Updated April 2021:

I’m always trying to think about topics to cover where I once had a question and it took some research and phone calls to find the answer.

Let’s talk about car rentals that you book with points or certificates as well as with credit card points. You could be using frequent flyer miles or even free day certificates from your car rental company of choice – i.e. from Hertz #1 Gold. Or you might have used your credit card points.

So you booked a great car for a few days and you get to the counter and your cost is zero.  And then they ask if you need the supplemental insurance.

“No,” you say. “I have insurance with my credit card.”

But do you?.  The terms and conditions of the insurance that come with your credit card require that you “book and pay for” your rental in full with that credit card.

I’ll quote from the Visa CDW benefit guidebook:

For the benefit to be in effect, you must :
• Initiate and complete the entire rental transaction with your eligible Visa card, and
• Decline the auto rental company’s collision damage waiver
(CDW/ LDW) option or similar provision

There are exceptions, though.

  • If you book your car with points via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you will still get the CDW/LDW benefits from your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card. Just keep in mind that you must book using your Reserve or Preferred account. If you have points with another card product, transfer them to your Reserve/Preferred account first.
  • For Amex, it appears that you would have to pay part cash/part points to be eligible. It’s not quite as clear as Citi and Chase are in their terms.

But if you paid for the rental with miles or certificates other than the above, you are NOT covered.

You’ll need to pay for the car rental company’s insurance to be covered in that case (unless you want to rely on your own personal insurance which may or may not cover it and may have a high deductible anyway).

That can be an additional cost on your free rental of $15-$30 a day. Or, there’s one other option if you have an Amex Green/Gold/Platinum card: American Express Premium Car Rental Protection. With this benefit, you pay $20-$25 per rental (one fee covers the whole rental period) and you are covered. The higher rate is for a higher dollar value of coverage.

As long as the taxes and fees are charged to the card, you will be covered (per a phone call with Amex). I used this benefit on a recent Hawaii week long rental for which I used 3,750 Hertz points and charged the $55 in fees to my Amex.

The one other time the Amex Premium Car Rental Protection can come in handy is where another card that has included primary coverage may not cover the vehicle. Case in point: the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s car rental proteciton is primary, but it won’t cover a pickup truck. The Amex Premium Car Rental Protection plan will.

Also see: Cards with Primary Car Rental Insurance


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