Loyal TPG reader Ben and his family recently had the unpleasant experience of having their rental car stolen in Italy. But the situation became even more frustrating when he filed an insurance claim through his Chase Sapphire Reserve. He assumed the process would be swift and easy. It wasn’t.
Ben says Chase’s Eclaims administrator has been trying to deter his valid claim by repeatedly asking for unnecessary and nonexistent documentation.
Now, he’s hoping TPG can nudge Eclaims to provide the excellent insurance protection he expected as a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder.
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A family vacation to Italy — and a stolen rental car
In August, Ben, his wife and two children flew to Italy for their summer vacation in Puglia. The first week of the trip went perfectly, and the family enjoyed the scenic mountains, quaint towns and sunny beaches.
As the second week began, the family decided to drive along the coast a bit. They stopped in a little cove and parked under a fig tree alongside many other cars.
“It was around 10 a.m., and we spent the day splashing in the small waves and soaking up the sun,” Ben recalled. “Around 2 p.m., we decided to head back and get some lunch.”
Ben gathered the children as his wife headed to the car with their belongings.
“She was walking about 50 yards ahead of me, and I saw her walk past the fig tree,” Ben told me. “I thought she must have forgotten what the car looked like, and I yelled for her to come back.”
But when Ben got to the fig tree, the parked car there was not his vehicle. Confused for just a moment longer, it was suddenly clear that someone had stolen their rental car.
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Filing a vehicle theft report with the police
Ben says what happened next was a terrible way to end what had previously been a relaxing vacation day. The closest police department was about 15 minutes away by car — something the family no longer had.
As Ben and his wife stood in the parking lot where their rental car was previously parked, some locals noticed their distress.
“I had called the rental car company and told them about the theft, and they instructed us to go to the police station,” Ben explained. “A lovely Italian couple gave us the address of the police station and helped us call a taxi service.”
About 10 minutes later, the taxi arrived, and the family, still in bathing suits and carrying their beach supplies, climbed inside for the short drive to the police station.
“At the station, the police definitely seemed a bit confused to see this family of four tourists showing up in bathing suits, wet towels, and carrying an inflatable tube,” said Ben. “But everyone was very kind and, luckily for us, since we don’t speak Italian, there was one officer who spoke perfect English.”
Soon the family was on their way back to their home base in Puglia. The next day the car rental agency delivered a new vehicle for the rest of their vacation.
Ben was relieved that he didn’t have to worry about being on the hook for any charges for the stolen rental car. Before traveling to Italy, he had checked with the membership benefits department for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and confirmed collision damage waiver and theft protection coverage for his car rental.
What is collision damage waiver vs. loss damage waiver coverage?
A collision damage waiver is a protection most car rental agencies offer. A CDW will cover almost all damage to a rental car as long as you haven’t violated the terms of your contract. It’s not a traditional insurance policy, but it is a binding agreement that the rental car company will not charge you for any damage to the vehicle. In general, if you have CDW coverage, you can be assured that you won’t be blindsided by surprise repair bills for your rental car.
It’s important to note that a CDW doesn’t typically include theft of the vehicle. Theft protection is provided by a loss damage waiver. Adding these products to your rental can significantly increase the price.
The good news is that many premium credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, provide primary CDW and theft protection as part of their membership benefits.
To receive the CDW and theft protection provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you must decline the car rental agency’s collision waiver (CDW or LDW, depending on the car rental company).
In some countries, such as Italy, these waivers are mandatory for car renters. You will not be able to decline the collision or theft protections. In this case, the coverage provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve becomes secondary — you can file a claim for any amount not covered by the mandatory insurance.
As a seasoned traveler and longtime Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder, Ben knew this. He waited until the car rental agency sent him a request for the deductible for the theft protection provided by the agency’s insurance, and then filed for reimbursement through Chase Eclaims for the cost of that deductible amount.
Endless requests from Chase Eclaims
Ben says he has successfully and quickly filed similar claims through Chase Eclaims in the past. He wasn’t expecting the insurmountable roadblock about to appear as he tried to get reimbursed for the $1,200 deductible he had been charged for the stolen car.
After providing all the documents that Chase required through the Eclaims online portal, Ben was surprised, and then annoyed, when he began to receive regular alerts that something was missing from his file.
The document that Eclaims wanted before Ben’s claim would proceed was an official repair estimate for the rental car. Yes, the vehicle that was stolen and never recovered.
The nonsensical request for the repair bill for the missing car arrived regularly in Ben’s inbox. Each time it did, he reminded Eclaims that a repair estimate did not exist since the automobile could never be repaired — its location was unknown.
After the fifth circular email exchange between Ben and Eclaims, he decided to try a different route to a resolution: He sent his request for help to [email protected].
‘Shouldn’t filing a Chase Sapphire Reserve card claim be easier?’
When I read through Ben’s frustrating efforts to get his claim processed, I assumed that a real human at Eclaims had not been reading his responses. After all, an actual customer service agent wouldn’t repeatedly ask for a document that is clearly impossible to obtain.
Unfortunately, I know from my work as a consumer advocate that many companies use artificial intelligence programs in their customer service departments. These AI bots are often anything but intelligent, though, and end up leaving customers feeling more frustrated than ever.
On the day Ben sent his complaint to TPG, he received a follow-up from Chase Eclaims. You guessed it: It was a reminder that the Eclaims team could not process his claim until he provided the estimate for repairing the stolen vehicle.
“Just today, Eclaims said I must provide the repair bill even for a stolen car. They won’t even begin to process my claim until I have that. This is definitely something TPG readers may want to know before signing up for some of these premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card,” Ben wrote. “[The travel insurance feature] is a pretty big benefit that people want to use.”
I hoped to be able to put a quick end to Ben’s plight.
Asking Allianz to help this Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder
It was clear that Ben’s claim had become stuck in an infinity loop at Eclaims. He had followed all the required steps to qualify for the theft protection provided by his Chase Sapphire Reserve. He was only requesting reimbursement for the $1,200 deductible. There was no repair bill.
The mandatory waivers included in Ben’s contract had covered the cost of the stolen car. The repeated requests for a repair bill from Eclaims were clearly an error.
Allianz is the administrator of the car rental coverage provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and the company is typically helpful to the consumers who contact me with problems processing their travel insurance claims.
I sent Ben’s complaint to our executive contact at Allianz, and within several hours this frustrating battle was over – in a good way.
I checked with our Claims team, and they let me know that we mistakenly requested documentation from [Ben] related to the total value of his stolen rental vehicle when we only required documentation of the deductible he paid. We sincerely regret the error and apologize for the inconvenience that [Ben] has experienced during his claim. His claim is being processed, and he should receive his payment shortly.
Ben soon received a follow-up email from Eclaims that approved his $1,200 reimbursement, and his faith in the benefits of his Chase Sapphire Reserve card was restored.
In case you were wondering, Ben said that this stolen rental car fiasco didn’t put a damper on their Italian vacation.
“Thanks for all your help. We did enjoy the remaining week of our vacation very much,” Ben told me. “Our kids just kept asking if someone would steal our new rental car!”
I’m happy to report no one did.
How to use the Chase Sapphire Reserve car insurance benefit
The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with some valuable car rental insurance benefits. But to invoke those benefits, it’s critical to acquaint yourself with the steps you must take before, during and after a covered event.
Here’s what you need to know about the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rental insurance coverage.
You must decline the collision insurance offered at the car rental counter
In most cases, the car rental insurance provided by the Chase Sapphire Reserve is primary. You must decline the CDW coverage offered at the rental counter. If, as is the case in Italy, you do not have the option of declining, your Chase Sapphire Reserve insurance benefit should cover any deductible you’re required to pay.
Take photos and video of the car’s condition
It’s always a good idea to take photos and videos of the condition of your rental car before you drive away with it. Otherwise, you risk getting charged for preexisting damage when you return the vehicle. But if you’re in an accident during the rental, you must document the damage in detail. When you file your claim, you will be required to send these photos as part of the process.
File a police report
Whether you’ve been in an accident, you’ve somehow allowed your rental car to crash into the ocean, or it’s been stolen, you must file a police report. This is another required document for a successful claim through your Chase Sapphire Reserve card’s insurance.
Close your car rental contract
If your rental car is severely damaged and needs to be towed, you’ll want to be sure that the agency closes the rental contract. This is true if the car is stolen as well. If you don’t confirm that your contract is closed, you might continue to be charged daily rental rates.
Contact Chase Eclaims
To begin the reimbursement process, you must call Eclaims at 888-675-1461 or file a claim online. You’ll then be asked to upload your rental contract, the photos, the incident report, repair bills (if applicable) and the statement of claim from the car rental agency.
Pay attention and respond to Eclaims alerts
Once you’ve uploaded all the required documents requested by Eclaims, you should have a determination within several weeks. It’s important to check back periodically for messages from Eclaims to make certain additional information isn’t needed to complete the process.
Detect and ditch AI customer service
Unfortunately, it is a fact of modern-day customer service that many businesses outsource the handling of complaints to artificial intelligence — which is often not intelligent at all and causes additional frustration for the troubled consumer. If you suspect you’re stuck in a conversation with a chatbot that has no way of solving your problem, it’s best to abandon your efforts and focus them elsewhere.
Some companies tell you upfront that you’re not speaking to a human. However, many businesses aren’t transparent about their use of AI technology. That often leaves customers in a state of confusion as to the nonsensical responses of the agents and their inability to understand and fix even simple problems.
The somewhat good news is that it’s relatively easy to detect AI customer service if you know what you’re looking for.
Here are a few hallmark signs that you’re chatting with AI:
- You’re receiving the same pointless responses over and over with no additional information. (Like a repetitive request for a repair quote for a stolen car.)
- The response you’re receiving is vague and is not actually addressing your specific questions.
- The response is overly cheerful, even though you’re conveying a dire situation.
- You’re asked to explain the problem multiple times and the “agent” remains unable to grasp the core of your complaint.
- Deja vu: Your problem remains unresolved and suddenly the agent seems to go back to the beginning of the conversation and starts over.
Once you’ve detected you’re stuck in an AI customer service nightmare, it’s time to find a real human to whom you can escalate your complaint. Here are a few ways to help you successfully break out of an AI loop.
If you’re in an on-screen chat, you can type “Agent,” and that will sometimes (depending on the company) prompt a human customer service person to take over the correspondence. You may need to do this several times before it triggers the switch.
Alternatively, you can use Google to find the company’s “executive customer service person.” Often this manager will have a profile on LinkedIn and you can send a short, polite message asking for assistance. Although the executive may not be able to help you directly, they will likely point you to someone who can.
My advocacy organization, Consumer Rescue, provides a free customer service and executive contact finder. Tell us what company you’re having a problem with and we’ll tell you who to contact first.
Finally, you can submit your request for help directly to [email protected], and we can get your complaint in front of the right people.
Read your car rental contract
One final, but crucial, point to remember is that your rental car may have restrictions on where you can take it. This can be problematic when driving in regions like Europe, where you can easily transit from one country to another with little warning.
Your rental car contract will detail location restrictions. So make sure you read it. If you don’t apprise yourself of this information and drive the vehicle into a prohibited country and it gets damaged or stolen there, it isn’t likely that insurance will cover your claim – and you’ll be on the hook for the entire bill.
The good news is that most Chase Sapphire Reserve customers will not encounter the difficulties with Eclaims that Ben experienced after his rental car was stolen in Italy. But if you find yourself in the same situation, you can do as Ben did and send your request for assistance to [email protected], and I’ll be happy to help you, too.
Remember, if you have a problem with a car rental company, cruise line, airline, hotel, vacation rental agency or credit card company, TPG can help.