When you rent a car in Europe, by all means use your Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club or American Express card to avoid the expensive collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft insurance charged by rental companies. You can save anywhere from $10 to $40 per day provided your card includes such coverage. In addition to the cost savings, credit card insurance offers broader coverage. Insurance purchased from a rental company typically does not cover damage to wheels, side mirrors, glass, interior. under-carriage, and roof. Credit cards that provide CDW/Theft insurance cover all these items and the coverage is zero-deductible (excess).

When relying on a credit card for CDW and theft you must, of course, follow the credit card's simple rules in order to be reimbursed for damage. Here is language, some of it paraphrased, from an American Express notice on the subject:

  • You must decline the CDW or similar option offered by the European car rental company to activate coverage for a particular rental.
  • You must pay for everything with the credit card: the car itself, extra drivers, road tax, baby seats, GPS, etc. Everything. Pay nothing in cash.
  • Coverage is limited to cars rented from a "commercial car rental company," which, in the U.S. is 15 specifically designated companies. Outside the U. S. commercial car rental company means "any commercial car rental agency which regularly rents rental autos, expect those in Italy and New Zealand, where no coverage is provided."
  • European Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance covers most rental cars including many foreign cars, when they are rented on a daily or weekly basis for no more than 15 or 31 days, depending on the credit card (ed. note: Amex now offers “Premium Rental Car Protection” which extends coverage to as long as 42 days. This means if your credit card limit is 15 days and your rental is 16 days you have zero coverage for the entire rental). The card member must provide appropriate documentation that the damage/loss was incurred within the applicable time period above, under an agreement from a commercial car rental company.
  • Certain rental vehicles in Europe are not covered, such as off-road vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, recreational vehicles, trucks, campers, trailers, certain vans, four-wheel drive sport/utility vehicles when driven off-road, and most cars valued at more than $50,000. Minivans are covered when used for personal or business use. Please note Amex's “premium” protection include more expensive cars as well as some vans not covered by other credit cards.
  • Coverage does not extend to "losses caused by or contributed to by operation of the rental car in violation of the terms and conditions of the rental car agreement (including but not limited to losses occurring when a person not permitted to operate the vehicle pursuant to terms of the rental agreement was in possession or control of the vehicle); intentional damage; illegal activity; preexisting conditions, damage or defect; being under the influence of intoxicants or drugs; war or military activity; radioactivity; confiscation by authority" and on and on.
  • A card member must notify American Express Car Rental Loss and Damage Claims unit within 48 hours or as soon as reasonably possible following a loss. If such notification is not received, coverage may be denied. Written proof of loss, including completion of a claim form provided by American Express, must be received by American Express within 60 days of the date of loss or coverage may be denied.

Among the items required to document the loss:

  1. Copy of the driver's license of card member or authorized driver.
  2. Copy of card member's auto insurance coverage.
  3. Itemized repair bill.
  4. Claim form.
  5. Copy of the rental agreement.
  6. Police report if the damage exceeds $500.

If the foregoing documentation is not received within 180 days of the date of loss (except for documentation which has not been furnished for reasons beyond card member's control), coverage will be denied.

Other card companies have similar rules. We suggest you become familiar with them.

Book your rental car in Europe with Gemütlichkeit's travel department and get the best rates, personalized, knowledgeable service and our unique at-the-rental-counter safety net that ensures our customers get what they are promised. We book with major companies in more than 35 countries. If you have questions about rentals in Europe, or simply prefer to deal in-person, phone us at 800-521-6722 or get a written quote here.