Credit Card Primary Car Insurance Is not Equal

Recently I did a one way car rental from Orlando, FL to Maryland. You see, in the April to May time frame, one way car rentals are super cheap if you’re going north. So, what else was I to do? I booked myself a Full size SUV, with the plan to pick up some things from my parents house, and do some sourcing along the way to fill the rest of the way. Of course, it was on the drive from my parent’s house to my favorite Florida restaurant, Highjackers–aptly named since it is on the grounds of the Palm Coast Airport–that my father asked which card I had paid for the rental with. Since we planned this as a business trip for our Reselling Business, logically I had put it on my Chase Ink Plus. That’s where the conversation changed.

You see, my father was reading the fine print of miles and points before I could read, well, at least close to it. His initial position was that I should’ve paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve–a card I had recommended to him last year after getting it myself in the pre-launch release. Well, after reading Dia’s post on the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s Travel Insurance being insufficient, I had to dig into this Primary Car Insurance question!

It is important to note that all of the credit cards and coverage in this post are specifically Primary Car Insurance, meaning, this insurance is what you would refer to before you would contact your normal car insurance provider. This is meaningful because it could save having impact on your car insurance premiums.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Primary Car Insurance Coverage

The Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits are fairly exhaustive, but to summarize the important pieces, coverage is up to $75,000 for rentals not to exceed 31 consecutive days. Chase does specifically identify what is not covered, but also caveats that it is not an exhaustive list, here are their examples:

  • Antique automobiles; vans designed to carry more than 8 people; vehicles that have an open cargo bed; trucks; motorcycles, mopeds, and motorbikes; limousines; and recreational vehicles
  • Expenses reimbursed under your personal auto insurance policy, your employer or your employer’s insurance
  • Any obligation you assume under any other agreement
  • Injury of anyone or anything inside or outside of the vehicle
  • Leases and mini leases
  • Any violation of the auto rental agreement
  • Loss or theft of personal belongings

Unfortunately, the above descriptions make it hard to determine if you’d be covered for some rentals with your Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is very similar in coverage.

Chase Ink Plus Primary Rental Car Insurance Coverage

I typically rent cars for business purposes. The nature of my business–Reselling–means that I often need a car with greater capacity than those that I own. Of course, when I rent for business purposes, I want to use a business card, and because the Chase Ink Plus offers primary car insurance coverage, it is my first choice as a card to use. I cannot highlight enough: to be covered, you must be driving for business purposes. 

There’s not really a conclusive list or guidance that I could find, however I did call the Ink Plus folks and they gave me a rough idea of the guidelines, which I will summarize below:

  • There is not necessarily a dollar value limitation
  • You are covered for Economy through Luxury Vehicles
    • When asked for specifics, I was told that the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator are both covered. 
  • Trucks or anything with an open cargo bed is excluded (like the Sapphire Reserve)
  • Expensive vehicles are excluded
    • When asked for specifics, I used the BMW X5 – which is in fact excluded.
Primary Rental Car Insurance

This is not the car for you, if you want to be covered!

I was particularly disappointed with the responses here for a few reasons. Particularly because, if I have a business, I might need a vehicle with an open cargo bed. Second, as a business owner, I’d like to know what vehicles are or are not covered, so I can make sure my employees stay within the necessary bounds.

It is important to know also that the Ink Preferred and Ink Cash also offer primary insurance coverage. 

Diner’s Club Primary Rental Car Insurance

I realize that not many folks use Diner’s Club these days, however they do provide primary car insurance. They provide two levels. One for regular card holders, and a higher level for those Carte Blanche card members. Here are the details:

  • Receive primary coverage, anywhere in the world (except where prohibited by law), when the entire cost of a car rental is charged to a Diners Club Card.
  • For most card members there’s usually no need to file a claim with your own insurance company, so your personal insurance premium won’t be affected.
  • The insurance covers physical damage and theft of the vehicle, reasonable loss of use charges, reasonable towing charges, and includes Secondary Personal Effects insurance.
  • Protection applies to rental cars with Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price up to $75,000 for covered damages. For Carte Blanche card members, up to $100,000 for covered damages.
  • To qualify, you must decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver (CDW), saving up to $16 per rental day.

Citi Prestige and Premier Primary Rental Car Insurance – Only outside of the US!

This is where I think the Citi Thank You Card portfolio of credit cards fails. Citi Prestige provides primary car rental insurance only outside of the US. While this can be positive, I personally think Citi is missing the boat here in that for a premium credit card, primary rental insurance in the US should be standard.

American Express’ Primary Rental Car Insurance is an extra cost

So, you have your American Express Platinum card (personal $550, business $450), and you want to rent a car. Well, Be careful! Because American Express wants you to enroll in another program in order to be covered. In other words, so far as I can tell, you don’t get any coverage for the base annual fee. 

Wrapping Up

Overall, I was very surprised with what is, and is not covered by credit cards that offer primary rental car insurance. In truth, I expected coverage to be much better, given how much credit card companies promote this as a benefit. I was particularly surprised that business cards specifically do not cover pick-ups. I mean, how many businesses could see value in renting a pick-up truck over another vehicle? Similarly, “expensive cars” which is a vague term to begin with, are excluded from Chase credit cards coverage. So if you get an upgrade, you may be at more risk than if you had a standard car. Ironically though, a Cadillac Escalade is covered, but a BMW X5 is not. This is unfortunately both very confusing and frustrating.

Have you looked into what your credit card truly offers for primary rental car insurance?

18 thoughts on “Credit Card Primary Car Insurance Is not Equal

    • @Eric – Thanks for your question – I’d probably recommend the Citi Prestige for international car rentals.

  1. The Amex premium coverage could be a good option for those trips when you have a vehicle with an open cargo bed.

      • Yeah… I mean, it beats the rental agency pricing and has higher coverage (for expensive cars and open cargo beds) but is probably worth it if you don’t have other free or cheaper options.

  2. What is covered on CC’s when it is secondary coverage? Same inclusions/exclusions or even more restrictive? Agreed it would be nice to find site for each CC where explicit benefits could be reviewed and compared. Appreciate the info. you provide!

    • @Susan – To be honest, I didn’t really look as deeply on Secondary coverage, as that is not generally desirable (because it has the risk of your insurance premiums going up). But that sounds like it would be an excellent follow-up post, so I’ll do some research, thank you for the suggestion!

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      • @Ramzi – I need to do some more research into that – from a casual web search I’m not seeing any level of detail on the matter.

    • @Scott – says it on the Chase Ink marketing page, here’s a copy/paste: “Decline the rental company‚Äôs collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary when renting for business purposes and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.”

      • Thank you. Do you have any thoughts on the Chase United (personal) card with regard to their primary rental coverage?

        • @Scott – I’ve used the United MileagePlus Explorer card for rentals in the past; but as I look deeper into, I haven’t been able to find that level of specificity that I have with other credit cards.

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