Use your credit card for auto rental insurance

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(MoneyWatch) Did you know that your credit card likely provides auto insurance that covers rental cars? If you said no, you're not alone. Many people don't realize that it's built into the benefits offered by Visa (V), American Express (AXP), Discover (DFS), and many MasterCard (MA) cards.

CardHub recently published its 2012 credit card auto rental insurance study, and the online report is check full of surprising and valuable information -- especially if you are a frequent traveler and find yourself renting a lot of cars. Here are some of the most important details:

- One of the credit cards already in your wallet probably offers all the insurance coverage you need when you rent a car, which can save you $10-$20 per day.

- In order to be covered by any credit card rental car insurance policy, you have to charge the entire rental purchase on the card and decline the supplemental insurance plan offered by the rental car company. That's critical. Getting the rental company's insurance isn't a supplement to the coverage offered by your credit card -- it replaces it.

- For the most part, credit card insurance coverage only applies to travel over government-maintained roads. You're generally not covered on private or non-maintained roads, and MasterCard won't cover accidents on dirt or gravel.

You should check with your credit card company to see if you're covered and find out what the fine print says. All Visa, Discover, and American Express cards offer some level of coverage, but MasterCard offers coverage only on some of its cards. Also, certain kinds of vehicles (like motorcycles and exotic sports cars) are excluded by most card companies.

Read the entire report for additional details.

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