On a recent American Express statement, I discovered a notice about updates to my card benefits. It's always interesting (to me at least) to see what's being added or taken away, so I dug in and noticed a few changes to car rental benefits. Let's take a look to see if these changes are a positive or negatvie for Amex cardholders.
Car Rental Coverage Added for Ireland, Israel and Jamaica
Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance coverage will now apply to vehicles rented in Ireland, Israel and Jamaica. Consistent with your current benefit, coverage will not apply to vehicles rented in Australia, Italy, and New Zealand.
It's great to see that they've added coverage for Ireland, Israel and Jamaica. Israel and Ireland are two countries in particular that we've found that are often excluded from many credit card policies, so the value here is significant. The other thing that's worth mentioning about these two countries is that they are the ones where you routinely get the hard sell at the rental counter when it comes to insurance. Even if your credit card covers you for damage to the vehicle (and now your Amex card does!), they will often refuse to waive the insurance requirement unless you can provide written proof that your card does, in fact, cover you when renting in that country. This is where a printout of American Express' policy documents are very helpful.
With the addition of coverage in Ireland, Israel and Jamaica, that only leaves Italy, Australia, and New Zealand as countries NOT covered by Amex. It does seem a bit strange that Amex excludes coverage in Australia and New Zealand, the reason they don't provide coverage in Italy is likely because collision and theft insurance are included by law on all rentals in Italy. Any car rental in Italy automatically prices with coverage by default, and there is no option to remove it. Typically in order for your credit card coverage to be in effect, you'd need to decline the coverage provided by the car rental company, and in the case of rentals in Italy, you don't have the option to decline this coverage. Bottom line, there's no need for Amex to include insurance in Italy since everyone is insured by default automatically.
Sports/Luxury Cars and Large SUVs are Now Covered
In the car rental insurance policy in effect today, Amex cardholders are not covered at all for a long list of vehicles including expensive cars (defined as cars costing $50,000 or more), exotic cars regardless of value, trucks, pickups, cargo vans, full-sized vans, and full-sized SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition, GMC Suburban, etc. Many people don't realize this is the case, and may be leaving the rental lot unprotected if driving off in one of these vehicles.
The good news is Amex now covers all of the aforementtioned vehicles up to a maximum limit of $50,000 with the exception of vans with a seating capacity of over 8 passengers. They also still do not cover cargo vans, custom vans, larger trucks, antique cars, off-road vehicles, motorcycles, and the like, but all of these are far less common than large SUVs and higher-end sports and luxury cars many people rent.
These new modified car rental insurance terms for American Express cardmembers are a net positive. You are now insured in more countries, and when renting more vehicle types. In an age when program "enhancements" are a euphemism for bad news, we applaud Amex for adding value for their cardmembers.
Keep in mind that these changes don't go into effect until September 1, 2017, so if you're renting this summer in Ireland, Israel or Jamaica, then you'll need to use an alternate card that covers you in one of these locations, or pony up for the insurance provided by the car rental company (which can sometimes be more than the base rental cost itself).
You can view the car rental loss and damage insurance for your specific American Express card here.