The best UK credit cards for car hires
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
Whether you’re planning to stay domestic or travel abroad, a car hire could be a good option for getting around your destination. Oftentimes, being able to see a destination by car is one of the best ways to take it all in — get a look at the local surroundings, drive through small villages and stop at the local shops.
But how should you go about hiring the car? Well, first and foremost, you’ll want to opt for using a credit card rather than a debit card, as the former typically comes with more protections for you, as the renter of the vehicle, as well as more earning potential.
If you are hiring cars at home or abroad, here are the best U.K. credit cards to use:
- The Platinum Card from American Express: Best rental car insurance protection, and two complimentary rental car elite statuses;
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Credit Card: Equal highest earning rate for car hire spend;
- Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard Credit Card: Equal highest earning rate for car hire spend; and
- Halifax Clarity Credit Card: Best for car hire spend in foreign currencies.
Let’s take a look at why each of the cards could be a good option.
Welcome bonus: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending £4,000 in the first three months.
Earning rate: 1 Membership Reward point per £1 spent on all purchases; 2 Membership Rewards points per £1 spent at American Express Travel.
Other key benefits: The benefits are incredibly comprehensive and include: complimentary Priority Pass membership, Centurion Lounge access, access to the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts programme, purchase protection, worldwide annual travel insurance, concierge services, Addison Lee credits, elite status at a number of hotel chains including Hilton, Marriott and Radisson and more.
Representative example and annual fee: This card is a charge card, rather than a credit card, so it has no spending limit or APR, but you must pay off the balance in full each month. There is an annual fee of £575.
Why it’s great for car hire: You’ll receive elite status in:
- The Avis Preferred programme, which provides you with one free car class upgrade (when available), a dedicated reservations number and access to exclusive offers and discounts; and
- Hertz Gold Plus Five Star Rewards status, which provides you with one car-class upgrade to a full-size class vehicle, 25% bonus on Gold Plus Rewards Points on all qualified rentals, expedited vehicle pick-up at over 1,000 locations worldwide and the freedom to choose a different vehicle on the spot at no extra charge with Hertz Ultimate Choice.
With the Amex Platinum, you are also protected for theft, damage and liability of the rental car including up to £50,000 for theft or damage to the vehicle (including any applicable excess) and up to £500,000 (up to $1 million in U.S.) for damage to another person or their property thanks to the complimentary travel insurance provided with the card.
- American Express Platinum Card review
- 10 things to do when you get the Platinum Card from American Express UK
- Is The Platinum Card from American Express worth the annual fee?
Welcome bonus: 25,000 British Airways Avios after spending £3,000 in the first three months.
Earning rate: 1.5 Avios per £1 spent on all purchases; 3 Avios per £1 spent directly with British Airways or BA Holidays.
Other key benefits: 2-for-1 Companion Voucher earned after £10,000 in annual spend on the card. The Companion Voucher is the most valuable credit card benefit out there, allowing you to take a companion with you on the same flight and in the same cabin when you redeem Avios for a BA reward flight. Of course, taxes, fees and other carrier charges still apply to the companion. When earned with this card, the Voucher is valid for two years.
Representative example and annual fee: This card has an APR of 74.7% variable and a purchase rate of 22.2% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. There is an annual fee of £195.
Why it’s great for car hire: You’ll earn 1.5 British Airways Avios for each £1 spent on the card on car hire, which is the equal highest of any card available in the U.K.
- British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card review
- Ultimate guide to British Airways Avios
- Guide to the British Airways Amex Companion Voucher
Sign-up bonus: 15,000 bonus miles after making your first card purchase within 90 days of account opening.
Other key benefits: You’ll unlock a “Virgin Atlantic reward” after spending £10,000 annually which includes the option of an upgrade to Premium, a Companion ticket or a lounge access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses.
Representative example and annual fee: This card has a representative APR of 63.9% variable, and a purchase rate of 22.9% variable with an assumed credit limit of £1,200. There is an annual fee of £160.
Why it’s great for car hire: You’ll earn 1.5 Flying Club miles for each £1 spent on the card on car hire, which is the equal highest of any card available in the U.K. Additionally, Virgin Money recently announced that it was removing foreign transaction fees on purchases made in some currencies, but be sure yours is included before making the transaction.
Sign-up bonus: None
Earning rate: There is no points or miles programme associated with this card, so you will not earn any rewards for making purchases with it.
Representative example and annual fee: 19.9% APR with a purchase rate of 19.95% per annum (variable) and an assumed credit limit of £1,200. This card has no annual fee.
Why it’s great for car hire: The big selling point of this card is that there are no foreign transaction fees when you use it for foreign purchases at home or abroad, whereas many rewards-earning credit cards charge up to 3% in fees for purchases in foreign currencies. While you could also use a debit card that doesn’t charge any fees, car rental companies can charge huge deposits when collecting the vehicle, and paying this with a debit card may wipe out your savings whereas access to credit may not.
Depending on what level of protection you’re after with your car hire, the number of points you want to earn or the lack of foreign transaction fees you want to pay, there’s a credit card available in the U.K. that could be right for you.
Keep in mind the other benefits you’ll get with the card before making your decision solely on what you’ll get when hiring a car.
- How to earn British Airways Avios on your next car hire
- A full list of all the airline, hotel and car hire loyalty programmes you need to know
- I don’t like rental cars, but I sure love rental car insurance
- Everything you need to know about driving in the EU after Brexit
Featured image by Gettys Images
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