Get perks like primary car insurance and automatic elite status with the best credit cards for car rentals

When it comes to car rentals, it’s key to be aware of your credit card’s inclusions and rental car policy’s fine print so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered in case you ever have to deal with an accident, car theft or other damage that may impact your rental experience.

Most importantly, if you’re relying on your credit card’s included auto rental collision damage waiver to protect you, whether you’re cruising around the country or renting a vehicle overseas — and whether or not you have your own personal auto insurance back home — you need to make sure you’re following all the rules to avoid any surprises.

There are typically three main requirements: You must pay for the entire rental with that specific credit card in order to receive its associated coverage and benefits, the cardholder must be the primary driver (although additional drivers listed on your rental car contract should also be covered) and above all, you must decline any additional insurance that’s being offered by the rental car company.

Thankfully, there are a number of personal and business credit cards available that were designed to make things easier for those seeking protection during their travels, either by including primary or secondary rental insurance — we’ll get into the difference between them later — or providing complimentary elite status with certain car rental companies.

Below, Select details the best credit cards to use when renting a car, including those that offer collision damage waiver insurance as well as other perks such as automatic elite status.

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Best credit cards for rental cars

Best overall

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? If you’re looking for a card with outstanding points-earning opportunities, a generous welcome bonus and a variety of luxury travel benefits, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Car rental benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve has got you covered, with a comprehensive auto rental collision damage waiver — primary rental insurance covering up to $75,000 worth of damage caused by a crash or theft for rentals up to 31 consecutive days within the U.S. and most other countries.

Cardholders also score discounts and upgrades through Avis, Silvercar and National Car Rental, as well as automatic elite status with National’s Emerald Club Executive loyalty program and Avis Preferred Plus, providing access to even more benefits that can make your rental experience smoother. Further, the card offers complimentary roadside assistance in the U.S. and Canada to help out with emergencies like flat tires and empty gas tanks (up to $50 in coverage per event, up to four events per year).

Other perks: While the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee may seem high, it’s reasonable enough if you plan on using all the included benefits — up to $300 annual travel credit (which can be used toward car rentals); Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS application fee credit; access to Priority Pass™ Select airport lounges and The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; free subscriptions and monthly credits through DoorDash DashPass; VIP access to exclusive dinners; and premium seating at concerts and sporting events. The card also offers travel and emergency assistance service, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, extended warranty protection and purchase protection and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Best low-annual-fee credit card for car rentals

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    18.99% – 25.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is for those interested in receiving similar benefits as the Chase Sapphire Reserve but for a much lower annual fee of $95.

Car rental benefits: Like the higher-end Reserve card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also comes with primary car rental coverage for domestic and international car rentals of up to 31 consecutive days, but in this case, it’s meant to cover any damage caused by a crash or theft up to the actual cash value of most rented cars.

Other perks: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card throws in subscriptions and credits via DoorDash DashPass, Instacart+ and Gopuff; has no foreign transaction fees; and comes with trip cancellation and interruption insurance, travel and emergency service, and extended warranty and purchase protection. You’ll also have access to unique perks such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards® credit each year for hotels booked through the Ultimate Rewards® travel portal and a 10% anniversary points boost.

Best for those who prefer rental car elite status

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit Needed

Who’s this for? If you’re a fan of elite status perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express makes a great choice, especially since it offers a ton of luxury benefits.

Car rental benefits: Cardholders receive automatic status and special privileges through either Avis Preferred®, National Car Rental® Emerald Club Executive or Hertz President’s Circle® elite membership, each of which comes with its own benefits such as free upgrades and additional discounts on car rentals.

While this card does offer an auto rental collision damage waiver, in this case, it’s secondary coverage — meaning you’d have to go through your own car insurance provider first in the event of an accident or theft — although you do have the option to add extra Premium Car Rental Protection for a flat rate per rental period (not per day) to bump this up to primary rental insurance. Rates range from $12.95 to $24.95 depending on where you live and the coverage you choose. It’s valid on rentals up to 42 consecutive days, so it is quite comprehensive even despite the additional fee. This particular product is not available for rentals in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Israel or Jamaica.

Other perks: At $695 (see rates and fees) per year, this card carries the highest annual fee on this list, but there are lots of benefits that can make it worthwhile, including:

  • Up to $200 annual hotel statement credit
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee statement credit
  • Up to $300 annual Equinox statement credit
  • Up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit
  • Up to $189 statement credit to enroll in CLEAR®
  • Up to $240 annual digital entertainment statement credit
  • Up to $155 annual Walmart+ statement credit
  • Worldwide airport lounge access, including Delta SkyClubs and Amex Centurion Lounges
  • Up to $200 annual Uber Cash credit
  • Up to $100 fee statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Automatic hotel elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Complimentary Amex concierge service

Best for luxury travel lovers

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    10X miles on hotels and rental cars, 5X miles on flights when booked via Capital One Travel; unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    19.99% – 26.99% variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? Those who prefer luxury travel benefits, annual travel credits, a decent welcome bonus and lucrative points-earning rates should check out the Capital One® Venture X® Rewards Credit Card.

Car rental benefits: The card also includes primary rental insurance with an auto rental collision damage waiver to cover damage caused by crashes or theft up to the value of the vehicle (up to $75,000 when new) on rentals up to 15 consecutive days in the U.S. and up to 31 consecutive days while renting abroad.

In addition to receiving perks through your automatic Hertz President’s Circle® elite status — such as skipping the rental counter and having the largest selection of cars — cardmembers can also earn 10X miles per dollar on rental cars reserved through Capital One Travel and for any Turo bookings made now through May 16, 2023.

Other perks: While there is a $395 annual fee, this card does provide valuable travel benefits such as an up to $300 annual Capital One Travel credit, airport lounge access and an automatic 10,000-mile bonus every year you keep your card open.

Cardholders also receive exclusive access to dining reservations, culinary experiences and ticket presales for sporting events and concerts; no foreign transaction fees for using the card overseas; travel accident insurance; extended warranty and return protection; and cell phone protection.

Best for frequent United Airlines flyers

United Club℠ Infinite Card

  • Rewards

    4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services) and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? The United Club℠ Infinite Card is a great choice if you’re a frequently fly with United or another Star Alliance carrier. In addition to the many United-related benefits, it offers a number of other premium travel benefits, including automatic car rental elite status and robust protections.

Car rental benefits: Cardholders receive primary car rental coverage, which offers reimbursement for damage caused by theft or crashes up to the full value of the car (up to $75,000) on rentals up to 15 consecutive days domestically (or 31 consecutive days internationally).

If you’re renting with Avis, you can also enroll in the Avis President’s Club loyalty program for access to additional benefits such as two-car class upgrades, expedited rental service and guaranteed rental availability.

Other perks: There are no foreign transaction fees and you’ll receive a ton of additional benefits, such as membership for you and your travel companions to more than 45 United Club℠ and certain Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide; two free checked bags on flights operated by United Airlines; priority service for check-in, security, baggage handling and boarding; and a $100 credit to use toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS.

Cardholders also receive complimentary IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status; 25% back in statement credits when you use it to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi, food and beverages; upgrades for you and a companion when you’ve got Premier status and are flying on award tickets; 10% off economy award flights on United and United Express; special perks through The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; a complimentary one-year subscription to DoorDash DashPass when you activate it by Dec. 31, 2024; Visa Infinite Concierge service and exclusive access to United Card Events from Chase.

Best for renting a car for business purposes

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in select categories each account anniversary year (travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines), 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Who’s this for? Small business owners who frequently rent cars for business trips and don’t want to pay. ahigh annual fee should consider the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. It offers strong car rental coverage and great points-earning possibilities.

Car rental benefits: If your rental is part of a company or business-related trip within the U.S. or overseas — or if you’re renting one for personal reasons while traveling abroad and you don’t have your own car insurance — the Ink Business Preferred card has you covered, with an auto rental collision damage waiver that protects you with primary rental insurance on rentals up to 31 consecutive days worldwide. Note that if you’re renting a car for personal reasons in the U.S. and happen to have your own auto insurance, this included benefit is treated as secondary insurance after your main provider’s coverage.

Other perks: You’ll also receive additional benefits such as roadside dispatch service, travel and emergency assistance, and trip cancellation and interruption insurance. Other perks include purchase and extended warranty protection and cell phone protection when you use the card to pay your monthly phone bill.

Other things to consider before renting a car

For starters, remember the three essential rules of credit card rental car insurance coverage:

  • You must pay for the entire rental with that specific credit card in order to receive its associated coverage and benefits.
  • The cardholder must be the primary driver (although additional drivers listed on your rental car contract should also be covered).
  • Above all, you must decline any additional insurance that’s being offered by the rental car company

Primary vs. secondary rental insurance

Beyond that, it’s important to note the difference between primary and secondary rental insurance — of all the cards on this list, The Platinum Card® from American Express was the only one that included secondary coverage (with an option to upgrade to primary) while all of the others offered primary.

When you have primary rental insurance, it essentially means you won’t have to go through your own auto insurance provider (if you have one) and can simply submit a claim through the website or by calling the number on the back of your card in the event of damage or theft.

With secondary rental insurance, however, the coverage provided by your credit card won’t kick in until after you’ve filed a claim through your personal auto insurance policy, and eventually, your credit card’s policy. You also might need to contact the card issuer to make sure you’re covered if you don’t have your own car insurance (i.e. if you don’t have a car at home but need to rent one during a trip) or if you’ll be renting one overseas where your usual car insurance won’t kick in.

Liability coverage isn’t usually included

Keep in mind that so far, we’ve only been talking about damage to the actual vehicle you’re renting — not to anyone or anything else that may also have been harmed at the time of the accident or theft — and typical credit card-provided insurance likely won’t cover that.

If you have your own insurance policy, double-check to make sure you’ve got liability coverage just in case, and if not, you might be able to tack that onto your rental at the counter for an additional fee, which usually ranges from $8 to $25 more per day.

Not all car rentals will be covered by a collision damage waiver

Check to make sure the type of car you’re renting is actually covered by the credit card’s auto rental collision damage waiver, as certain luxury cars and recreational vehicles may not be included. Likewise, car-sharing companies such as Turo are generally not covered by credit card car rental protection.

It’s also important to pay attention to any specific timeframes outlined in your credit card’s fine print — such as rentals that must be completed within 14 or 31 consecutive days depending on where you’re going, as well as any countries that may be excluded — to make sure you’re covered properly.

Bottom line

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value for car rentals, Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including: rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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