My experience using Citi's Worldwide Car Rental Insurance

Most Citi credit cards, including the Costco Anywhere VisaPremier, and Prestige cards, carry Worldwide Car Rental Insurance, which is a free benefit Citi is unfortunately eliminating on September 22, 2019 for all their cards except the Costco Anywhere.  Worldwide Car Rental Insurance is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, and provides damage and theft protection for your rental car of up to $50,000, but not liability or damage to other vehicles.  Coverage is primary outside of your country of residence and secondary in your country of residence, meaning that if you reside and rented a car in the U.S., your personal auto insurance would kick in first, and Worldwide Car Rental Insurance would cover any excess not covered by your personal insurance policy.

For New Zealand, I rented two cars: one for the south island and one for the north island portions of my trip both using my Citi Premier card, which earns 3x on travel including car rentals and has no foreign exchange transaction fees.  Since New Zealand is outside my country of residence in the U.S., Worldwide Car Rental Insurance would be my primary insurance coverage.  As fate would hold it, I ended up with a minor rear fender bender in south island and a chip in the front bumper in the north island, both of which the car rental companies held me accountable for.  Both agencies put an excess charge on my Citi Premier card, as I would be refunded the difference between the actual cost of the repair and the excess charge.  About a week after returning each of the vehicles, the agencies e-mailed me copies of the repair estimates and the signed damage reports.

In order to file a claim, Citi requires at least the following supporting documentation:

  • Billing statement or receipt showing how much you paid
  • Rental agreement
  • Damage report from rental car company
  • Itemized repair estimate or bill

In addition, a police report, photos of the damaged car, and proof of payment to the rental company for the repair may also be required depending on the accident.  To initiate a claim, you can either call Citi or e-mail them with a completed claim form, which can be downloaded off their website, and electronic copies of the supporting documentation.  I e-mailed Citi all the documentation for both rental cars about a week after returning from New Zealand.  Citi generates an auto-response e-mail stating that they have received the claim and issues you a claim number.  It then becomes a waiting game with your fingers crossed as Citi states that we should hear back from them within 14 days.

After almost 4 long weeks of waiting, I received a letter in the mail stating that my claims have been denied because my documents did not substantiate my claim.  The alleged reason: I did not decline the collision loss/damage insurance with the rental car companies, which is an actual term and condition for Worldwide Car Rental Insurance to apply.  I actually did not buy collision loss/damage insurance with either of the agencies, but all rental cars in New Zealand come with some sort of basic damage insurance deductible that cannot be declined.  For my rentals, the automatically included insurance deductibles were $2,000 NZD and $1,500 NZD, meaning that regardless of the damage or loss to the vehicle, I would only be held liable up to those amounts.

So I ended up calling the Citi benefits administrator a few days later, explaining that I never purchased collision loss/damage insurance for either of the vehicles, and that the included insurance deductible coverage cannot be declined and is automatically included for all rentals in New Zealand.  The administrator put me on hold for a few minutes as she contacted Virginia Surety Company explaining my situation.  She then informed me that Virginia Surety would get back to me over the phone or e-mail by the end of the day, which I had serious doubts about as it took 4 weeks for them just to process my claim.  But to my surprise, I received an e-mail from Citi at 7:22 pm that night:

Your claim under the Worldwide Car Rental Insurance program has been approved. 

A payment in the amount of $XXX.XX, which represents the full amount payable for this claim, will be credited to your card account within 1 to 2 billing cycles. 

Wow!  I was able to successfully appeal and get approved within hours after a 15-minute phone call with the Citi benefits administrator.  And just one day after receiving the approval e-mail, I logged into my Citi online account and found that the entire amount payable had been refunded to my card, which is much quicker than the 1 to 2 billing cycle timeframe as stated in the e-mail.

Bottom line

Nobody likes getting into car accidents, as they're costly, time-consuming, and stressful.  I'm definitely glad that I used my Citi Premier card, as Worldwide Car Rental Insurance came into the rescue and paid for all my damages.  It's really too bad that Citi is gutting this benefit after September 22, as I definitely won't be using my Citi Premier for car rentals after that and will likely turn to the Costco Anywhere, which is the only Citi card retaining this benefit.  Filing a claim is actually a relatively simple process as the documentation and claim form can all be submitted over e-mail.  There is quite a suspenseful (or stressful?) waiting game as I didn't hear back from them until 4 weeks.  And although I was initially wrongfully denied for the claims, a 15-minute phone call explaining my situation solved the process within hours, and I was refunded the entire amount with a day.  It did take over 5 weeks from the time of submitting my claim and receiving my refund for the damages, but at the end of the day, you're just happy that the benefit works, affording peace of mind from renting a car.


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