Are you looking for free auto rental insurance in the US? You've come to the right place. Generally when we think of credit cards, we think of points, miles, cash back and other rewards. But another sometimes overlooked benefit of a credit card is the auto rental insurance policy. It's an arduous task to dig through many policies that are sometimes poorly disclosed, so, I've done the homework for you and picked out what I think is a really great card that offers free car rental insurance coverage.

Most credit cards offer car rental insurance to a certain extent, but it's generally secondary to your existing car insurance. What do the terms "primary" and "secondary" insurance really mean? Secondary insurance only applies after your other coverage has been exhausted, such as your existing personal auto insurance. On the other hand, primary insurance provides the driver with immediate coverage.

But, what happens when you rent a vehicle abroad? When renting a vehicle abroad as a U.S. driver you are not covered by your U.S. auto insurance company, so your secondary coverage is effectively primary. If you don't own a car (and therefore no car insurance), your secondary coverage is effectively primary as well (even for auto rentals in the U.S) since you don't have any other auto insurance policy.

The primary and secondary coverage provided by some credit cards for car rental insurance is the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) which covers towing, damage (to your rental car), theft (of the rental car), and the loss of use to the rental car company while the car is being repaired. CDW does not cover damage to any property, damage to any other vehicle and injuries to people. It's important to check what the rental car company's insurance coverages are as well, do they offer liability coverage? And if they do, to what extent? Evidently, it is essential to have adequate coverage for injuries for yourself, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. Important note: when using your credit card's CDW you must decline your rental car CDW for it to be effective.

Below is my pick for the best card that offers free car rental insurance coverage and detailed insight on the type of coverage they offer.

VISA

Visa offers car rental insurance coverage on all of its cards when renting a vehicle for up to 15 consecutive days domestically or 31 days abroad. The insurance coverage is secondary and it includes theft, physical damage, towing, loss of use, and administrative costs. It does not include injury, taxes, property damage, damage to other vehicles, and diminished value. You will not be covered in Israel, Ireland or Jamaica and it excludes SUV's with more than 8 seats (and some other vehicles). Make sure to decline your car rental insurance in order for your credit card's CDW to be valid.

American Express

American Express offers extra coverage with their Premium Car Rental Protection. It's free to enroll and you only pay a flat fee when you rent a car ($24.95) for the duration of your rental ($17.95 for California residents). You can have coverage for up to 42 consecutive days. It offers up to $100,000 in primary theft and damage coverage. You will receive coverage for up to $100,000 in case of dismemberment or accidental death (up to $250,000 for California residents). You will also be covered for up to $15,000 per person for excess medical expenses. And up to $5,000 for excess personal property coverage (Florida residents receive up to $15,000). Keep in mind that liability is not included.

When renting a car with your AmEx enrolled card, make sure to decline the car rental company's CDW, personal accident insurance, and personal effects coverage (liability is not included). If you don't own an American Express card, you can find our selection of the best American Express cards here.

Some helpful tips:

Watch out for excluded countries. Check the fine print of your credit card's car rental insurance policy to make sure that the country that you're traveling to is not excluded from their rental car insurance policy. Some countries that are commonly excluded are Israel, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia and Italy.

Beware of the type of car you rent. Most credit card insurance coverage only cover standard car rentals and exclude luxury vehicles, SUVs, trucks, etc.

Decline rental car company's CDW. If you are using your credit card's car rental insurance (CDW), make sure to decline the rental car company's CDW so that you don't nullify your credit card's CDW coverage.

Bring the terms with you. If you are planning to rely on your credit card's car rental insurance coverage, make sure to bring a written copy of the insurance policy with you in case you need it. This can save you a lot of trouble in case of an accident. Make sure to apply for it in advance since it usually is sent by snail mail.

If you are looking for car insurance for your personal vehicle, check out the best car insurance quotes from major insurance companies here at GET.com!

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