What Does Visa Rental Car Insurance Cover?

Eligible Visa credit cards offer rental car insurance coverage as a benefit, which can help pay for covered damages up to the rental vehicle’s value.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Some Visa credit cards offer rental car insurance as a benefit and can help pay for covered damages to a rental vehicle, often up to its actual cash value. Top-tier cards can come with additional car rental benefits as well as additional ways to save on travel expenses.
Choosing the right credit card can help you score major savings on anything from travel to entertainment and everyday purchases. For some credit cards, it also means you’re already set up with rental car insurance if you need to rent a vehicle—meaning you won’t need to pay extra for coverage at the rental company counter.
But of the credit cards that offer
rental car insurance
, not all coverage is the same. Here’s what you should know about rental car insurance if you’re a Visa cardholder.
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What is Visa rental car insurance?

One of the many benefits you can enjoy from a Visa credit card is rental car insurance.
But just like any card network, its availability and the level of coverage offered can vary depending on the type of card you’re using and the financial institution that issued it. If you have a Visa Signature credit card, you may have access to a rental car insurance benefit.
Visa’s Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) benefit offers insurance coverage for rental vehicles when you use the credit card to pay for your rental. Barring any exceptions, it can help cover damages after an accident or if the rental vehicle is stolen—often up to the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV).
In addition to car rental CDW protection, Visa Signature cardholders can also save on rentals from Avis, Budget, and Audi on demand. 
Visa Infinite cards come with a couple extra rental car benefits, including steeper rental car discounts for the companies mentioned above, plus discounts on National car rentals and access to
Gold Plus Rewards.
MORE: How to avoid being unfairly charged for rental car damage

What Visa rental car insurance covers

Visa’s Auto Rental CDW can reimburse you for damages up to the rental vehicle’s ACV.
If you don’t have a car insurance policy of your own, Visa’s Auto Rental CDW benefit could also reimburse you for covered instances of theft, damage, or valid loss of use charges you might face from a rental company for the time that you’re considered responsible for the vehicle. It can also help cover “reasonable towing charges” if you run into car troubles with your rental.
If you do have your own car insurance policy, the Auto Rental CDW acts as a secondary coverage type, so you’d need to find a claim with your car insurance company first. Then, your Visa rental car insurance can pick up where it leaves off. You could even get reimbursement for your primary coverage’s
For your Visa’s CDW coverage to apply, the cost of the entire rental will need to be paid for with your Visa credit card, and you’ll also need to decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver or similar option that they may offer. 
If the rental car company requires you to sign their own CDW/LDW waiver, you can call the Visa Benefit Administrator at 1-800-348-8472 for guidance to ensure you leave the rental company lot with the right amount of coverage in place.

What Visa rental car insurance doesn’t cover

If your Visa card offers rental insurance, it’s just as important to understand what it doesn’t cover. After all, if you drive a rental car and get into an accident, or if it gets stolen, the wrong kinds of coverage gaps could leave you liable for expensive charges.
Exclusions can vary from card to card, but here are some of the typical factors that limit what Visa’s rental car insurance covers:
  • The type of vehicle: Whether it’s a sedan or SUV, most passenger vehicles are typically covered, but some exceptions can apply. Trucks, expensive and exotic cars, recreational vehicles, large vans, and motorcycles are not covered. If you’re concerned about whether a particular vehicle would qualify for coverage, US customers can inquire about it with the Visa Benefit Administrator.
  • Who’s driving: Coverage is also limited to you, the cardholder, as the primary renter and any additional drivers allowed by the rental agreement.
  • How long you’re renting: Visa’s auto rental CDW is typically limited to a rental period of no more than 15 days within your country of residence and no more than 31 consecutive days outside your country of residence.
  • Where you’re renting: Beyond the rental period that applies, the country where you’re renting a vehicle can also affect your coverage. For example, Visa’s benefit doesn’t apply to vehicles rented in Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland. If you’re planning to rent a vehicle outside the US, it’s a good idea to check with Visa’s Benefit Administrator and any potential rental companies you’ll use to make sure your card’s coverage will apply.
This benefit won’t cover the standard car leases you’d get from a dealership, and coverage for car-sharing services like Zipcar aren’t a guarantee, either. Loss of your personal belongings may not have coverage, either, but your renters or homeowners insurance policy could help on this front.

What cards are eligible for premium car rental protection?

Beyond Visa Signature cards, here are a few more examples of credit cards that can come with additional rental car privileges and benefits:
  • Visa United Club Infinite Card
  • Visa United Explorer Card
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
  • Visa Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
  • Visa Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Some of these cards offer primary insurance coverage rather than secondary, which means you can use it before resorting to your own car insurance policy if you prefer. As such, they can also come with steep annual fees that can cost hundreds of dollars, but this could still be a cost-effective option if you’re renting vehicles regularly.
MORE: 7 ways to save money on car rentals

Who should get Amex Premium Car Rental Protection?

Premium rental car coverage from American Express, Visa, or any other major credit card network is best suited for those who are regularly paying for rental cars and making other types of travel purchases. 
A general rule of thumb is that if a card’s benefits are greater than the cost you’d pay for its annual fee, it’s worth considering. But it’s key to be realistic about whether you can use the benefits and whether it’s affordable to do so.
MORE: How to rent or lease a car in Europe
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To find out if your credit card offers rental car insurance, you can typically check the documents that came with your credit card or the details found online when you log into your account. 
If you’re having trouble finding information, you can also contact your card’s customer service for more guidance about whether your card offers rental car insurance.
The best credit cards for rental car coverage depend on your budget, how often you plan to use rental vehicles, and your purpose for using them when you do. Most major credit card companies offer cards that include rental car insurance as a benefit, but the scope of that coverage—and whether it’s available at all—will vary from card to card.
A couple other considerations when picking a credit card for rental car insurance coverage is what other kinds of benefits you’re looking for, like cash back, bonus miles, or generous travel credits.
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