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Best Credit Cards for Rental Cars of February 2024


Feb 23, 2024
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NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards for Rental Cars of February 2024

Best Credit Cards for Rental Cars From Our Partners

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Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Our pick for

General-purpose travel card

Our pick for

Premium travel card — perks

Our pick for

Premium travel card — value

Our pick for

Airline card — core benefits

Our pick for

Airline card — elite benefits

Our pick for

Elite status + much more

Our pick for

Small business

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR RENTAL CARS

Before applying, confirm details on issuer's website.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our pick for: General-purpose travel card

For a reasonable annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns bonus rewards (up to 5X) on travel, dining, select streaming services, and select online grocery purchases. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. The sign-up bonus is stellar, too. Read our review. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our pick for: Premium travel card — perks

The high annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives many potential applicants pause, but frequent travelers should be able to wring enough value out of this card to more than make up for the cost. Cardholders get bonus rewards (up to 10X) on dining and travel, a fat bonus offer, annual travel credits, airport lounge access, and a 50% boost in point value when redeeming points for travel booked through Chase. Points can also be transferred to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Read our review. 

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Our pick for: Premium travel card — value

Capital One's premium travel credit card can deliver terrific benefits — provided you're willing to do your travel spending through the issuer's online booking portal. That's where you'll earn the highest rewards rates plus credits that can make back the bulk of your annual fee (see rates and fees). Read our review.

* Complimentary Hertz President’s Circle status: Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through Dec. 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program, and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.

United℠ Explorer Card

Our pick for: Airline card — core benefits

The United℠ Explorer Card earns bonus rewards not only on spending with United Airlines but also at restaurants and on eligible hotel stays. And the perks are outstanding for a basic airline card — a free checked bag, priority boarding, lounge passes and more. Read our review.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Our pick for: Airline card — elite benefits

The signature benefit on the United Club℠ Infinite Card is membership in United Airlines' lounge network, but you also get two free checked bags apiece for you and a companion, plus other benefits to make travel more enjoyable. Read our review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our pick for: Elite status + much more

The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a hefty annual fee, but travelers who like to go in style (and aren't afraid to pay for comfort) can more than get their money's worth. Enjoy extensive airport lounge access, hundreds of dollars a year in travel and shopping credits, hotel benefits and more. That's not even getting into the high rewards rate on eligible travel purchases and the rich welcome offer for new cardholders. Read our review.

Chase's Ink cards

Our picks for: Small business

🤓Nerdy Tip

Chase Ultimate Rewards® are worth 1.25 cents on award travel bookings with the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, but you could transfer them between cards to get higher value. If you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll want to transfer your points to that card to get the 1.5 cents redemption rate.

• • •

OTHER RESOURCES

How credit card rental car coverage works

The rental car coverage offered by credit cards isn't technically "insurance." The rental car agency already has insurance on its vehicles. But if you crash a car you've rented, or if it gets stolen while you have it, the agency's insurance company will probably try to recover the cost from you.

When you rent a car, the agency typically offers to sell you a collision and damage waiver, or CDW, which people often just refer to as "insurance." If you pay for the CDW, then you're off the hook if the car gets damaged or stolen. Credit card rental car coverage essentially takes the place of the CDW offered by the agency.

To make use of your credit card's rental car coverage, use your card to book the reservation and pay for the rental, then decline the CDW when offered.

In fact, most people can decline the CDW when they rent a car, regardless of whether their credit card has any coverage. That's because most people's existing auto insurance already covers them when they are in a rented car. However, if you crash a rental car and have to go through your own insurance, you'll probably have to pay a deductible, and the claim could well cause your insurance premiums to increase. That's why it's so valuable to have a credit card with "primary" rental car coverage.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Don't automatically assume your credit card has rental car coverage. At one time, coverage was a common perk on cards from major issuers, but many cards have removed it. Check your card's benefits to be sure.

Primary vs. secondary coverage

If you're relying on your credit card to provide coverage for a rental car, it's important to understand whether the coverage is "primary" or "secondary":

  • With primary coverage, your credit card covers the cost directly (up to the coverage limits in your card agreement). There's no deductible to pay and no need to go through your own insurance.

  • With secondary coverage, you start by going through your own insurance company, and then the credit card covers any remaining costs. Secondary coverage would reimburse your deductible, for example.

What your credit card doesn't cover

Rental car coverage from credit cards doesn't cover everything. Like the CDW, it applies only to damage or theft involving the rental vehicle. It doesn't cover damage to other property or injuries. Nor does it cover theft of personal belongings from inside the rental car.

Should you book a rental car with airline miles?

With airline credit cards, be cautious about redeeming your miles for rental cars because these types of redemptions don’t usually offer the best value when you compare them with booking award flights.

For example, NerdWallet values United miles at 1.2 cents each for award flight redemption. So, if the cash value of the car rental is less than the value of the miles it would take to get an award rental, you might want to pay in cash instead.

If you choose to book with cash, don’t forget to include your frequent flyer account to earn bonus miles for your car reservation.

• • •

NerdWallet's Gregory Karp and Meghan Coyle contributed to this article.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

Last updated on February 23, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

About the author

Portrait of author

Erin Hurd

Erin Hurd is a credit card and travel rewards expert at NerdWallet. Her work has been featured in Yahoo, Nasdaq, TheStreet, International Living, the Daily Reckoning, Personal Finance and FinanceBuzz. Previously the director of strategic growth at a large financial publishing company, Erin is passionate about harnessing the power of credit card and loyalty rewards to travel the world. When she's not writing, she's planning the next adventure for her family of four using points and miles. Twitter: @ErinHurd1. Read more
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