Updated: Jan 14
The Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (Auto Rental CDW) benefit offers insurance coverage for automobile rentals and is a benefit of all most all credit cards. The benefit provides reimbursement (subject to the terms and conditions in the benefits guide) for damage due to collision or theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles.
But what happens when you have to make an Auto Rental CDW claim? I have checked the internet and I cannot find a single actual example of someone making a claim. So . . .
In March of 2016, I rented a car in Edinburgh, Scotland from Hertz using my USAA Visa Signature Credit Card. I declined the collision damage waiver (CDW) offered by Hertz (and so should you as your credit card should provide all the collision/comprehensive coverage you’ll need).
Two days later while driving entirely too fast on the Isle of Sky (trying to reach the Coruisk House before sundown), I clipped the only section of curb on the Isle, resulting in a puncture to the sidewall of my left rear tire. I drove on the spare (a 3/4 donut) uneventfully (but slowly) for the balance of the trip.
When I returned the car to Hertz, I mentioned the flat tire and the attendant filled out a form that described the damage. She provided me a hardcopy (I took a photo of it and the tire, just in case). Subsequently, Hertz charged my credit card $160.
When I returned to the U.S. I called USAA (and after numerous phone transfers) initiated an Auto Rental CDW claim. Per instructions, I then forwarded all my paperwork electronically (contract, damage form, photos of the damage, etc.) to USAA (pretty straightforward, they sent me an email with my claim number in the Subject Line, I then replied to the email with all relevant documents). Then about two weeks later I was contacted by a USAA representative who was following up on my claim. The conversation was a little odd, in that he asked if I had purchased the CDW from Hertz, when I said "No, because I was relying on the Auto Rental CDW insurance via my USAA Visa credit card". He replied, "I always get the CDW from the rental car company myself, call me a belt and suspenders kind of guy". He then asked if I still wanted to make a claim, to which I replied with a measured "Yes . . . I do".
Subsequently, USAA informed me that they were waiting on documentation from Hertz that detailed the cost of the tire repair (ex. an invoice from a tire repair shop). While that seemed reasonable, I asked USAA why Hertz would be in a rush to provide such documentation and was met with silence. After waiting for resolution for over a month, I decided to take matters into my own hands (as my Father once said, "if you want something done right . . ." ) and contacted USAA to dispute the Hertz credit card charge for $160, asking that Hertz provide . . . documentation that detailed the cost of the tire repair (ex. an invoice from a tire repair shop).
About a month later USAA informed me that my credit card dispute was resolved in my favor for the full $160 and then a few weeks later informed me that my Auto Rental CDW claim was resolved in my favor for $120 (they couldn't give me the full $160 for some reason or another - not sure exactly why, and I didn't want to exactly push it).
1. Normally credit card Auto Rental CDW insurance is secondary to your auto insurance policy. Since my auto insurance policy does not provide overseas coverage (and neither does yours), my credit card rental car insurance became primary.
2. Prior to using your credit card for Auto Rental CDW collision/comprehensive insurance, read the fine print to fully understand what is and isn’t covered. Some credit cards do not provide coverage in Ireland, Jamaica, or Israel. Some provide coverage for 15 days, others 31 days. Almost all do not provide coverage for pick up trucks, vans, and other high-end vehicles.
-for a prior trip to Ireland my credit card company (USAA) provided me with an email confirming that they specifically provided me with coverage in Ireland. I needed to show this email to the rental car company in Ireland - otherwise, they would have forced me to purchase their overpriced CDW.
3. Your auto insurance should provide you liability insurance for your rental car in the U.S. Though you may want to confirm this. If you don’t currently own a car then you may want to ask your insurance company for rental car liability insurance.
4. Most overseas car rentals have liability insurance baked into the price.
5. Most overseas rental car companies charge significantly more money for an automatic transmission.
6. I am blessed with the ability to drive a manual transmission in the US, and was easily able to drive a manual transmission in Ireland. You should be able to do the same, as "What one man can do, another can do!"
Note: In Scotland (and in a few other countries) cars drive on the wrong side of the road (and therefore require you to shift with the wrong hand, though the pedals are in the same position).