Between vacation travel and new driver fender-benders, summer is clearly car rental season. Countless consumers will therefore be asked a question to which they’ll have little idea of an answer: Do you want to buy the supplemental rental car insurance?

In order to help consumers answer that question with confidence as well as save some money and avoid unnecessary risk, CardHub today released its 2014 Credit Card Auto Rental Insurance Study. Although most consumers aren’t aware of this membership perk, all four major card networks (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) provide complementary rental insurance coverage that may preclude the need to purchase an additional policy from a rental agency.

There are, however, caveats to each network’s plan – including coverage restrictions based on the type of card you have, what type of car you rent, and how long your rental period lasts – that consumers must understand if they are to ensure protection and save money.

Key Stats

American Express received the highest cumulative score (90%) for its rental car insurance policy, while Discover ranked second (88%), MasterCard ranked third (79%) and Visa ranked last (74%).
All four major networks require cardholders to charge their entire rental car purchase on their credit card and decline supplemental insurance/Collision Damage Waivers (CDW) offered by the rental company in order to be eligible.
None of the four major networks provides coverage for the rental of: 1) exotic, expensive, or antique cars; 2) trucks; 3) vehicles with open beds; or 4) off-road vehicles.

VISA is the only network that does not cover accidents occurring on dirt and gravel roads. MasterCard only covers accidents on dirt and gravel roads if they are “regularly maintained.”