If you’ve 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 where you’re renting, the coverage offered, and the type of car you’ll be driving. The good news? You might not need to pay to get Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) on your rental car.

Many travelers may not realize that they may already carry a credit card that provides Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. Several credit cards cover cardholders against damage caused due to theft or collision. Coverage usually comes in the form of reimbursement after you pay for any losses.

A question we field on a regular basis — both in the blog comments 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, let’s review some of the basics of Auto Rental CDW policies offered by major card providers.

person driving car
Some rewards credit cards offer Primary Auto Rental CDW/LDW coverage

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. Having this insurance through your card can save you hundreds of dollars per rental in additional fees.

How do you get this coverage when renting a car? Just swipe the card offering the highest level of coverage when you pay for your rental car. Damage to the vehicle is automatically covered in the event of an accident or if the car is stolen — if you follow just a few rules.

To take advantage of the CDW policy provided by your credit card, you must:

  1. Decline the CDW offered by the rental company
  2. Be registered as the primary renter of the vehicle, and
  3. 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. Only a select group of credit cards offer primary rental coverage. And each provider stipulates country and vehicle exclusions.

Which Credit Cards Offer a Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)?

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 Quest℠ Card
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

And some cards that are no longer available to new cardholders:

  • United MileagePlus® Club Card
  • The Ritz-Carlton™ 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)

Limitations on Credit Card Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) Coverage

An important aspect to note is the CDW policy provided through credit cards 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.

Alternatively, cardmembers of premium Amex cards can purchase Premium Car Rental Protection. For a modest fee of $15.25 to $24.95 per rental, you’ll get primary damage coverage as well as accidental death and dismemberment, secondary medical expense coverage and secondary personal property coverage.

We also want to note that there are business credit cards like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business that offer rental car coverage. However, remember that the primary coverage is intended for rentals on business trips. You could be out of luck if you need insurance after an accident but are using the car on a leisure trip, so consult your card’s policy terms.

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 in other countries — have little to no knowledge of the benefits of U.S.-issued credit cards. We frequently hear stories of travelers forced to take out additional coverage when 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. This ties up money on your card and throws 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.

  • Capital One — Call the Benefits Administrator on 800-825-4062 (or call collect outside the U.S. at 1-804-965-8071) to request a letter of coverage
  • Chase  Call the Benefits Administrator on 1-888-675-1461 (or call collect if you’re outside of the US at 1-804-281-5772) to request a letter of coverage
  • Barclays  Call 1-800-Mastercard (627-8372) to request a letter of coverage. Outside of the U.S.? Call collect to 1-636-722-7111.
  • American Express  Call 1-800-338-1670 (or call collect from overseas: 1-303-273-6497) to request a letter of coverage

Final Thoughts

Requesting a letter of coverage from your credit card provider takes five minutes. Doing so can save massive headaches and hundreds of dollars when renting vehicles — domestically and abroad. Just be sure to read the policy offered on the card and check all the fine print, so you aren’t left to foot the bill in case of an accident or theft.

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