Hi, RS posters,
On our recent trip to Scotland, I used my Signature Visa card to cover our car insurance coverage. I rented directly through Avis, as opposed to going through a bucket shop (Priceline, Expedia, etc.). My direct rental with Avis was cheaper than with any of the third party sources.
I had a minor alloy (wheel cover) scrape during the 30 days I drove the car. It was small, but larger than a 10p piece, which is how Avis assesses damage. I was billed 65 pounds for the wheel cover damage, plus a 66 pound administrative fee. Once I got back to the U.S., I initiated a refund request for the 131 pounds through Card Benefit Services. Today I received my refund for $170.63.
It's very easy to use a credit card to cover damage to a rental car. All you have to do is decline all of the insurance coverages offered by the car hire company. The one exception is breakdown coverage, which cost 35 pounds for 30 days. It used to be included in the car rental total. Times have changed! Avis was very good about not pressuring me in to taking their coverage; however, I'm sure that other companies will give you a hard sell. Car hire companies make almost as much off of insurance as they do off of the actual rental
There are a lot of hoops which you have to jump through to be reimbursed. First of all, you need to notify Card Services as soon as possible after the accident. (Although they do allow you up to 45 days after the accident.) There is a telephone number in the U.S. which will accept collect calls if you're calling from Scotland (or elsewhere).
It's important to keep a record of everything:
Copy of the rental agreement
Copy of the rental return
Copy of the police report, if one was taken
Photographs of the damage (Take your own - the photos taken by the car hire company are not very good)
Your original credit card statement, showing the amount paid for the rental
Your original credit card statement showing the amount paid to the car hire company for the damages
Copy of the damage report from the car hire company
The coverage is good for up to 31 days in Scotland, and other countries, or up to 15 days in the U.S.
The only countries which are not covered by Visa are Israel, Jamaica, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I think that there are options for Italy and Australia, as well. The coverage includes damage, theft of the automobile, as well as reasonable administrative fees and loss of use charges. It does not cover theft of personal belongings or personal injury. However, you're in Scotland, so if you're injured in an accident, you most likely will not have to pay for hospitalization or doctors.
If you have a Signature or better Visa, and want to find out more, check the paperwork (very fine print) that you received with your credit card. If you don't have it, check with your issuing bank for a copy of the benefits brochure.
This isn't for everyone, as you have to pay up front for the damages, and wait to be reimbursed. It does, however, make you a more careful driver! :)
When I called Card Services to report the damage, I asked them what would have happened if I had totaled the car. They said that they would have reimbursed the car rental company for the entire value of the car from the day it came off the assembly line.
I've been very happy using my credit card to cover insurance for rentals both in Scotland and in the U.S. It has saved me a pile of money over the years. I don't know whether MasterCard offers the same benefits, and I don't know whether Signature Visa cards issued in other countries have the same benefits, but it's worth looking in to.
Best wishes for safe travels!