Car Rental Coverage on Credit Cards

What you don’t know can definitely cost you – either buy buying supplemental coverage when renting a vehicle, or not buying it.

In a study from Progressive Insurance, 62% of people thought their personal coverage didn’t include rentals, and another 24% weren’t sure.

Maybe it’s a necessary, but it’s a very expensive purchase for over 40% of people who always or occasionally pay for it. You should know before you go…and before you buy.

All four major card issuers, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover offer some type of coverage on many of their cards. If you have a gold or travel card, it’ll almost always be included since you’re paying the big annual fees. Any claim on your car rental could be covered if you decline the supplemental insurance and if you charge the entire rental on your credit card. It’ll always exempt exotic cars, antiques, trucks and off-road vehicles. You’ll need to ask your card issuer if SUVs are included – it’s only Amex that has them on their standard policy. You also have to remember that credit card coverage always stands secondary to your own policy. In other words, any claim first gets processed through your insurance, then the card insurance comes second.

What you need to do is to make two phone calls:

-To your insurance carrier or ICBC and ask if any car rentals are covered. If you’re renting outside Canada or the US, you’ll need to specifically ask about Mexico or Europe. If your ICBC coverage has Roadside Plus or RoadStar, you’re covered. If they say no, ask about adding a rider to your policy – it’ll be very cheap!

-To your card issuer. Call the 800 number and ask them where on their website you can get any coverage explained. I would not recommend you take the word of someone at a call centre in India for it. Find it on their legal documents that came with your credit card or on their site and you’ll know for sure.

When 86% of people think they’re not covered, or aren’t sure, it’s time to find out, even if you ‘re not planning a trip right now. The alternative is to waste a ton of money each day on each car rental when you travel. Two calls and you’ll probably save yourself hundreds of dollars.

Here are a few more tips:

-Keep your rental car value at or below your own vehicle to be sure you’re fully covered.

-If you don’t have personal coverage, or your credit card coverage is minimal, it may be wise to buy the supplemental insurance.

-If there’s an additional driver on your rental, you’ll need to disclose that and cover that!

-If you’re renting for business, you may not be covered and need to find out well in advance or take the rental car coverage!

-If your personal insurance doesn’t cover it, ask about a rider added to your policy to cover it. That’ll be a lot cheaper than supplemental coverage.

-Know the limitations of coverage from  your insurance company and credit card issuer.

-There are time limits on coverage. You probably won’t be covered for a two-month rental, so ask in advance.

And one more thing: Careful these days with your rentals. You’ll likely get a one or two-year old rental with more than 20,000 km on the odometer, and a lot of scratches and marks. The days of rental car agencies getting all new vehicles every six to nine months are gone. Make sure the marks and dings are noted on your agreement, insist on getting another vehicle, or take some pictures with your smart phone. I’ve heard lots of stories of getting billed for pre-existing damage after the fact!

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