Have you ever experienced the panic of not knowing who to call when your car breaks down? Your credit card company is probably not the first phone number that comes to mind, but it could have been useful.
That’s because many credit cards offer a roadside assistance benefit that will help you get cost-effective assistance when needed.
Visa and Mastercard both have roadside assistance programs that are included with card membership for many popular credit cards.
But not everyone will have it. Much like cell phone protection or extended warranty programs, your card issuer ultimately determines whether the card in your wallet is eligible for these roadside programs.
In this article, I’ll explain what’s covered by major roadside assistance policies and explore which credit cards offer them.
Visa Ground Shipping
If you have a credit card with the Visa logo in your wallet, it most likely includes Visa Ground Shipping as part of its benefits package.
Visa describes Roadside Dispatch as a pay-per-use roadside assistance program. This means you don’t have to pay for an annual subscription or go through some sort of special sign-up process: just call the number provided and get help when you need it.
Call 1-800-847-2869 to access the 24-hour service. Visa’s Road Dispatch will ask where you are and what the problem is and schedule a tow operator or reliable locksmith to be dispatched.
The flat fee for this service was $69.95 per use in September 2022. There is no limit to the number of times you can access this perk.
For a fixed price per service call, the program offers:
- Standard towing (up to 5 miles included in base price)
- Tire change (you must have a good inflated spare tire)
- To start up
- Lockout service (no key replacement)
- Fuel delivery (up to 5 gallons plus cost of fuel)
- Standard winching
You may want read the fine print before using these services. It should be noted that you may incur charges in excess of $69.95 if you require services beyond the specifics listed above.
Popular cards that offer it
This Visa benefit is available on many popular credit cards. Here are some examples :
Again, you’ll want to check your card’s benefit guide to make sure it’s eligible for this benefit.
RoadAssist Mastercard Roadside Assistance Service
If you have a Mastercard in your wallet, you may also have access to roadside assistance as part of its Roadside assistance program, but it is not as uniform as the Visa program mentioned above.
The level of coverage you receive and the price you pay for services are determined by your card issuer’s agreement with Mastercard. It may also depend on whether your card is a Mastercard Platinum, World or World Elite card.
I was able to access the information provided to Chase Freedom FlexSM customers to provide an example of program details.
Sample program details
Call 1-800-627-8372 to access 24-hour roadside assistance. No membership or pre-registration is required.
The fee for this service was not listed in the card benefits, only an acknowledgment that the “pre-negotiated fee” would be automatically charged to the credit card when you use the service.
For this undisclosed pre-negotiated fee, the program offers you:
- To start up
- Standard towing
- Fuel delivery
- Tire change
The fine print of this program deserves a word of warning: “You are responsible for any emergency road service charges incurred by towing facilities responding to your shipment, even if you are not with your car (or if it has left) when the tow truck arrives. Chase is not responsible for the service provided by the towing facility. Towing facilities are independent contractors, solely responsible for their services.
Popular cards that offer it
Some Mastercard Platinum, World and World Elite credit cards offer some variations of this coverage. Here are some examples :
You’ll want to check your card’s benefit guide to make sure it’s eligible for this benefit.
Premium credit cards sometimes offer more
It’s rare, but some credit cards offer roadside assistance coverage beyond the benefits listed above. Cards that do, generally, are premium credit cards with high annual fees.
For example, in September 2022, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card offered an enhanced version of the Visa Roadside Advantage described above.
The cards benefits guide says it will cover up to $50 of the cost of each of four roadside service events per year for cardholders. It also shows that having the reserve will remove some restrictions like the five-mile limit that other Visa cardholders get on towing distance.
Keep in mind that the annual fee for this card is $550, so cardholders pay for the added benefits.
What about American Express and Discover?
American Express announced in January 2020 that it was eliminating its roadside assistance program as part of a broader overhaul of its credit card benefits strategy.
Instead, Amex users can find travel protectors which include Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance, Trip Delay Insurance, Baggage Insurance, and Trip Cancellation Insurance. The terms and availability of these benefits vary from card to card within the Amex ecosystem. You can find the perks for specific cards here.
Discover has also realigned its benefits for cardholders in recent years to move away from roadside assistance programs. Instead, Discover focuses on perks like online privacy, free FICO score access, and social security number monitoring.
A check of Explore the benefits database found the following explanation:
“At this time, we do not offer benefits such as purchase protection or travel insurance, including rental car insurance.”
When it comes to choosing the right credit card for your wallet, I recommend focusing on things like annual fees, interest rates, and shopping rewards programs before considering one. secondary benefit such as roadside assistance.
Before applying for a new credit card, be sure to check your existing cards to see if you already offer some sort of roadside assistance program.
If you can’t find one, and the new card you’re considering offers this perk, I’d classify it as a “nice to have” perk, but not a requirement.
Did you use a credit card roadside assistance program? We would love to hear about your experience within the Clark.com community!