October 8, 2006

Credit Cards

A few years ago I was over at Craig’s place in Sutter Creek watching TV when this credit card commercial came on. They touted themselves as an essential part of life. Like we’re all super sensitive to bee stings and their the adrenaline shot: Don’t leave home with out it! And Craig kept saying: “What’s the big deal!? It’s a credit card!” So I believe the commercial was for American Express. AmEx may have some nice perks, but it turns out that a lot of credit have some cool benefits themselves

Fast forward to June 26th of this year and I’m driving west on 50 to meet Craig at a bar in downtown Sac to watch a World Cup game. When out of nowhere a rock smashes into my windshield creating a starfish shaped impact mark and 16 inch crack!

Now I didn’t buy the optional insurance that Hertz offered me. And I had a good reason not to: A magazine article I read said don’t do it!

Last December I read a “ways to make your 2006 better” piece in a magazine I bought at the airport in St. Louis on my way out to Sacramento. On of the 50 tips was don’t buy the insurance car rental companies offer you because if you rent the car with a Visa it’s automatically covered (turns out other cards besides Visa offer this).

I arrive at the bar and proceed to tell Craig what happened, then I remembered that article. Hmmm, I wondered if it would actually work.

A day later I called Visa and they said they would cover it. The bill from Hertz actually wasn’t that bad: $209 total for the damage (actually it was only $159, but they added $50 for an “admin fee” because they’re a heartless multi-national corporation). However, Visa wasn’t going to make it easy to get reimbursed because, you know, they’re also a heartless multi-national corporation.

Here is their instructions to me and what I needed to provide them with:

*Copy of cardholder's charge receipt and monthly billing statement verifying the rental transaction

*Copy of initial auto rental agreement (front and back)

*Copy of finalized auto rental agreement (front and back)

*Copy of any correspondence from rental company outlining charges from this loss

*Itemized estimate of repair or repair bill*.

*Copy of police report and/or auto rental company accident report(s)*

*Two photographs of damaged vehicle, if applicable or available

*For holders of personal cards (e.g.: Gold, Classic, and Platinum):
--Copy of your Auto Insurance Declaration Page(s), which provides a summary of coverage
and deductible amount, if you rented within your country of residence.

*If the driver at the time of the accident did NOT have personal automobile insurance, provide a notarized statement indicating that he or she had no insurance

*Copy of your insurance company's settlement for this incident (if applicable)

*If the cost of the rental was included in a travel package or was prepaid, provide a copy of the prepaid voucher and a copy of your travel package invoice

*If the rental was under a company card (e.g. business, corporate, purchasing, or government)
--Copy of a letter from your employer stating that the rental was for business purposes.
--If your rental under the company card, was for non-business use, follow the instructions for
personal cards above.

Well I gave them everything the needed and a week ago the payment finally went through! Turns our credit cards companies aren’t that bad after all. Well, as long as you pay your bills on time, use their credit card regularly, don’t go bankrupt....

But since a lot of credit cards provide this benefit, I guess we’re back to Craig’s original question/criticism...”what’s the big deal? It’s just a credit card.”

The other things to consider are what if I get in 3 accidents in a year? Would Visa handle all of them? Is there a situation where getting the insurance would make sense?

I don’t know, flying out for 10 day trip and absolutely needing a rental car makes that said trip fairly expensive. When you add $15 extra per day for the rental car insurance, it just puts it over the top.

So it’s up to you. I will continue NOT to get the rental car insurance because accidents are sufficiently rare and I know Visa will cover it.

Next time you rent a car, remember this post! But don’t just rely on me. Call your credit card company and ask what benefits they provide. Go to their website and read all fine print about each card. It may pay off in the future!

1 comment:

Erin said...

Interesting stuff. When I'm renting a car in RI, MA, or anywhere along the eastern sidebord I certainly want all the insurance I can get. They are lousy drivers. I rented a car from Hertz and got hit from behind. I'd bought the insurance, but what really saved the day was the fact that the girl admitted it was her fault, called her insurance company (Geico, I believe), who called Hertz and within minutes it was all sorted and I didn't have to pay for anything. But I will have to look into my credit cards, maybe there is other free stuff I'm missing out on!

Also a bonus with Visa, if you are abroad and in need of some emergency funds they can raise the limit on your card and front you some cash. But, as Tyler points out, it is a heartless multi-national corporation, so they only will if you've been good with payments, and if, AND ONLY IF, you have actually signed your name on the back. Unfortunately, See Id is not my name, so I was DENIED.

BTW, if you travel outside the US a great deal, you quickly discover Visa really is everywhere you want to be (and some places you don't), and AmEx is useless.