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Make sure you're insured for your next rental.

Christopher Elliott
April 16, 2017

Does your credit card cover your rental car? There’s really only one way to know: find your card-member agreement and read it. If it’s not in the fine print, you’re not covered. Also, call your personal auto insurance company in advance to see if your plan will cover rentals. In most cases, you’ll have enough coverage between your credit card insurance and your personal policy. But there are a few “gotchas” to look for.

1. You must use the card to rent the car and decline the rental company’s insurance at the counter.

2. Credit cards generally provide secondary insurance, meaning they pay costs above what your personal policy covers. But some cards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example) offer primary rental-car insurance as well.

3. Most credit cards don’t cover liability. You have to buy that separately from your car-rental company or receive it through your personal policy.

4. Some specialty vehicles, like exotic cars, vans, or trucks, may not be covered under your policy. Car-sharing services like Turo or Zipcar are generally not covered by your card.

5. Your coverage may not work outside the country. Rentals in Israel, Ireland, and Jamaica, for example, are not covered by most major credit cards, and you’ll need to purchase a separate policy when you rent a car in those countries.

6. Mind the many exclusions. Most credit cards won’t cover roadside assistance, notably the cost of a flat tire. Also, cards generally don’t cover loss of use or “diminution of value,” which a rental company will try to charge you if you damage one of its cars. Those expenses can account for upwards of 20 percent of the cost of a damage claim, which usually has a $500 deductible.

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