Renting a car in Mexico costs nickel and dime comparing to what car rental insurance costs which can easily double, if not, triple up the rental costs, so I understand travelers wanting to use their own credit card’s insurance to cut back unnecessary expenses. I tried to do the same.
After being scammed in Costa Rica I took all the precautions I could think of prior to my Mexican trip to avoid scam. There is always new under the Sun 😉
Your American credit card probably comes with a car rental insurance which is (or should be) accepted worldwide, including Mexico, if there are exclusions they are mentioned in the benefit package. I have a Chase credit card via United Airlines so in my case only Ireland, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Israel are excluded, Mexico should be fine.
In order for you to be able use your car rental insurance you must decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. The damage or theft must take place during the rental period as outlined in the rental agreement.
What do you do when you show up at the rental agency to pick up your reserved car and the folks tell you that your credit card’s insurance is not accepted? You can always argue, best case scenario in English, worst case in Spanish, but they are pretty much in control. Unfortunately you don’t have the same rights like here in the USA, you depend on them.
I did some digging and read other blogs on the net so what I’m sharing with you today is the combined knowledge of a few travelers, including mine.
- Book a rental car on an American or European web site, choose a chain instead of a local Mickey Mouse company. If you deal with an American or European chain, you are a little more protected and can file a complaint when you return.
- A month prior to your Mexican trip contact your credit card provider and ask for a letter in both English and Spanish describing the car insurance benefit your credit card has. Said letter should state the account holder’s name but if somebody else drives your rental car the letter should mention his/her name as well and you have to note that on both the car rental reservation and the rental contract. There should be a description of your car insurance benefit stating it is valid in Mexico and what it exactly covers in what amounts. (On a side I would like to mention that credit card companies have an auto-generated letter and they may not state everything that Mexico requires).
- When you have this letter in Spanish you have to submit it to the Mexican government for approval via email, it is called the Comision Nacional De Seguros Y Fianzas. Please take a note of their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a big change you won’t get a reply from them or you get a ticket number of your request but nobody follows it up with you. I did not hear back from anybody either so I sent an email to both Expedia, where I reserved my car, and EuropCar, where I was going to rent a car from to let them know about my failed attempts. I sent a second email to the Mexican government. EuropCar could not care less, Expedia stepped up and told me to save the receipt and file a claim upon return should my “rental rate go up” or if EuropCar overcharges me.
- If you are +Gold member at Expedia, like I am, you can travel with ease and have more chances of getting your money back. The Costa Rican case took me 6 months but Expedia always backed me up.
- My Expedia car rental reservation came with a Third Party Liability Insurance (SLI) which is mandatory in Mexico, if yours does not come with it, you will need one. If you buy that in the USA the Mexican agency may not accept it, they will sell you their own and you cannot control that. Despite all my preparation EuropCar still charged me Liability Insurance because they did not accept the one that I bought on Expedia and charged me another nice amount for Damage and Loss Waiver, which came with my credit card. They said I was supposed to communicate with the Mexican government for their approval. I showed them I tried but failed. Total loss is $189. You cannot win, you are at their mercy so buy the cheapest car you can get and except charges to be added to your original reservation cost. Don’t prepay anything so that you have a chance to walk away from anything you don’t like. Except the worst and hope for the best.
Safe travels, my friends, let me know how yours go! Good luck!