Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Insurance of January 2020

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

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When we were choosing the best cards for rental car insurance, we put primary coverage as a top feature to have (all but one card on our list offer it, and the one that doesn’t saves you an annual fee). We also looked at affordability, rewards, and other perks. Here are our top picks.

Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Insurance

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best Overall

Our Rating Among Car Rental Cards
3.9
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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 (%) 17.49% - 24.49% variable
Annual Fee $95
Rewards Earning Rate 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes out ahead in this category, thanks to the fact 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. Note that you can also earn an enticing sign-up bonus and ongoing travel rewards that make this card worth having, and all for a reasonable $95 annual fee.

United℠ Explorer Card

Best Airline Card

Our Rating Among Car Rental Cards
3.7
United℠ Explorer Card
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 (%) 17.99% - 24.99% 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 purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

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. This includes 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.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best for Earning Rewards on Car Rentals

Our Rating Among Car Rental Cards
3.8
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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 (%) 18.49% - 25.49% 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

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 sign-up 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 car rentals, hotel stays, or flights. You’ll also rack up 1 point per $1 spent on everything else you buy, making this card a long-term winner for your wallet.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Best for Businesses

Our Rating Among Car Rental Cards
3.7
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
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 (%) 17.49% - 22.49% 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 (%) 26.49%
Cash Advance Fee Either $15 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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 other business cards since it gives you primary rental car coverage when renting a car for business purposes. You can also earn a generous sign-up bonus and points on all your business spending, making this card a smart choice if you want rewards and consumer protections.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Best with No Annual Fee

Our Rating Among Car Rental Cards
3.4
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
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 (%) 15.49% - 27.49% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, and for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn 1X points on other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%

Why We Chose This Card

If you want auto rental coverage without an annual fee, consider applying for this card. It gives you auto rental coverage secondary to your own insurance for damage or theft of a rental car you charge to the card. Coverage is up to $50,000 for repair or replacement. Plus, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent in categories that include car rentals and other travel expenses, as well as dining, transportation, and popular streaming services. You also have the potential to earn 1 point per $1 on regular purchases and a big sign-up bonus right away.

Find Your Credit Card Match We consider travel rewards, perks, and fees the most important things you should consider when choosing a travel credit card, but we know you might have different priorities. See what suits you best.
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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

  • Avoid 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

  • Avoid additional car rental fees: Primary auto rental coverage lets you skip paying extra 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 lists in its 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.