Most rental car companies provide an option to obtain car insurance with them at a "low fee," usually between $15 and $25 a day. This may seem necessary to protect you in an accident, but it may not be needed if you pay with a credit card. Many credit card companies have built-in insurance programs for people who pay for rental cars with their cards. You could utilize that if you were involved in an accident.
Here is a look at the rental car insurance coverage provided by the major credit card companies.
Visa rental car coverage extends to all credit cards in their portfolio, no matter how low your credit limit may be. The insurance will extend to cases of loss, physical damage, theft, towing and other fees. The coverage can be used even if you book your rental through points earned on your Visa card. However, it will not cover your medical bills, property damage, taxes and damage to other vehicles. It protects the car and nothing else. The coverage extends to every type of car except for some high-end vehicles.
There is no set amount of coverage specified in Visa's rental agreement, but you do have to make sure you report a claim within 45 days. You have 90 days to officially file the claim. All authorized drivers on the vehicle are covered on the policy, even if they are not Visa users themselves.
MasterCard offers protection that is similar to Visa's policy, but it only provides it for Gold, Platinum and Black MasterCards. Standard cards and prepaid debit cards are not included. MasterRental provides up to $50,000 worth of coverage, but that only includes damages to the vehicle or auto theft. Coverage will not include any personal injuries you receive or any damage you do to another person's vehicle.
Most vehicles are included under MasterCard's policy, with the exception of those with an MSRP above $50,000. Considering that most rental cars are less than $25,000 fresh from the factory, chances are you will be protected. Just be leery if you plan to drive a high end SUV, sports car or luxury sedan. The coverage only extends for 15 consecutive rental days, so if you rent a car for a month, you won't have protection during the second half of that month. Keep that in mind, as you may need secondary insurance after that timeframe.
Discover cards come with rental car coverage, but it is hard to find current information about their policy. The company converted most of their cards to Discover It, but they have not updated their rental car collision insurance policy to reflect that. With the old policy though, you could get up to $25,000 of secondary car insurance by using a Discover card to book your rental. This applied to rental vehicles less than $50,000 in value. Again, you will need to contact Discover to see what your card covers now, or you can contact Chubb, the insurance company that covers the claims.
According to the American Express car rental loss and damage policy, you can get up to $50,000 in secondary coverage if you pay for your rental with an AmEx card. Some card accounts, like Premium and Platinum, offer minimal medical coverage. Basic accounts only protect damage and loss of the vehicle, not any injuries. Coverage is only allowed for vehicles with an MSRP of $100,000 or less ($50,000 or less for Basic accounts).
There are many variances in the specific coverage you can get with your American Express card, so you will need to read over the policy or contact American Express to see exactly what protection you can get. In most cases though, you will get a good amount of personal and vehicle protection through AmEx, as long as you opt out of the rental car insurance the rental company offers.
If you want to use the rental car insurance provided by your credit card, you will need to make sure you decline the option for it with the rental car company. In other words, you won't be able to double dip. If you want to purchase more protection than your card allows for, so be it. You just need to make sure that whatever you buy is worth the money.
If you have full coverage insurance on your vehicle, it should protect you in a rental car. You will need to talk to your insurance provider to make sure of that, but in most cases, you won't have anything to worry about. Thus, if you use credit cards that cover rental car insurance and you have full coverage on your car, you will have double the assistance if you are in an accident. Buying a separate policy form the rental company may be a waste of money at that point.