During her recent vacation in St. Martin, TPG reader Emily Monarch’s rental car was extensively damaged by vandals. It was an unpleasant experience during what was meant to be a relaxing Caribbean getaway with her husband.
However, Monarch took comfort in knowing she wouldn’t be on the hook to pay for the repairs. Having paid for the rental with her Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, she was covered by an excellent primary car rental insurance policy (as opposed to the secondary insurance most credit cards offer).
Or so she thought.
It was only after the vehicle was vandalized that Monarch took a close look at her rental contract with Sixt. That’s when she noticed a critical error on the legally binding document: Monarch was not listed as the primary renter.
Because Chase requires the Sapphire Reserve cardholder to be the primary renter for its insurance to kick in, that little mistake meant the couple had been driving the rental car without the card’s critical protections. As could be expected, this created a significant roadblock to filing a successful claim through Chase’s eClaimsline insurance underwriter.
When Chase did not approve her insurance claim for the damage to the vandalized rental car, Monarch turned to TPG for help. She hoped we could convince eClaimsline that this clerical mistake at the rental car counter wasn’t her error and that she shouldn’t be responsible for the $5,542 repair bill.
But whose responsibility is it ultimately to review all the details on a rental car contract before driving away with the vehicle? Monarch’s case may hinge on that detail.
Renting a car in St. Martin with Sixt
In January 2023, the Monarchs flew to St. Martin to kick off the new year with a tropical break from Kentucky’s wintry weather. Landing late in the afternoon at the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) on the Dutch side of the island, they made their way to the rental car counter at Sixt.
“We handed the agent both of our driver’s licenses with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card,” Monarch recalled.
The Sixt employee printed out the rental contract and placed it on the counter in front of the couple. Monarch knew that to be covered by the insurance provided by her credit card, she was required to decline the insurance offered by Sixt.
Confirming that the contract showed that the couple had declined both the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP), Monarch signed the rental car contract.
The agent then led them outside to inspect the rental car, a dinged-up Hyundai i10. The couple looked over the vehicle and noted all the pre-existing damage.
Satisfied that they had documented all of the nicks, bumps and scrapes on the car, Monarch’s husband signed the inspection form. He handed the paper to her, and she signed it as well. Lastly, the agent affixed his signature to the preexisting damage report and gave the Monarchs the keys.
Then the couple hopped into the little car and drove away, eager to start their romantic vacation.
What happened to this rental car?
For the next week, the Monarchs enjoyed all the island had to offer, soaking up the sun and eating great food. It had turned out to be just what they needed for a winter break.
However, things took an unpleasant turn on the morning they were set to fly home. Monarch walked out to the parked rental car and found it in worse shape than ever. The back window was broken, and it was clear someone had tried to steal the vehicle.
“The rental car was parked behind a security gate, and we didn’t leave any valuables inside. But someone had broken the window and then disassembled the ignition. We couldn’t drive the car, so Sixt sent a tow truck and took the vehicle away.”
Monarch filed a police report and called Chase eClaimsline (888-675-1461) and received a case number. Confident that they had done everything they could do at that moment to ensure that eClaimsline would cover the damage, the couple flew home. It was an unfortunate end to what had been a wonderful trip.
But Monarch was relieved she had used her Chase Sapphire Reserve for the CDW protection it provided.
When the couple arrived back home, Monarch signed into the eClaimsline online portal using the claim number she received when she first reported the damage to the rental car. She reviewed the additional documentation that she would need to provide to process the claim which included:
- The rental car contract showing that she had declined the CDW from Sixt.
- Proof that Monarch had paid for the rental with her Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- A copy of the police report.
- The estimate for the repairs of the rental car.
- Photos of the damage.
After providing all of the requested items, Monarch assumed that in 30 days or so, eClaimsline would pay the repair bill, and that would be the last she would hear about the damaged rental car.
However, over a month later, the repair bill still wasn’t paid. Monarch became concerned, and with good reason. Due to how the Sixt agent had prepared the rental car agreement, she could be on the hook for the over $5,000 in damages.
We need additional documentation to process your claim
Monarch received the following email from Chase eClaimsline explaining why it had not yet approved the payment and requesting additional documentation.
“Dear Emily Monarch,
Thank you for submitting your Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver claim. We have carefully reviewed the information provided to date and note that additional documents are required to promptly process your claim. Please assist us by providing the following:
Documentation that confirms the renter listed on the rental agreement was an authorized user of the covered card. (Card Benefit Services, eClaimsline)”
The message seemed strange to Monarch since she was the primary driver of the rental car and had paid with her Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, when she looked carefully at the contract, she froze. In the field on the document where the primary driver was listed, her husband’s name was written, and he isn’t an authorized user of her Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Monarch realized she couldn’t provide the documentation that eClaimsline required to process the $5,542 insurance claim.
Recalling a recent story about another TPG reader who had an eClaimsline problem related to a rental car, Monarch reached out to us for assistance.
Asking TPG for help with this damaged rental car eClaimsline
When I received Monarch’s request for assistance, it had been two months since the day she had found her rental car damaged by vandals. She hoped to put this experience to rest, but now there was a real possibility that the claim wouldn’t be paid by insurance.
“Would you be able to help me with the collision damage waiver claim coverage on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card?” she wrote. “I am the only cardholder on the card. As you will see, I signed the rental agreement.”
“However, my husband and I are both listed on the rental, but he was inadvertently listed as the renter, and I was listed as the driver. Chase is now trying to deny the claim saying that I was not the renter and I, therefore, do not have coverage.”
Monarch’s paper trail included the contract that showed that the Sixt agent had listed her spouse, Will Monarch, as the primary renter. The couple had paid an additional $5 per day for an additional driver, who turned out to be Emily. Since Will is not an authorized card user of Emily’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card, that meant the rental would not qualify for the car insurance coverage per its terms and conditions.
However, Emily Monarch had signed the car rental contract.
Because of that detail, I thought a case could be made with eClaimsline that this shared mistake between the Sixt agent (who listed the wrong primary driver) and the Monarchs (who didn’t thoroughly review the contract), shouldn’t end up costing loyal Chase customers $5,542.
It was time to see if eClaimsline agreed with me.
Asking eClaimsline and Allianz for help with this rental car claim
I sent Monarch’s case over to our executive contact at Allianz, the administrator of Chase eClaimsline. This is not a customer-facing person but rather someone I can reach out to as a consumer advocate and a member of the media.
After I explained all the details of the case to him, the good news came quickly for the Monarchs. eClaimsline agreed with me – this innocent mistake shouldn’t cost the couple $5,542.
Here was the reply I received:
Thanks for your email. We’re sorry that Ms. Monarch experienced problems with her rental car.
I asked our Claims team to look into this; as you’ve mentioned, it was a complicated situation. The fact that the rental car company listed Ms. Monarch as Renter #2 created a delay in processing this claim.
Our Claims team has reached out to Ms. Monarch and let her know that her claim in the amount of $5,542 was approved, and she should receive her payment shortly. (Allianz spokesperson)”
Monarch and her husband are extremely relieved that their oversight didn’t cost them $5,542. But it easily could have. They learned a valuable lesson: Not to walk away from the car rental counter again without inspecting every detail of that contract.
How to protect your car rental
Travelers often arrive at the car rental counter tired and distracted after a long day of flying. To avoid most car rental mistakes, it’s critical to remain vigilant, though.
Here’s what you need to do before you drive off the car rental lot.
Make sure your rental is fully insured
One thing you never want to do is to drive away without making sure you have insurance coverage. If you’re relying on credit card coverage, review your membership benefits and ensure you understand the requirements, exclusions and limitations. Remember, Chase requires you to decline the car rental company’s insurance for its coverage to kick in.
If you intend to rely on your personal car rental insurance, call your provider to confirm that you are covered for your destination and the type of vehicle you want to rent.
Review the contract carefully
Don’t worry about holding up the line at the rental counter. This is the moment that you’re agreeing to take complete responsibility for a vehicle that could cost upwards of $20,000. Look carefully at all parts of that contract and make sure you understand it.
If you want to use the insurance provided by your Chase Sapphire Reserve or other card, then make certain that you (or an authorized user on the account) are the primary driver. You must also decline the insurance offered by the car rental company.
Always carefully inspect the rental vehicle before driving away
I often receive complaints from consumers who get slammed with car rental damage charges after they return a vehicle. Many of these travelers insist the damage was already there when they took possession of the car – but they have no proof.
The best way to protect yourself against such surprise charges is by taking photos and videos of the entire vehicle before you leave the lot. And when you return the rental car, do the same. The more you document the condition of the car before and after the rental period, the less chance you’ll have of getting charged for damage someone else caused.
Monarch and her husband found themselves in a precarious situation that might not have been resolved in their favor if they hadn’t reached out to TPG. We’re happy to help fix these types of problems, but even happier to help you avoid them in the first place. If you follow the guidance above, you won’t likely end up in a similar situation.
If you do find yourself in a battle with a car rental company, hotel, airline, cruise line, or vacation rental agency, send your request for help to email@example.com, and I’ll be happy to help you too.