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      14 Best Credit Cards for Rental Cars (November 2022)

      Josh Patoka
      Best Credit Cards for Rental Cars

      Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired.

      Knowing which credit card you use for rental car bookings can unlock several rewards besides earning bonus points. For example, you can have complimentary rental car insurance and even special privileges or discounts. 

      This guide will help you uncover several credit cards with rental car benefits.

      What to Know Before Renting a Car

      Here are several factors to consider when comparing the best credit cards for rental cars. 

      Earning Rental Car Bonus Points

      Rental car agencies require booking a rental with a credit card or debit card. So, you can make the transaction more rewarding by earning some bonus points.

      Many travel credit cards are now offering the highest earning potential when you book car rentals through the credit card travel portal. Our current favorite cards include the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card – (Learn How to Apply Here) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – (Learn How to Apply Here).

      Here is the typical earning rate when booking through credit card portals:

      • American Express Travel (3x)
      • Capital One Travel (5x)
      • Chase Ultimate Rewards (5x)
      • U.S. Bank Altitude Rewards Center (5x)

      When booking directly through the rental agency, your purchases may only earn the base rate for travel spending. This is usually 1 or 2 points per $1. 

      While earning fewer points, you may prefer booking directly through the rental agency as you can have more negotiation power if you encounter an issue at pickup. For example, you reserve a full-size sedan but get a compact car and can’t get a partial price refund.

      The Vacationer Tip

      Tip: Car rental prices can vary widely. Consider comparing rates from your credit card portal and the rental agency’s site to find the best option. Also, check out our best credit cards offering rental car insurance guide. Finally, see our guide on How to Book Cheap Car Rentals for a full tutorial on finding the best prices.

      Rental Car Credits

      A couple of premium travel cards offer annual travel credits which reimburses your first travel purchases of the year — including car rentals.

      Notable cards include: 

      You may also be able to redeem credit card points for rental cars at 1 cent each. It’s not as good as a travel purchase credit but minimizes your out-of-pocket costs. The Venture X offers $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, and that includes car rentals.

      Rental Car Loyalty Program Privileges

      Select credit cards provide automatic elite status with participating rental cars. Your perks can include rental car discounts, complimentary discounts, and a free additional driver.

      Premium travel credit cards are more likely to offer these privileges.

      Participating car rental loyalty programs include:

      • Avis
      • Hertz
      • National Car Rental
      • Silvercar 

      Rental Car Insurance

      Once you arrive at the rental desk to retrieve your keys, the agent will eventually ask you about purchasing rental car insurance to offset collision and theft damage expenses.  

      This add-on can be expensive but many cards offer complimentary secondary or primary Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) coverage. You’re eligible for this card perk when you decline the agency’s policy.

      The overwhelming majority of cards offer secondary coverage which only activates after submitting a claim for your auto insurance provider first.

      You should also read your credit card benefits guide to review the exclusions. For example, rentals lasting longer than 14 days for domestic rentals or overseas rentals occurring in Ireland and Jamaica are usually ineligible.

      The Vacationer Tip

      Tip: If at all possible, try to book your trip with a card offering primary coverage so your credit card benefits kick in first.  

      Best Credit Cards for Renting Cars

      Best Credit Cards Car Rentals and Insurance

      Photo: pixabay

      These travel credit cards offer the most rewards when booking rental cars.

      Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

      The Chase Sapphire Preferred might be your first card to consider as you get primary coverage and flexible point redemptions with an affordable $95 annual fee.

      Car rental benefits include:

      • Primary collision damage waiver (up to the vehicle’s actual cash value)
      • 5x on car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards
      • 2x on rentals directly from the rental agency
      • 25% redemption bonus on award travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

      Going a little further, the Chase Sapphire cards arguably have the best car rental insurance benefits in the industry. Most domestic and foreign car rentals 30 days or less are eligible but competing programs have a 15-day cap for United States rentals.

      This card also has several other travel benefits including:

      • Up to $20,000 per trip in trip cancellation/interruption coverage
      • $50 annual statement credit on qualifying hotel stays
      • 1:1 airline and hotel transfer partners

      On each card anniversary, you also receive a 10% bonus on the total number of points you earn during the year. As a result, you get a year-end gift for every car rental.

      Chase Sapphire Reserve

      Most people recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve for its air travel benefits. However, it can be an excellent option if you book several car rentals a year for these perks:

      • Primary collision damage waiver (up to $75,000 for theft and collision).
      • National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status
      • Avis Preferred Plus status
      • Silvercar (Audi) discounts
      • 10x Ultimate Rewards on car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after earning the $300 travel credit)
      • 3x on car rentals and other travel purchases directly from the carrier (after earning the $300 travel credit)
      • Annual $300 travel credit (these purchases don’t earn rewards points)
      • 50% redemption bonus on award travel bookings through Chase Ultimate Rewards

      The complimentary primary collision damage is a standard feature for Visa Infinite cards. Its $75,000 coverage limit is more robust than the “actual cash value” primary coverage of the more affordable Chase Sapphire Preferred.

      Other featured benefits for this card include:

      The Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee is $550.

      The Platinum Card® from American Express

      The Platinum Card from American Express – (Learn How to Apply Here) offers these rental car status benefits:

      • Avis: Discounted bookings and complimentary one-class upgrades
      • Hertz: President’s Circle status and its many benefits
      • National: Emerald Club Executive membership (i.e., guaranteed upgrades)

      Sadly, secondary coverage (up to $75,000 in theft or damage) is the standard benefit for eligible rentals which is uncommon for premium travel cards. Fortunately, you have the option of buying add-on primary coverage for a flat fee of $19.95 to $24.95 per rental.

      This card also excels at providing fringe travel and lifestyle benefits other premium travel cards don’t offer:

      • Up to $200 airline fee credit per calendar year payable via statement credits at one selected airline (enrollment required)
      • Global Lounge Collection airport lounge benefits, including Centurion Lounges
      • Up to $200 in annual Uber Cash
      • Equinox, Walmart+, digital entertainment, and other shopping credits (enrollment required)
      • Hotel loyalty program elite status (enrollment required)
      • Earn up to 5x on flights (booked direct and at amextravel.com up to $500,000 per calendar year) and prepaid hotels through amextravel.com.
      • 1:1 point transfers
      • Built-in travel insurance, including emergency evacuation

      The annual fee is $695. (See Rates Fees).

      Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Travel insurance is Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

      Capital One Venture X Rewards

      The Capital One Venture X Rewards is one of the most affordable rewards cards offering premium travel benefits. 

      Your rental car benefits can include:

      • Hertz President’s Circle status
      • Primary rental car insurance (up to $75,000)
      • $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel
      • 10x Venture miles on car rentals and hotels through Capital One Travel
      • 2x miles on remaining car rentals

      This card also offers a few additional travel benefits:

      • Priority Pass Select access
      • Capital One Lounge access
      • Free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
      • 10,000 miles anniversary bonus
      • 1:1 point transfers

      The annual fee is $395 and is a Visa Infinite product.

      Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

      The Capital One Venture Rewards – (Learn How to Apply Here) helps you enjoy car rental benefits while avoiding high annual card fees:

      • Secondary coverage for collision and theft (up to actual cash value)
      • Hertz Five Star status
      • 5x Venture miles on car rentals through Capital One Travel
      • 2x on all remaining car rentals

      The Chase Sapphire Preferred can be the better option for the $95 annual fee tier. However, you may enjoy the elite Hertz loyalty status if you prefer this car rental agency.

      Other Capital One Venture Rewards travel benefits include:

      U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

      The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve is a Visa Infinite premium credit card just like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture X. Its annual fee is a cozy $400 although one frustrating factor is that you must be a U.S. Bank customer to qualify.

      Its car rental benefits include:

      • Primary coverage (up to $75,000)
      • National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive status
      • Avis Preferred Plus status
      • Silvercar rental discounts
      • Up to $325 in annual credits for travel and dining
      • 5x on prepaid hotels and car rentals through Altitude Rewards Center
      • 3x on remaining travel and mobile wallet purchases

      This card also provides frequent flyer-friendly benefits such as Priority Pass Select and free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. 

      United Airlines Credit Cards

      Five of the six consumer and small business co-brand United Airlines credit cards through Chase provide primary rental car coverage. You can also earn bonus MileagePlus miles on Avis and Budget rentals by entering exclusive promotion codes.

      Unfortunately, the $0 annual fee United Gateway℠ Card – (Learn How to Apply Here) only offers secondary rental insurance benefits.

      These consumer cards offer primary coverage up to the vehicle’s actual cash value:

      Consumer CardKey BenefitsAnnual Fee
      United℠ Explorer Card– 1x miles on car rentals
      – 2 one-time United Club passes per year
      – Free first checked bag
      $0 the first year then $95
      United Quest℠ Card– 2x miles on car rentals and other non-United travel purchases
      – Up to $125 annual United purchase credit
      – Two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits
      $250
      United Club℠ Infinite Card– 2x miles on car rentals and other non-United travel spending
      – First and second free checked bags
      – United Club lounge membership
      $525

      Each card offers additional United Airlines perks such as a 25% in-flight purchase discount and priority boarding. 

      The small business United card offers primary coverage up to the actual cash value:

      Business CardKey BenefitsAnnual Fee
      United℠ Business Card– 1x miles on car rentals
      – 2 one-time United Club passes per year
      – $100 United flight credit (after 7 qualifying flight purchases)
      – Free first checked bag
      $0 Intro for the first year, then $99

      Chase Ink Business

      All three Chase Ink Business credit cards offer primary coverage up to the actual cash value. However, one important caveat is that only business-related car rentals qualify.

      These cards earn Ultimate Rewards points but only the Chase Ink Business Preferred ($95 annual fee) provides a travel redemption bonus and 1:1 point transfers. 

      Here are the featured benefits of the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card, and the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

      Business CardKey BenefitsAnnual Fee
      Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card– Up to 3x on travel and select business categories
      – 25% travel redemption bonus
      – 1:1 point transfers
      $95
      Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card– 1.5x points on all purchases
      – Flexible redemption options
      $0
      Ink Business Cash® Credit Card– Up to 5x points on business purchases
      – 1x on car rentals
      $0

      The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts

      The best rental car credit card can easily offer a combination of primary coverage benefits and special perks at your favorite car rental agency. 

      While rental cars can be a small portion of your travel budget, these built-in benefits are an easy way to save money on travel and provide additional peace of mind.

      These cards can also provide additional value on flights and hotels which can help you get more mileage from your travel expenditures. Further reading: best hotel credit cards and best airline credit cards.

      Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

      American Express Platinum Card Rental Insurance Information: Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage up to $75,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible Card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply.

      Josh Patoka The Vacationer Bio

      By Josh Patoka

      Josh Patoka writes about maximizing travel rewards for The Vacationer. As well, he contributes to several personal finance sites specializing in making money, paying off debt, and investing.