Credit, Insurance, Personal Finance 

American Express Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan

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While in Lake Tahoe, I’ll be renting a car for about a week and the usual Collision Damage Waiver (insurance) cost approximately $15/day and they’re generally regarded as a waste of money because most credit cards will cover you as a secondary insurance (your primary auto insurance comes first). I saw that my Costco American Express TrueEarnings card has a Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance policy as a free benefit for all cardholders but was concerned at the fine print: “Coverage is determined by the terms, conditions, and exclusions of Policy AX0925 and is subject to change with notice.” Try to find Policy AX0925 anywhere online… guaranteed you won’t. (don’t bother, I asked a CSR and he said it’s not online anywhere).

I called them up and got a full explanation of both their standard car rental loss and damage insurance, free for all TrueEarnings card members, and their premium car rental loss and damage insurance, which has a $24.95 fee per car rental.

Essentially the standard coverage is identical to the car rental agency’s Collision Damage Waiver, which covers any damage or loss to the vehicle (not your items inside!). Some highlights:

  • It has no deductible
  • Covers you for a rental period of up to 30 consecutive days.
  • It will cover you worldwide except Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Ireland and Jamaica.
  • It does not have liability coverage, but your primary auto insurance will have that.
  • It also does not cover fifteen passenger vans, pickup trucks, large SUVs, and vehicles over $50,000 in value.
  • Finally, it’s a secondary insurance so your primary insurance picks up the tab and it will cover what your primary insurance does not.

What does the Premium Car Rental Protection cover?

  • The policy becomes your primary insurance policy for your rental period.
  • It also covers some liability, loss or theft of items inside the vehicle,
  • some death and dismemberment,
  • and a handful of other ancillary insurance items.

All you do is enroll in the program, which is free, and you are charged $24.95 each time you rent a car. There is no cost to join or cancel.

The basic program is pretty good because it basically replaces comprehensive and collision insurance, which I don’t carry, and my liability insurance, which would be first anyway, covers the liability portion it does not cover. For a mere $25, I can get primary coverage for nearly everything (and some) which comes out to approximately $3+ per day.

I reached a CSR by calling 800-338-1670.

{ 124 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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124 Responses to “American Express Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance Plan”

  1. MLG says:

    For what its worth, I just found this site today while researching the benefits of using an American Express credit card, including the extent of coverage provided by their rental car insurance. I do not own a car and rent a car for approximately one week at least once a month. I have followed this routine for approximately 3 years and have used a Diner’s Club Mastercard for all my rentals specifically because of their rental car insurance benefit. I do not have any other auto insurance.

    Recently, I have heard many good things about the Blue Cash American Express card and I was particularly attracted to the “cash” bonus award option, over the award program provided by Diners Club.

    However, I have gone back to revisit my Diners Club rental insurance after reviewing the many problems others have experienced with the American Express rental program posted on this web site. In short, the rental insurance program provided by Diners Club and underwritten by Triton Insurance Company appears to far exceed that provided by Amex and includes loss of use charges with no additional costs or conditions other than requiring that the cost of the rental be charged using the Diners Club. Here is a link with additional information for anyone who may be interested:

    Thanks to all of you who provided comments. Although I would prefer the cash benefits of the American Express card, I will stay with my Diners Club card and their award program simply because of the superior rental car insurance program. I hope this information helps some of you in a similar situation.

  2. Harold says:

    My wife and I live in Nevada and signed up for the AMEX Premium Car Rental Insurance last June and have the paperwork from AMEX to prove it. Now they say we live in a state that is ineligible for the insurance. We have not moved and were never notified that Nevada residents are no longer covered!

  3. andro says:

    When renting a car in Washington at Dollar be sure to check the all the fine print in the contract. Especially the one at the bottom,That if you drive it outside Washington or Oregon w/o their knowledge they will void all insurance you paid. Its so small you need a magnifier to see them.

  4. henry says:

    anyone have actual experience with american express premium rental coverage? not just hypothetical situations of how much money you can save, but whether amex actually delivers. rental companies like enterprise usually ask for insurance information before giving you the car, so does amex give you an insurance card?

  5. chris says:

    This is a sham. American Express does not cover all of the damage on a car. AMX only covers the amount of the deductable. So if the damage is $1000. It will pay for the $500 deductable and then you have to come up with the other $500. Whether or not you file a claim through your insurance company is your option. The other thing is that everyones insurance policy does not always transfer over to a rental car. You know if I was you I would go rent a car and then crash it and total it and see how much AMX would pay for. I’m sure they would just love to pay for your rental car for free. No questions asked, yeah that sounds like a multi-billion dollar company. Giving money out for free. Skepticism 101 ladies and gentleman.

    • shane says:

      It’s not a sham. Look at the rental agreement under the Collision Damage Waiver policy. It will state (legal requirment) in BOLD letters “THIS IS NOT INSURANCE”.

      So, to say that all that is covered is the deductible is exactly what it is supposed to cover. CDW policy you buy from the rental company also only releives you from the duty to pay the dedcutible. The other options are the actual insurance.

      That’s what a rental car company CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) does when you elect, and pay for, that option. It relieves you of responsibility to pay for the deductible. SO, the AMEX rental car protection (basic) just protects you from the need to have to pay the deductible WITHOUT YOU PAYING ANOTHER DIME.

      So, elect NOT to take the rental company’s CDW when using AMEX, etc. (It’s actually a requirement of your card agreement when to make the protection effective – along with using your card to pay the car rental fee).

      You then need to consider if your own car insurance policy (that you obtained for your personal car) also protects you when driving a rental car (for the remaining coverage needs). In most states, a car insurnace policy protects YOU (not your vehicle – which doesn’t file complaints) from liability and the costs of repair (up to stated limits in the policy). BUT check with your insurance agent – they are legally required to tell you the truth, tell you all the options available to you (which is why they seem to go on annoyingly about this and that feature … they must) and not try to scam you into buying something you don’t need or, worse, is knowingling of no benefit to you. If they do, they are subject to losing their license to sell insurance. They can be an invaluable resource.

      So, first call should be to your insurnance agent. They are your representative in what is best for you.

      Second call to your credit card company (though they are not insurance agents and may try to sell you something you don’t need … CDW is NOT INSURANCE; it’s a discount agreement). The “Premium” discount agreement is also not insurance… it’s just a discount at a higher price (which makes no logical sense).

      If still uncertain, just buy the platinum protection package from the car rental company. At least you will sleep soundly at night not worrying if someone is keying the car in the parking lot.

  6. Mitch says:

    Purchasing the CDW from the rental car company is the best coverage you can get. Everything in this world costs money. If you want the best coverage then you have to pay for that. Rental car companies are in business to make money. If you get a rate of $15/day for a rental car, then $20/day for coverage still makes the car a good value and you know you are covered. When we try to save money with a cheaper alternative then you get what you pay for. Remember, CDW is not a rip-off. You are paying for the best coverage you can get on a rental vehicle. It does cost money. In return you get: peace of mind, no hassles, no red tape, no paperwork, quick exchange of vehicle, etc. It is all optional so you decide if you want to pay for the best.

  7. Jeff Sawyer says:

    Well written and helpful article. Thank you!

  8. Patrick says:

    This Amex insurance is a scam. Indeed, Amex will pay for any damage. They will not however, pay any “administrative fees” or “loss of use” fees that are guaranteed to be included if you damage the rental car. Here is what happened to me: I called Amex just before renting to confirm I did not need to get the rental car company’s insurance (which was 14 dollars a day). Amex said no need, because they would act as primary insurance.(Premium version). I rented the care for four days. Someone hit the car while it was parked, resulting in a small scratch. The rental car company charged: 700 for the damage. 300 for “loss of use” and 200 for “administrative fees”. Amex paid the 700 and informed me that I am responsible for the rest. When complaining to the adjuster about the meaning of “insurance” I received more double-speak than I’ve ever heard…and I’m a lawyer!

    Bottom line: Had I purchased the rental car agency’s insurace: four days x 14 dollars = 56 dollars. But because I trusted in Amex and thus declined the insurance: $17.95 premium charged by Amex + $500 dollars in fees = $517.95.

    AMEX insurance is worthless. I will never decline car insurance’s rental insurance again.

    • Paul says:

      And the irony is, statistically speaking you should recover your costs by declining insurance coverage for the next few rentals until your average total cost comes back to the mean.

    • Jeff says:

      Spoken like a true rental car company spokesperson!!! I always cringe when I see people paying for the rental car company’s insurance. Folks – there is a reason they push it so hard! It is a HUGE money maker for them. Do NOT buy rental car company insurance!!! It is a complete rip-off.

    • Tom says:

      Patrick I just looked at the DESCRIPTION OF COVERAGE for the PREMIUM CAR RENTAL PROTECTION and loss of use is covered.

      However the rental company can only charge for loss of use if there was a demand for a Rental Car and no other Rental Car was available.

      “The Rental Company must submit a fleet utilization log
      indicating that during such time:
      11. no other Rental Car was available; and
      22. there was a demand for a Rental Car”

    • Nars says:

      Sorry you had rough time with the extra fees tacked on by the rental agency. They ALWAYS try to con you by adding these extra fees. Amex will pay loss of use IF you are able to persuade rental agency to show/provide copies of their car usage log (ie showing that all cars were out and there was still demand). Rental agencies do NOT provide that usually. However, if you call the claims department of the rental agency (and if this was your first wreck with them), you can convince them to drop the admin and the loss of use fees for a small ding in the trunk for which they claimed repair cost of 470 (repaint whole trunk etc was their excuse)! It happened to me with E****p*ise and they tried a $50 admin fee and $45/day loss of use for 8 days.
      However, I challenged them on both as well as told them that my small business would not rent from them at all in future. I had to make multiple phone calls and one fax to their national claims department (the local agency guys were useless) and E-Prise easily dropped the admin and loss of use. Amex paid the 470 etc in full back to my card (as the agency had charged my card first). Do NOT let the rental agency tack on sham charges!!

  9. Pete says:

    anyone knows what is the deal with the amex cards that are issued by other banks like BoA or MBNA? on the phone they told me that they have coverage up to 100 tsd for any car excluding some sports cars. but they could not tell me any details, and would not send me the policy. I dont think I ever got anything in the mail that would outline the coverage of this amex-mbna of boa card or even the visa ones.

    clark737, were you able to verify that visa has better coverage than amex?

    the way I see it at least amex’s policy is more transparent, you know what to expect because you can get it off their website.

    for boa, mbna, chase, etc I can’t find almost nothing online and they would not send it. and I don;t think I want to find out the details when it is too late.

    what do you think

  10. GMoney says:

    This is a great thread. I am now based out of Singapore, so whenever I come home to visit (Bay Area, California), I use my Costco American Express with the Premium coverage. I returned my 2-week rental from Budget last night, but only after it was broken into, and a lot of valuables were stolen. The rear left passenger window is shattered, and I lost many items, like my work laptop, an expensive watch, external hard drive, and a brand new Coach bag that was a gift.

    I made a police report, filed the insurance claim online immediately, then dropped off the vehicle. After reading this thread, I am worried that I will still end up shelling out my own money, and it will be a miracle if/when AmEx pays me for my stolen personal items, too.

    I’ll keep everyone posted.

  11. Jake says:

    I was just talking with Amex Premium Insurance people and they said that if the rental company goes ahead and bills your Amex Card for loss of use without providing proper documentation to Amex Insurance, that you can just go and contest the charge with Amex.

    Unsure though if this would help if rental co. then sends collectors after you…

  12. Adam says:

    If it seems too good to be true, it is. I have worked as a rental sales agent at a car rental company for a number of years now. Alot of customers say that their credit card provides collision and loss of use coverage for them, and opt to rely on that to pay their claims if anything happens. Bad idea.

    Why would a credit card company cover damage to a car for free (or for $24.95 in the case of Amex)? Afterall, you are talking about a CREDIT CARD COMPANY. The truth is that credit cards make it nearly impossible to file a claim. They often only cover you as long as you are not at fault….which means they NEVER cover you. Afterall, if you’re not at fault, then the other party pays anyway, right? Other times they are only secondary to your insurance, so they really only cover your deductible if anything happens. Although all claim to cover loss of use, they don’t (according to what I’ve learned in this thread).

    Of course, the Damage Waiver offered by the rental car companies covers everything. There is no deductible, no claims against your insurance, and all damage, loss of use, and admin fees are covered. Of course, you do pay for this, and it can become relatively expensive (that is, until you damage the car…then it saves you tons).

    What it comes down to is this: If you buy the rental company’s coverage, it can cost alot initially but would save you a tremendous amount if anything happens. If you don’t take the rental company’s coverage, you will save some money initially but could end up paying an enormous amount out of pocket if anything happens. The truth is, few cars come back with damage to them. But declining the rental company’s Damage Waiver runs a risk that you need to decide whether you are willing to take….hopefully, before you get to the car rental counter.

  13. Drew says:

    I had a car broken into around 13 years ago when rented with an Amex card. I must say that Amex did everything. I filed a police report, called Amex, returned the car and never heard about it again, other than some final paperwork. Amex paid everything outright (I didn’t have any primary insurance at the time) and fought the car rental company for loss of use etc.

    I now always rent with the Amex premium insurance. That way, I won’t have anything to worry about. Heading to Mexico in a week and will rent a car with my Amex and not worry.

  14. GMoney says:

    To Drew:

    Can you elaborate when you said you “fought the car rental company for loss of use”? Sounds like that part of the process will require some effort.

    Update on my case: Early in the paperwork process, I had some questions, and the insurance company that AmEx hires is very responsive. I faxed all 24 pages of statements, receipts, etc. for items that were stolen from my rental car (over $3K worth); I also emailed them a PDF scan of everything. It took a few weeks, but the adjuster assigned to my case wrote back, saying he needed proof of AmEx transaction for the rental car itself. I sent that in as well, but haven’t heard back yet. I wouldn’t be surprised it my personal loss claim is taken care of before the car damage one.

    It was only a broken window, and it was the last vehicle at the local Budget office that I went to (actually, they ran out of vehicles, but luckily, someone doing a 1-way was returning her car that afternoon). So they better have a fleet log that shows 100% utilization!

  15. GMoney says:

    Good news! I received a check for the amount of all the personal items I claimed that were stolen from the burglary. The amount is about $20 short, so I thought maybe they excluded sales tax. But without tax, the check would be a few dollars too much. The check didn’t come with any letters explaining the breakdown.

    As for the car repair claim, that’s still pending because Budget is super slow in providing the necessary documentation.

  16. Robert says:

    Great article/comments with lots of useful information. Thanks guys.

    I was wondering if there was more information about the Mastercard rental insurance. Do they also offer a “premium” option where they provide primary insurance and cover loss of use?

    Also, from what I briefly read on the web, LOU charges in California are illegal as of Jan 1, 2002. You may want to check for your specific location.


  17. Jen says:

    Dollar rent-a-car is charging me $150 for loss of use and a $50 administrative fee. American Express is saying that they will not pay:
    LOU because the utilization was only 73%;
    and, the documentation for the administrative fee was not sufficient.
    I am extremely upset about this because my card supposedly covers these items.

  18. Pete says:

    Were all the comments above from 2006? I just don’t get these systems that don’t include proper timestamps (which can be quite critical in determining how relevant the information is). I can only see Jim posted on 27 May 2006 but others postings could be from that year or subsequent ones?

    I just enrolled for the AMEX Premium Car Rental Protection today (17 December 2009) through .

    There is coverage for CA now and it’s a flat $17.95 up to 42 consecutive days of rental.

    What I didn’t realize until reading this thread is that there’s no “loss of use” coverage. That was one of the reasons I enrolled, so thank you for the heads up.

  19. Isca says:

    Hello contributors,
    This is really a GREAT thread. I am learning more about renting a car. I live in Canada.

    My hubby & I will be going to Hawaii in May 2010 and had been researching about car rentals. Will be using 4 days in Kona & 5 days in Maui.

    Re AMEX:
    1. secondary driver must have a card in his
    own name that is eligible for this coverage. If not any damages while he is driving will not be covered. $50 CDN for supplemental card.
    2.We have a car insurance so AMEX will be a secondary insurer.
    Any accident will be registered against us for the next 10 years.
    Therefore, more premium.

    So, we are renting a car. Our choices are Hertz [through CAA]or National. 2009 Car survey showed Enterprise, National & Hertz are best car rental to deal with (that is everything else being equal).

    In a recent court case the rental companies won their case that they are NOT INSURERS.
    Therefore not subject to insurance regulations (they can charge whatever they want).

    Hertz does not have a website that shows their terms and conditions. However, National does have

    Did you know that if you smashed up the rental car you still have to pay for the full retail value of the car even if you have a FULL VALUE LDW?

    Check with you insurance company if buying an LDW (loss damage waiver) will invalidate your insurance.

    If anyone has more updated info regarding Hertz or anything else as to how to save some rental car money do tell. Thanks.

  20. BB says:

    I have my AmEx premium policy in front of me (I have a policy w/ a $75K limit for $19.95 per rental agreement). Under the definitions section on p. 1 it states:
    “‘Loss of Use’ . . . Unless otherwise required by law, the Rental Company must submit a fleet utilization log indicating that during such time: (1) no other Rental Car was available; and (2) there was a demand for a Rental Car.”

    On p. 2 it says:
    “If Damage . . . occurs, the Plan will reimburse the Cardmember up to a maximum of $75,000 for the following payments the Cardholder is required to make: . . . (2) Loss of Use.”

    Pursuant to the above discussion I note that the contractual obligation is primarily between us (the renters), and the rental car companies. We may pay premiums to transfer some of the risk to insurance companies, but rental companies come after US if we have signed on the dotted line to use their cars.

    Some insurance providers are better than others at interceding in our behalf, but OUR names are still on the bottom line. If we haven’t signed the rental company’s CDW, and we smash their car, they will sue us, not our insurer (whether our own auto policy, or cc provider). We must remember this. The insurance providers don’t “take” our responsibility. Instead we have paid them to help us manage our exposure to the risks associated with our responsibility.

    We need to evaluate risk exposure, probability, our personal capability to financially recover, our available time (and ability) to research the options, and the value of our time.

    I am now contemplating a four day car rental next month. I haven’t yet completed MY risk vs. protection analysis, but intend to share it shortly.

    One issue that has not been brought up in the above discussion is the issue of “diminishment of value.” This is something else that rental car companies are claiming. My AmExp premium policy explicitly excludes this item! [Diminishment of value becomes apparent when a car that was damaged in a collision is later sold by the rental agency. It generally will not be able to be sold for as much as an identical car, same mileage, condition, etc. that was never in an accident.] Diminishment of value is something else that car rental companies are using to come after people who don’t pay for their CDW. My insurance agent told me that insurance companies will not pay for it. That means that we, the renters, could be stuck for it. It comes back to remembering that I am responsible for the loss, not the insurance provider I pay to help me manage my risk.

  21. Craig says:

    Just a note, you folks all seam to be focused on beating the rental car company out of damage coverage. The hoops you will jump through to do it. Then you whine when your plan blows-up. You are missing the real advantage to their coverages. The car is our form of revenue, take that away from us and we’re going to collect it from YOU. Diminished value, yup, Car Fax will ding the value between $500-$1000 when we resell the vehicle, yup. Towing and storage, yup. You’re responsible Simple. The damage coverage (LDW), Liability coverage and Uninsured Motorist coverages are PRIMARY to any Auto or Credit Card coverages you may have. Purchase the coverage, have an accident… Bring the keys back, fill out a 10 line report…..End of Story. Your Insurance is never notified by the rental agency, we don’t charge deductibles and it’s NO FAULT!! For the full value of the car! (These also apply to all legally licensed drivers listed on the contract.)

    Without the rental car “coverage” products you will be filling out police reports, even for MINOR events your fault or not. Be prepared to pay out of pocket. Claims will not be paid without verification per Ins. and CC companies. And we need a claim number from your insurance company before we can replace your damaged car. These reports, claims, and exchanges take the major portion of a day to complete….. great vacation so far. Like we have time to fill out police reports while on vacation? Assemble paper work? Call insurance companies? Then spend months trying to avoid Collections because I’m gonna rely on my Credit Card and Auto Insurance….. And a year later your insurance rate goes up…. Bla, bla,bla just a normal rate increase. Insurance agents are paid by the AMOUNT THEY BILL, they get a raise after you have an accident. Sure they tell you you are covered. But get specific, deductible, loss of use, diminished value, towing and storage… they’ll fudge. I’d gladly pay $20 to WALK AWAY, no worries! That is risk management.

    “Unless otherwise required by law, the Rental Company must submit a fleet utilization log indicating that during such time: (1) no other Rental Car was available; and (2) there was a demand for a Rental Car.”

    Depending on which market (City or State) you rent from the laws are different with different requirements. The above “statement” is from a CC policy. The rental agency follows the city and state laws, not some “insurer” requirements. The burden falls back to the renter. Remember insurance companies are not your friend…. remember Katrina?

    As a rental agent one of the worst markets… Las Vegas. I see it all the time,Smarta** big shooters. It’s humorous to hear the excuses. We are a 24 hour town with drunks, druggies and drivers from all over the WORLD up and down the Strip bringing their bad driving habits here. It’s always someone else’s fault. I came out and it was like that…. the truck threw the stone, it’s not my fault. It was hit and run. Wrong it is your fault. If you enjoy paper work, uncertainty, increased insurance rates, wasting a vacation day, paying your $500 deductible, collections, dinged credit score, then please decline, we don’t want to spoil your vacation.

    One final remark. I make $8.00 and hour plus commissions. Commissions on LDW is about .65 cents…. yup I get rich by offering you a no brain-er. Truthfully when you say you are covered, are you really or are you opening Pandora’s box? Best of luck to you.

    • Jim says:

      WOW, Craig, I believe your post is the best one yet! Thanks for persuading me.

    • Kedar says:

      Excellamt Craig! Tons of Thanks! i am going to Vegas in July’10 first week & was looking for opinions on CDW/LDW & dtermined now to buy it from the rental agency

    • chris says:

      craig – commenting on your remarks about making $0.65 commissions on LDW. i worked at a convenience store for a few years in high school. we were told to suggestive sell as much as possible. of course we didn’t even make commissions on sales, just our hourly rate. that doesn’t mean the company didn’t benefit from our salesmanship….

  22. Brian says:

    Wow Craig, can you afford an extra $20/day on $8/hr? Is your attitude shared by your employer? I have worked for rental agencies too, and for some, unfortunately, it is. The LDW is pure profit and they go through great lengths to sell it. Small print is another way of helping the sale through fear. Fact is a rental car will sustain multiple damages and trying to single out one instance for its “diminished value” is impossible. It will be patched, painted, and put back on line. Loss of use, and diminished value for some units are claimed over and over again. In other words more can be made through damages than renting. Don’t even get me started on the kickbacks managers get from body shops. In the end the consumers will weed out the crooks. Or as in California they will be legislated out.

  23. Brian says:

    Don’t waste your time worrying about the unscrupulous rental companies.

    Rent through AMEX. Get their premium coverage. Pay for it on the card. Then if you are charged any goofy fees, put them on the card as well. Then dispute the charge with AMEX. Have not been let down yet.

  24. Jimmy says:

    Great thread, planning on going to Kona for vacation and will be using AMEX to rent a car. Does anyone know if getting rental through Priceline will be OK?

  25. GMoney says:

    One time I booked a car with my AmEx Costco card, but it was through (it was dirt cheap). However, after the rental was returned, I never saw any AmEx charge for the coverage.

    So I would advice you either call AmEx to get the official word, or book directly on the rental website or in person at their branches.

    • EY says:

      I booked a car (Hertz) through (I agree, it was dirt cheap). Afterwards I called AmEx, they told me that when I rent a car from websites like, I should always call AmEX. They have to enter the information to their system manually, otherwise they will not know that is a car rental. This should in their terms and agreement. However, since I joined recently I have not received the agreement yet. AmEx customer service was very nice and entered the car rental manually to their system.

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