How to Use the Chase Sapphire Reserve Auto Rental CDW Benefit

A few months ago, we rented a car for a mini vacation to Lake Tahoe. It was a great trip, but right before we returned the car in San Francisco, someone broke into our rental. We parked the car in a grocery store parking lot while we grabbed dinner in the same plaza and returned to a smashed window and stolen belongings. It sucked.

smashed rental car window and stolen belongings

smashed rental car window and stolen belongings

Since we booked the rental using the Chase Sapphire Reserve, we were fully covered. Here’s how we filed the claim.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Annual fee: $450
  • Signup bonus: 50k points after $4,000 in spend within the first 90 days  of account opening
  • Earn 3X on travel and dining
  • $300 Travel credit
  • Airport lounge access via Priority Pass
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit

What is Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver?

Collision damage waiver (CDW) covers damage or theft of most rental vehicles up to $75,000.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve car rental insurance serves as primary coverage which means you don’t have to involve any other source of insurance before you get the benefits. This can save you tons of money in the event of an incident.

In case you’re wondering, most credit cards (i.e., Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige) only offer secondary coverage, meaning you have to go through your insurance first before Chase helps. This means that your insurance premiums might increase due to the claim.

CDW covers the following:

  • Physical damage and/or theft of the covered rental vehicle
  • Valid loss-of-use charges assessed by the rental car company while the vehicle is being repaired and not available for rent
  • Reasonable towing charges related to a covered loss to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility

The Fine Print

The Chase Sapphire Reserve rental car insurance only applies to rentals 31 consecutive days or less in the US and most foreign countries. It’s always best to call the Benefit Administrator to verify coverage.

You’re covered for damage and/or theft of the vehicle, but NOT damage to other vehicles, property, or injuries. The latter is covered under liability insurance which you can purchase at the rental car company or see if your auto insurance covers it.

Collision damage waiver also does not protect against any personal injuries.

Authorized users are covered when they use the Chase Sapphire Reserve to rent a vehicle.

Read the full benefits guide here.

How To “Activate” CDW on Your Credit Card

  1. Place the entire rental transaction on your card that’s eligible for the benefit
  2. Decline the car rental company’s CDW

Should You Get the Car Rental Company’s Insurance?

Even if you have CDW on your credit card, here are the scenarios where it makes sense to get the car rental company’s insurance:

1. You value your time at more than $15/day.
Filing a claim with the credit card benefit and closing the case takes ~3 months.

The average cost of CDW from a rental company is usually <$15/day. This is a walk away policy, meaning that if you return the car with damage, you can just turn in the keys and walk away. The rental company handles the rest.

2. Renting a car that costs more than $75,000
If you’re renting a luxury car, get the rental company’s CDW. The credit card benefit only covers $75,000 in damages and fees.

3. Renting a car that’s EXCLUDED from the credit card benefit
Certain cars are excluded: antique automobiles, certain vans, vehicles that have an open cargo bed, trucks, motorcycles (including mopeds and motorbikes), limousines, and recreational vehicles.

“An antique automobile is defined as any vehicle over twenty (20) years old or any vehicle that has not been manufactured for ten (10) years or more.”

This benefit is provided only for those vans manufactured and designed to transport a maximum of eight (8) people and which are used exclusively to transport people.

You might be able to use your insurance (depending on your policy) when renting a vehicle on the excluded list. Keep in mind if something does happen, you’ll be responsible for paying your insurance deductible and risk your premium increasing.

Whenever in doubt, call the Benefit Administrator to see if the vehicle you are renting is covered.

How to File the Claim

  1. Immediately call the number on the back of your card to notify the Benefits Administrator of theft or damage. The Benefits Administrator will send you a claim form.
  2. Take at least two pictures of the damage. When possible, include the license plate in the picture.
  3. Submit the claim form along with the required documentation
  4. You have 60 days from the incident to notify the credit card Benefit Administrator of the incident, and 100 days to submit the claim form. Best practice: notify the Benefits Administrator ASAP.

Required documents:

  • Completed claim form from the Benefit Administrator
  • Copy of your rental receipt showing the entire car rental was charged to and paid for with the eligible card
  • Copy of the original rental agreement
  • Copy of the Accident Report Form from the rental company and claim document outlining the costs you are responsible for (can take ~3 months to receive the final bill)
  • Copy of the repair estimate or itemized repair bill (usually takes ~2 months to get from the rental company)Two pictures of the damaged vehicle, if available
  • A police report, if obtainable — if the vehicle is stolen, this is required.
  • If you don’t have personal auto insurance, you will need to provide a notarized note saying so (~$10 for notary)

What to Expect

Chase usually reviews the submitted documents within five business days. The Benefit Administrators are great at answering any questions regarding the claim.

The headache comes from the car rental company. You’ll have to constantly follow up with them to get required documents like a copy of the accident report and the final bill.

In my case, it took them over a month to process the itemized repair bill. I didn’t receive the final bill until three months later!

The Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve rental car insurance (CDW) has great primary car rental insurance that can save you a ton of money.

But if you’re not willing to spend the time to go through the claims process, then you might be better off buying CDW directly from the car rental company.

Remember, personal accident insurance and liability insurance is NOT included. Be sure to check your insurance policy or purchase them from the car rental agency.

Have experience filing a CDW claim with your credit card? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

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