Best credit cards for renting a car

Best credit cards for renting a car

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If you’re searching for a credit card for renting a car, you’re likely looking for a card that offers insurance, good car rental benefits and an opportunity to earn points, miles or cash back.

Scouring card details and car rental insurance policies can leave you bewildered – it’s hard to tell what’s covered and what’s excluded in a card’s insurance policy. (What is a "collision damage waiver," anyway?) To make it easier for you, we researched the cards available through ValuePenguin, as well as top cards offered by major issuers to pinpoint some of the best options for renting a car. Here are our top picks based on benefits and insurance policies:

Best credit cards for car rental

Best credit card for car rental overall: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$550

16.99%-23.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is our reigning champion of car rental credit cards. That’s because the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of a handful of cards that offer primary car rental insurance (up to $75,000 of coverage), as well as special car rental privileges with three major rental agencies.

Car rental benefits

  • Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. (The travel category includes car rentals.)
  • Get upgrades, discounts and special offers with National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar (enrollment required)
  • Primary car rental insurance with coverage in most countries, including Jamaica and Ireland
  • Enroll in National's Emerald Club and get Executive level membership, including special car rental benefits such as faster checkout and any car at a midsize rate
  • Use the card's rewards points to rent cars through the Ultimate Rewards portal at a value of 1.5 cents per point.

Car rental insurance details

It’s hard to beat the rental car insurance on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® – it offers up to $75,000 of primary insurance for damage or theft of most rental vehicles while traveling within the U.S. or abroad. Primary coverage means that – as long you pay the entire rental coverage with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® and decline the rental agency’s coverage – the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s policy kicks in first. You don’t have to deal with reporting the incident to your personal insurance policy, and you can possibly save yourself from a premium hike.

You’re eligible for up to 31 days of coverage without the usual country exclusions – so coverage is nearly worldwide. Your coverage includes:

  • Physical damage and/or theft of an eligible rental vehicle
  • Towing charges related to a covered loss
  • Loss-of-use charges incurred by the rental car agency

Best credit card for car rental insurance: (tie) Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$550

16.99%-23.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$95

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

Maybe the best kept secret of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: It offers the same primary insurance coverage as its pricier compatriot, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This means that either of the Chase Sapphire cards is a winning choice for car rental insurance coverage.

Car rental benefits

  • Earn bonus points on car rentals
  • Primary car rental insurance with coverage in most countries, including Jamaica and Ireland
  • Car rental upgrades and discounts with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Car rental insurance details

Except for the $75,000 maximum payout with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the insurance benefits offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are the same. You get up to 31 days of primary insurance coverage for theft or damage to a qualifying rental vehicle in most countries. Coverage includes:

  • Physical damage and/or theft of an eligible rental vehicle
  • Towing charges related to a covered loss
  • Loss-of-use charges incurred by the rental car agency

Best secured credit card for car rental: Secured Mastercard® from Capital One

If you’re someone with poor credit or a limited credit history, you may have experienced the headache that comes with trying to rent a car without a credit card (most car rental agencies won’t accept cash). Luckily, you have a few options, including using a secured credit card. The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One is one the best secured cards for renting a car, since it comes with better-than-average benefits, including car rental insurance. (Note: Depending how much you deposit, your initial credit line will be $200-$1,000, and the card won’t cover car rentals above your credit line.)

Car rental benefits

  • Secondary car rental coverage

Car rental insurance details

Secured Mastercard® from Capital One holders receive up to 15 days of consecutive coverage for theft or damage of an eligible vehicle rented under the name and paid for entirely with the card. Coverage is secondary, and only kicks in for claims not covered by your personal insurance, including in foreign countries. Coverage includes:

  • Damage and theft of a qualified rental vehicle
  • Loss-of-use charges
  • Towing charges

Best cashback card for car rental: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$0

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Excellent/Good

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

Because of their lack of country exclusions for car rental insurance, Chase-issued credit cards are generally your best bet for renting a car worldwide. Among Chase’s cashback cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is your best car rental option. In addition to its car rental insurance, the card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, which means you can score great rewards on your rental.

Car rental benefits

  • Secondary car rental insurance for U.S. rentals and primary car rental insurance for international rentals, with coverage in most countries
  • Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. (Includes car rentals.)

Car rental insurance details

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers up to 31 days of consecutive coverage for theft or damage of an eligible rental vehicle paid for exclusively by the card. The coverage is secondary within the U.S. – only covering claims not covered by another insurance policy – and primary outside of the U.S., applying to rentals in most foreign countries. Coverage includes:

  • Damage and theft of a qualified rental vehicle.
  • Loss-of-use charges
  • Towing charges

Best business card for car rental: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$95

15.99%-20.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account
  • $95 Annual Fee

For businesses with a lot of travel expenses, including car rentals, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card may be your go-to card. The card offers primary rental insurance in most countries for vehicles rented for business purposes, a high 3X rewards rate on car rentals and car rental privileges with Avis. Moreover, there’s no extra fee for issuing employee cards, so you and your employees can use all its car rental benefits cost-effectively.

Car rental benefits

  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn. (The travel category includes car rentals.)
  • Enroll in the Avis Corporate Rewards Program to earn rental reward days faster, save on rentals, get free upgrades and more
  • Primary coverage for business-related car rentals with coverage in most countries.

Car rental insurance details

For vehicles rented for business purposes, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card offers up to 31 days of primary car rental coverage in most countries. Unfortunately, coverage is secondary for personal car rentals within the U.S. (though always primary for international car rentals), so you may want to carry a second card for personal purposes. Coverage includes:

  • Physical damage and theft of a qualified rental vehicle
  • Loss-of-use charges
  • Towing charges

Pros of renting a car with a credit card

Besides being one of the most convenient and most accepted forms for rental cars, credit cards come with several other benefits that make them ideal for renting a car:

Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) and Loss Damage Waivers (LDW)

Many credit cards include Collision Damage Waivers and Loss Damage Waivers. These are basically auto rental insurance policies that cover theft, damage and loss of use of car rented with your credit card. There are many benefits to these waivers – they can take the place of the insurance offered by the car rental agency, sparing you from having to pay an expensive daily fee. They can cover costs not covered by your personal insurance. And, for credit cards with primary car rental coverage, they can save you from having to make a claim with your personal insurance policy.

Car rental discounts

Some credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, partner with car rental agencies to give you discounts and other special benefits when you rent a car with your credit card.

Car rental rewards

If you rent a car with a rewards card, you can earn points, miles or cash back on your rental.

Primary vs. secondary car rental insurance

Before renting a car with a credit card, you should take a close look at whether your card offers primary or secondary car rental insurance. The vast majority of credit cards offer secondary coverage that only applies to costs not covered by another policy, including your personal insurance policy. In other words, under a secondary policy, if you have to make a claim, you’ll have to go through your personal insurance first. With a primary insurance policy, on the other hand, you can report loss or damages directly to your issuer, possibly sparing yourself a premium hike from your personal insurer. In general, it may be best to go with a credit card with primary rental car insurance.

American Express car rental insurance

Renting a car with an American Express card is a special situation: All American Express cards, including the The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card, come with secondary car rental insurance. If you want primary car rental insurance, you’ll have to pay a fee for Premium Car Rental Protection.

How American Express Premium Car Rental Protection works

American Express (Amex) cardholders may pay a rate of $12.25 to $34.95 per rental to get primary coverage on a wide variety of vehicles. While you’re generally better off paying with a card with free primary rental car insurance, Amex Premium Car rental Protection does have a few advantages:

  • A longer-than-average rental period (up to 42 consecutive days)
  • It covers vehicles that most other credit card policies don’t cover, such as luxury vehicles and SUVs
  • The amount of coverage is really high: Up to $100,000 for damage or theft of a qualifying rental vehicle
  • With a maximum fee of $24.95 for the entire rental period, the cost is also very reasonable – much better than the policies pitched to you at a car rental counter
  • Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.

Tips for renting a car with a credit card

  • Between two cards, choose the card with primary rental car insurance.
  • Check your policy closely for limitations and exclusions, such as – vehicle types, countries (Jamaica and Ireland are often excluded) and rental period (many cards’ policies limit you to two weeks).
  • Make sure the cardholder is the primary renter on the rental car agreement.
  • Decline the rental car company’s collision damage waiver when asked.
  • Pay your entire rental with your credit card. If you’re renting with points or miles, check the terms on your credit card’s car rental policy – your coverage may not apply.
  • Make sure you have a personal insurance policy with liability insurance, since your credit card policy won’t cover that.

Compare best cards for car rental

Card
Type of coverage
Annual fee
Rewards on car rentals
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Primary$5503X points
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardPrimary$952X points
Secured Mastercard® from Capital OneSecondary$0None
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Secondary in the U.S., primary for international rentals$01.5% cash back
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit CardPrimary for business rentals and for all international rentals, secondary for U.S. personal rentals$953X points
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The information related to the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Robin Ratcliff is a Managing Editor with ValuePenguin. Her obsession with credit cards began in 2005 at CreditCards.com, where she honed her card expertise by developing and launching the site’s expert reviews and card ratings system. Robin loves explaining the ins and outs of credit card rewards programs and how to maximize cards. She is currently juggling Chase Ultimate Rewards® cards, collecting points for her next great adventure. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).