So I have reviewed both VISA and AMEX & MC. We have looked at the perks and drawbacks of them all. So what card will I use after spending so much time reading all the T&C of all the programs? First some info.
My wife is one of the smartest (& most beautiful) people on the planet. She made straight “A’s” in school and takes care of the dozens and dozens of credit cards I keep applying for every 3 months for both me and her. She does not complain (well much) and gives me so many good ideas when it comes to travel. One of the best things she has ever said, on a trip one time, is this simple statement: “if it costs less that $25 to fix, it is NOT worth getting upset about“! What brilliance. Simple, clear, brilliance. I tend to obsess over many details of a trip and in the past got upset over the small stuff. Ya know, that is just DUMB and silly. Thank you my bride, yes, if I can fix stress for $25 on a say $3000 vacation, then it is NOT a problem.
Now fast forward to the summary of the first two posts from how to pay for your rental car. Several readers touched on the fact that both the United card and Diners Club card offer what is called primary protection. That means, unlike the other cards we have talked about, if there is an issue, then it pays out rather than your insurance. Sounds good right. Well, not so much. Here is why. They only pay for YOUR car – NOT – the other car or whatever it is that you hit. A bunch of traffic accidents involve at least 2 vehicles, so how good is insurance that covers only one vehicle when both will be involved in the crash! Plus, guess what, most of the got “got ya’s” like 15 days max rent or $50k or $75k max primary payouts and more still apply. So, this is NOT a dream solution.
But now the key part. You MUST check your personal car insurance. USAA is just about the best car insurance on the planet and I doubt anyone will argue that point with me. They cover me on a rental, in the USA, just like it is my own car. The exact same coverage I have on my car. But also the same deductions.
But as you can see, ONLY in the USA (plus a few more US territories). When I go to rent a car say in Grand Cayman later this year, they will not cover me for one single Cayman dollar!
So, what do I do? Do I just pay the $15/day insurance coverage? No way. As some of my very smart readers touched on both days, AMEX has a program (Read the T&C here) you can sign up for HERE. They have a $24.95 package and one for $19.95 (in CA it is always $17.95).
The top package, that is charged just once when you rent, covers you for up to $100,000 and has so many less “got ya’s” than the std AMEX free policy. It is NOT perfect as you still are LIABLE for any other cars you hit. So we still don’t have PERFECT solutions, but we now have all the tools to make this all work. Here is how this will work.
Situation #1: You check your policy and it covers you in the USA. You then pay for the rental with your VISA card of your choice (or Diners Club) as between the VISA and YOUR insurance you are good to go under most situations if under 15 days. There is NO upcharge and you can be happy and say NO to the extra insurance costs. If over 15 days go to situation #2.
Situation #2: You have NO car insurance. Then, you get the AMEX policy for $24.95 or $19.95 that is a ONE TIME fee for up to 42 days of rental, AND, so VERY important, when you rent you DO say YES to ONLY the added liability charge/fee. You have full coverage for your car and stuff but must PAY UP for the liability in case more than just you are involved in a crash.
Situation #3: You are renting Internationally (not in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, or New Zealand) . Then, you again get the AMEX policy for $24.95 or $19.95 that is a ONE TIME fee for up to 42 days of rental, AND again, so VERY important, when you rent you DO say YES to ONLY the added liability charge/fee. You have full coverage for your car and stuff but must PAY UP for the liability in case more than just you are involved in a crash.
That is it kids; it really is just that simple! If you need to rent longer that 42 days, on the AMEX plan, you can return the car, rent on a NEW contract, and be good for another 42 days. The only time you don’t fit in 1,2,3 is if you are in a country that AMEX will not cover you! The only way around this is to rent in a country next door and as you will have protection in those otherwise no coverage countries if you rented in another land (just how does one drive to Australia?).
AMEX, as others and I have talked about, is just the BEST when it comes to paying out on these types of claims. That IS peace of mind. A last thought about the above, when in the USA I have my own medical insurance, outside the USA, I like the added perks of the AMEX policy should I ever need it!
Some other bits of info to sum this all up. You will have to pay the AMEX International transaction fee as you still need to pay for the rental IN FULL with your AMEX so no points here unless they are Membership Rewards points. So what if it costs you a few bucks more; you are paying for peace of mind on a trip. Also, just about any AMEX card you have under your AMEX login will be part of this package. So, say you have BOTH a personal and business Delta Reserve card, you can pay with either one. If on a fun trip, use that card and you are set. If on business trip use that card and you are set and will be billed only when you use the card to rent a car! How great is that? – René
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.