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Have you ever rented a car? No doubt you’ve been given the hard sell on purchasing insurance as part of the rental agreement. The fee can range anywhere from $10 to $50 per day depending on factors such as the provider, your age, the country you rent in, the cover offered, and the type of car you'll be driving. What many people don’t know, is they may already carry a credit card providing an Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which provides cardholders coverage for damage caused due to theft or collision. Coverage may come in the form of reimbursement after you pay for any losses.
A question we field on a regular basis, both on the blog and AwardWallet’s Facebook community, Award Travel 101, is: “how do I obtain proof of the CDW offered by my credit card company?” The answer is as simple as making a phone call. But before we jump into the details, we’ll run over some of the basics of Auto Rental CDW policies offered by major card providers.
What Is an Auto Rental CDW and How Does It Work?
The auto rental coverage offered by your credit card takes the place of the traditional Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) provided by the rental company, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per rental in additional fees. What qualifies you for this coverage when renting a car? Just swipe the card offering the highest level of coverage when you pay for your rental car, and damage to the vehicle is covered in the event of an accident or the if car is stolen.
To take advantage of the CDW policy provided by your credit card, you must decline the CDW offered by the rental company, be registered as the primary renter of the vehicle, and pay for the rental in full with the card providing coverage. You need to check your card’s guide to benefits to determine what coverage is offered, as only a select group of credit cards offer primary rental coverage and each provider stipulates country and vehicle exclusions.
Some of our favorite cards providing primary rental CDW include:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (see our post covering Chase's Auto Rental CDW)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- United℠ Explorer Card
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
- United MileagePlus® Club Card
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (secondary coverage in the US unless you have no insurance and then it is primary, primary coverage internationally)
An important aspect to note is the CDW policy provided by your card doesn’t cover you for liability insurance if another person or their property is damaged in a crash. You’ll need to check that your personal or travel insurance covers you, or purchase supplemental liability insurance from the rental company.
Do I Need to Provide Proof of CDW Insurance to the Rental Agency?
In most cases, you aren’t required to show proof of the CDW offered with your card. In practice, many rental agencies, particularly those abroad, have little to no knowledge of the benefits provided by U.S. issued credit cards, and we hear stories on a weekly basis of cardholders forced to take out additional coverage as they can’t present proof of the policy and what it covers.
If the rental company is not happy with the evidence supplied, you can find yourself slapped with unwanted fees for insurance you don’t need, or they may place a significant hold on your credit card until you return the vehicle, tying up money on your card and throwing your credit utilization rate under the bus.
Call the Benefits Administrator and Request a Letter of Coverage
The easiest and fastest way of obtaining proof of coverage from your credit card provider is to call the Benefits Administrator and request it. You can call the number on the back of your card or supplied in your guide to benefits, and ask for a proof-of-coverage letter stating which countries the policy covers, what damage it covers. Get a hard copy, and take it with you to the rental agency when you pick up the vehicle.
- Chase – Call the Benefits Administrator on 1-888-675-1461 to request a letter-of-coverage
- Barclays – Call 1-800-Mastercard to request a letter of coverage
- American Express – Call 1-866-518-0259 to request a letter-of-coverage
It takes five minutes to request a letter of coverage from your credit card provider, and it can save massive headaches and hundreds of dollars when renting vehicles both domestically and abroad. Just be sure to read the policy offered on the card, and check all the fine print, so you are not left to foot the bill in the case of an accident or theft.
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