Please sign in to post.

Car insurance - How to save money

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!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5011 posts

Credit card insurance coverage actually varies from one card to another - they're not all the same. This is an area where details really, really matter - you must know the details of what is and is not covered by your credit card in the specific country you're renting in. Get the coverage details in writing from your credit card company (with one copy translated into the local language of the rental place and bring it with you so you can show them at the counter), and be sure you understand all the terms in your rental contract. Do this homework well in advance of your trip - the last thing you want to do is to come off a redeye, badly sleep-deprived and jetlagged, and be standing at the rental counter in a country where you don't speak the language, and be unsure of what to do when they are waving papers at you and demanding you sign them. In that situation you are not at your sharpest, and are very vulnerable to making a potentially extremely expensive mistake.

Posted by
2455 posts

This sort of coverage is “pay and chase”-you pay then chase the credit card company for reimbursement. Good for small stuff. But, that credit card you gave when you rented the car? You total the car and they will charge it to your card. They tell you that when you rent the car. Your credit card customer service persons comment aside, you decline the coverage, you are responsible. And, the statement about not paying for health care because you are in Scotland? Where did that come from? Unless you are a citizen covered by the NHS you will definetly be financially liable for health care. In the US your automobile insurance will usually cover rentals (check your policy) so declining coverage is a good idea. But there it’s an insurance company that has your back, not a credit card.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Alan,

From the Scottish Government website:

"NHS treatment at an Accident and Emergency department, including treatment in an observation ward, is free to everyone, regardless of their residency status.

Following this treatment, it is for the NHS healthcare providers to determine whether an overseas visitor requires further in-patient treatment or registration as an outpatient, and whether or not they should be charged for that treatment."

From the same website:

"Overseas visitors...will always be welcomed by the Scottish Government, as they contribute to our economy as well as to our vibrancy and diversity as a nation."

From personal experience, on one of my recent trips to Scotland, I had to go to an emergency room in Aberdeen, as I was suffering from extreme weakness and dizziness. They ran a battery of tests which would have cost me thousands of dollars in the U.S. When I went to check out, I was told there would be no charge.

Imagine the same thing happening to a Scottish visitor to the U.S.! They'd be paying the bills off for years. :(

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
2455 posts

Good to know Mike. But I still would have travel insurance as if it is more than an outpatient visit you will be hit with a bill. And, despite the good care you’ll likely get, I’d want to come home when that is possible. In the US we have a law, EMTALA, that mandates everyone coming into an ER must be treated regardless of ability to pay. But, when the dust settles the bills will come hot and heavy. Our fractured health care system could learn a few things from the NHS.

Posted by
1724 posts

Good post.

I think the important factor you mention which many don't realize is with this type of coverage and most all coverages that are not purchased directly from the rental company (3rd party policies) is that the renter pays if any damage up front and then needs to get themselves reimbursed.
I believe Amex's extra cost insurance coverage does work differently and better but that a.) costs extra per rental for all of their cards and b.) is more restrictive on countries it includes.

Surely doable and a way to save money but definitely some time and effort involved so one needs to weigh the value of their time against the additional cost of the insurance offered by the car rental company.
I have a Visa Signature card (Chase Sapphire Reserve) and sometimes I use it and decline all coverages, other times I play it safe and pay extra ; all depends on how much they want to charge me for the insurance.
Would not have mattered if you did book with Expedia, Priceline or elsewhere either so no advantage to the coverage in your example by renting directly with Avis.

As above poster noted, not all Visa Signature cards are the same in requires to coverage so your exact card terms need to be checked. Lastly, car vehicle type can matter ; not all car types are covered. You get a free upgrade to a Bentley and damage it or rent a pickup truck or large multi-passenger van and you may find yourself uncovered.