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To Buy Or Not To Buy: Supplemental Rental Car Insurance

If you’re in a quandary about whether to purchase supplemental rental car insurance, you’re not alone.  A recent study shows that roughly 20% of auto renters always purchase extra insurance, whether they need it or not. While the rental agency will encourage you to fork over extra bucks for insurance, the fact of the matter is that if you pay with one of the major credit cards, in most cases, they supply all of the supplemental coverage you need.

We’re often confused about what’s covered by our card and what isn’t, but finding out this important information can save you as much as $20 a day during your rental. Progressive Insurance recently conducted a study of the major credit card company policies on supplemental auto rental insurance.  They found that Visa gets the highest marks for providing coverage, with Discover, American Express and MasterCard following behind.  Of the four cards, MasterCard ranks lowest in providing rental car coverage to cardholders.  However, the specifics of coverage varies for all cards, and it pays to know what’s covered and what isn’t when you sidle up to the rental car counter and sign on the dotted line.

In order to qualify for coverage from any of the above credit card companies, you must charge the entire amount of the car rental to your card and decline supplemental insurance from the rental agency.  None of the cards cover the rental of antique, exotic or otherwise extremely expensive vehicles, so forego renting a Ferrari if you want coverage from your credit card provider.  They also don’t insure trucks, off-road vehicles, or vehicles with open beds. Some of the cards exclude coverage if you’re traveling on unpaved roads or those that aren’t regularly maintained. Discover is the only provider to offer coverage in all of the countries where its cards are accepted, so check with the others if you’re heading off to rent a car in a faraway land.

As for SUVs, American Express is the only one to offer supplemental coverage for them, including the most popular models like the Chevy Suburban, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

As with all things related to insurance and credit cards, reading the fine print will save you dollars and headaches in the long run, so pull out your agreement and get your facts straight before your next vacation or business car rental.