The Ink Business Preferred leads the pack among business cards since it gives you primary rental car coverage. You can also earn a generous new-cardholder bonus and 3 points per dollar spent on rental cars, other travel, and some business spending (up to $150,000), making this card a smart choice if you want rewards and rental car protection.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Outstanding bonus for new cardholders

  • Extra rewards points on many different types of business expenses

  • Many ways to redeem rewards

  • Option to transfer points to eligible airline loyalty programs, in some cases getting more value per point

Cons
  • No rewards on dining or gas

  • Rewards tiers and caps, which are higher maintenance

  • Steep spending requirement to earn bonus

Highlights
  • 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year.
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Stay on top of your business with Fraud Protection, Purchase Protection, personalized Account Alerts, and more.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost.

Read the full Ink Business Preferred Review

Best for Earning Rewards on Car Rentals : Chase Sapphire Reserve

Our Rating Among Cards With Rental Car Insurance
4.4
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 total travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.99% - 23.99% variable
Annual Fee $550
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3x points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit, 3X points on dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers primary rental car coverage good for up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage on most rental periods in the U.S. and abroad. However, you can also earn a generous new-cardholder bonus and, on an ongoing basis, 3 points per $1 spent on all dining and travel purchases, including rental car agreements—which you can then use to pay for more car rentals through the Chase portal (where your points go 50% farther than if you paid with cash). You’ll rack up 1 point per $1 spent on everything else you buy, too, making this card a long-term winner for your wallet, despite the annual fee.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Earn extra points for travel and dining purchases

  • Many different purchases count as travel spending, which makes earning rewards easier

  • Several valuable ways to use points, including transfers to partner loyalty programs

  • Jam-packed with valuable travel credit and travel insurance benefits

Cons
  • Massive annual fee

  • High ongoing APR

Highlights
  • Receive 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Get an annual $300 travel credit for eligible purchases charged to your card each anniversary year.
  • Earn 3 points on travel (excluding purchases eligible for the travel credit), restaurants, and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Transfer points 1:1 to eligible Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partner programs.

Read the full Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

Best Airline Card : United Explorer Card

Our Rating Among Cards With Rental Car Insurance
4.3
United℠ Explorer Card
Current Offer

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • Why We Chose This Card
  • Pros & Cons
  • Highlights
Why We Chose This Card

The United Explorer Card makes it easy to earn miles redeemable for flights in the United MileagePlus program, but you’ll also qualify for some excellent travel benefits as a cardholder. These include primary auto rental coverage good for up to the cash value of your rental for most rental agreements within the U.S. and abroad. If you want to use one card with benefits for flights and rental cars, this is a good one to consider.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Miles are worth more than most other major U.S. airline's, according to our calculations

  • Lots of great travel perks, such as lounge passes and free checked bags

  • Extra miles can be earned on more than just flight purchases

Cons
  • Annual fee is waived the first year, but it’s still a notable cost

Highlights
  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.
  • Get 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary year.
  • Save up to $140 per roundtrip with a free checked bag for you and a travel companion on the same reservation.
  • Get 25% back as a statement credit on inflight United purchases.

Read the full United Explorer Card Review

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes Credit Cards Good for Car Rentals?

The best credit cards for car rentals give consumers an array of benefits, although individual card offerings can vary. Most travel credit cards offer some level of auto insurance coverage for starters, and many offer additional travel insurance benefits like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay coverage, and travel accident insurance.

Travel credit cards in this space often let you earn valuable rewards for each dollar you spend—and the potential for bonus points on car rentals or other travel expenses. 

What Types of Auto Insurance Do Credit Cards Offer?

  • Primary collision damage waiver: Primary collision damage waiver can be used in place of your own insurance or pricey add-on coverage, meaning you can decline any additional insurance offered at the rental counter. This coverage typically provides protection for physical damage and theft, towing charges, loss of use, and more. 
  • Secondary collision damage waiver: Secondary collision damage waiver covers the same kinds of losses, although it is only usable after other insurance policies have been exhausted. This means you would file an insurance claim with your own insurance before this coverage would apply.

With both types of auto insurance you can get from a credit card, there are rules and stipulations to be aware of. Your credit card may limit the amount of time your coverage applies, and there are some types of autos that may not qualify. Also note that auto insurance from a credit card doesn’t come with liability insurance, meaning you won’t have coverage for property damage or personal injuries.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Credit Card Rental Car Insurance?

While there's a lot to like about getting free rental car coverage from your credit card, there are a few things to watch out for.

Pros
  • Allows you to skip additional car rental fees

  • Can let you avoid filing a claim with your insurance company

Cons
  • Some vehicle types excluded

  • Coverage usually limited in duration

  • Coverage usually limited in dollars

  • Coverage limited in scope

Pros Explained

  • Allows you to skip additional car rental fees: Primary auto rental coverage lets you bypass extra charges for add-on coverage at the rental counter, saving you money every time you rent a car.
  • Can let you avoid filing a claim with your insurance company: If you have primary auto rental coverage through a travel credit card, you can file a claim directly with this coverage without contacting your personal auto insurance company. 

Cons Explained

  • Some vehicle types excluded: Some auto rental coverage from credit cards excludes specific types of vehicles. For example, cargo vans, exotic vehicles, and antique cars may not qualify. 
  • Coverage usually limited in duration: Auto rental coverage from credit cards is typically only good for a limited time, such as for rentals up to 30 days. 
  • Coverage usually limited in dollars: Your auto rental coverage may come with specific limits, such as up to $75,000 in total damages or up to the actual cash value of the rental car. 
  • Coverage limited in scope: Credit card rental car insurance usually only covers the car itself. You may not have coverage for personal liability, underinsured/uninsured motorist, and other coverages. 

How Should You Choose a Card With Car Rental Insurance?

Even if rental car insurance is your chief consideration when looking for a credit card, you should also consider other features and characteristics when making your choice. Car rental collision damage waiver is often included among a host of card perks that you may need or want.  

  • Does the card offer primary or secondary auto rental coverage? Many cards offer secondary coverage, but only a few offer primary. 
  • Are you okay paying an annual fee?
    All of the cards we found that offer primary coverage charge an annual fee.
  • What kind of rewards do you hope to earn?
    Would you like to earn extra points when you rent a car, and/or points that can redeemed for rental cars?
  • Are you interested in additional travel benefits like airport lounge access or annual travel credits?
    Some cards that offer primary rental car coverage also offer those kinds of benefits, but they have higher annual fees.
  • Are you hoping to earn a big sign-up bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement within a few months?
    Hefty welcome offers can be worth hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. But again, cards offering those benefits may charge a bigger annual fee.

Once you’ve answered those questions, it helps to compare cards based on their rewards programs, their fees, and the value of the auto rental coverage they offer. Also make sure you’re comfortable with the coverage limits the cards you’re considering list in their terms and conditions as well as the coverages they include. 

At the end of the day, the right credit card for you will come with insurance benefits that help you save money, plenty of perks, and valuable rewards you can redeem once you’re ready. Here’s another look at the cards we think are best for car rental insurance benefits:

Best Credit Cards for Car Rentals

 Credit Card Category  Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Best Overall $95
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Best Insurance Coverage $95
United Explorer Card Best Airline Card $0 for the first year, then $95
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Best for Businesses $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve Best for Earning Rewards on Car Rentals $550

Methodology

We collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances. We do this because it's our mission to give you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews.

Our reviews are always impartial. No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive.

About This List

We review this list of cards each month or whenever there's a significant change in the travel-rewards credit card market. We give preference to cards labeled as “general travel” as those are typically more flexible, but also consider top-notch business and travel provider-branded cards, as those cards can be a great fit for the right consumer. 

What We Score

Our scores for the best credit cards for car rentals give heavy consideration to the value of the estimated rewards an average U.S. traveler could earn specifically on car rentals and gas. We give a lot of weight to primary rental car insurance benefits and the card’s average annual fee cost, too. (We consider a card’s average annual fee over three years to smooth out the impact of having an annual fee waived the first year, a common feature of many travel rewards cards, including those that reward rental car expenses). 

We also factor in the maximum value of the sign-up bonus, and the average interest rate you’d pay if you carried a balance month-to month, even though we don’t recommend doing so with any rewards card. 

Beyond those main characteristics, we also factor in the card network (which indicates how widely accepted the card may be when traveling, particularly outside the U.S.), the number of airline partners a rewards program has, and the recommended credit score. For more information about how The Balance evaluates credit cards, see our full credit card review methodology.