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Save a few bucks with your card’s rental car protection plan

Sienna Kossman

While saving my sanity during my holiday travels might be a lost cause, I figured the next best thing I could do was save money.

When shopping around for Christmastime plane tickets early last month, I found I could save almost $400 by flying into a bigger airport a little farther away from my destination. I could then use those savings to get a rental car to travel the remaining distance. The car will also make it easier for me to visit friends and family throughout the week, and I’ll still come out about $100 ahead.

Good deal. I booked the flight and began searching for the most affordable rental car option.

How to save a few bucks with your car's rental car protection plan

I needed a car for six days and, using the travel cost comparison site Priceline.com, I found a midsized car I could reserve for only $215. Sweet.

However, that price didn’t include rental insurance, tax or the extra $20/day young driver fee since I’m not yet 25 years old. Not so sweet.

The costs were adding up. I wanted to find another way to save at least a little more money, so I held off on confirming the Priceline.com rental car insurance offer and examined my credit card benefits. I knew I was going to put the rental car charges on a credit card anyway to avoid the additional $200 hold charge the rental car company would add if a debit card was used, so I just had to pick the right card.

I found that through my American Express card, I can enroll in the American Express Premium Car Rental Protection plan, saving an extra $46 on my rental car expenses this month. It’s not a lot, but during the holidays every little bit counts.

The extended American Express rental car insurance plan adds to the standard rental car protections offered to cardholders and involves a one-time charge of $19.95-$24.95 (depending on the options available in your state) per car rental versus a daily charge through a travel agency or rental car company.

Here’s how my two rental car insurance offers compare:

  American Express Premium Car Rental Protection Priceline.com insurance offer
Cost: $19.95 flat fee $11/day ($66 for 6 days)
Deductible: $0 $0
Damage reimbursement: Up to $75,000 (includes loss of use) Up to $35,000 (includes loss of use)
Personal property damage: Up to $2,500 ($5,000 if more than one covered person is affected) No
Covers accident-related charges (towing, storage, etc.)? Yes Yes
Accidental injury expense benefit: Up to $7,500 Up to $7,500
Accidental death or dismemberment benefit: $75,000 for cardholder, $7,500 for passenger Yes, included in the injury expense benefit
24/7 assistance services options? Yes Yes
Additional driver coverage? Yes, if authorized driver in rental agreement Yes, if authorized driver in rental agreement
Free to cancel? N/A (Charges not applied until car is rented using card) Yes, until date of reservation

Both programs offer primary coverage, meaning there isn’t a deductible so I won’t have to file a claim with my own auto insurance provider and risk a premium increase, but neither have liability coverage for other vehicles or persons involved in an accident, so that’s a downfall.

Utility trucks and exotic vehicles are not covered by either plan nor is anything damaged as a result of reckless and/or illegal vehicle operation on my part, so I can’t drag race (just kidding) but as long as I stick to my mid-sized, traditional car and follow the terms of my rental agreement I’m good.

If an accident does occur, I just have to carefully report all damages and information to both the rental car company and American Express to ensure I get the most complete coverage. If I forget to report something — or report something incorrectly — that’s on me.

However, both cover loss-of-use costs that the rental car company may charge for losing out on potential business if the rented vehicle ends up in the repair shop for a while, which is an area not always thoroughly covered by traditional credit card rental insurance policies.

Overall, both are good insurance options, but the extended American Express plan offers more for less. Plus, now that I’ve signed up for the program, any time I charge a rental car with that American Express card, I’ll pay the flat $19.95 fee and be insured for the duration of my rental.  For me, choosing the American Express insurance plan was a no-brainer.

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  • Brittney

    This is great information to know if you are renting a car anytime soon. Sometimes, they will let you use your own car insurance.