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HomeCredit CardsHow To Rent a Car If You Don't Have a Credit Card

How To Rent a Car If You Don’t Have a Credit Card

You can rent a car using a debit card, but the process is different than when using a credit card.

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If you need to rent a car but don’t have a credit card or prefer other payment methods, you are in luck. Most car rental companies allow customers to reserve a rental car using a debit card. The rental process, though, is a bit more involved than when using a credit card and could mean more time spent in the car rental office before hitting the road. That’s because rental companies take more risk when accepting debit card payment types. They put stiffer policies in place for renters using a debit card as payment in order to protect themselves. 

Here’s a look at how to rent a car without a credit card, car rental companies that accept debit cards and other relevant details you need to know for your next car rental. 

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Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car? 

father and son high five in a car
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You don’t need a credit card to rent a car with most car rental companies. While many car rental companies may prefer credit card payments, they will allow other payments in many situations, including debit cards, cash, and money orders.  

Why do rental companies prefer credit card payments? Accidents happen, and there’s not much that rental companies can do to prevent them once you leave the rental lot. The same goes for when customers run up charges on the rental, like tolls. If you used a credit card for payment, the car rental company could charge your card for damages and other expenses without you being present. 

Debit cards work differently. For a rental company to run your card for extra charges, you need to be present and enter a pin number. Essentially, credit card payments provide more protection for car rental companies and allow them to cover expenses incurred by rental car drivers. 

How To Rent a Car Without Using a Credit Card

Renting a car with a debit card is more complicated than using a credit card and requires a few extra steps in most cases. The process varies depending on the rental company or the specific location. 

  1. Research companies that allow debit cards for car rentals. Every company has a different policy, so do your research and ask beforehand if you can pay with a debit card instead of a credit card.
  2. Make sure your bank account has enough cash. You should expect to pay a deposit in addition to the full cost of the car rental. There may also be holds placed on your account for a period of time, so don’t go spending all of your money once you get your vehicle or you may risk paying for overdraft fees. 
  3. Bring your driver’s license. This may be obvious, but make sure you have a valid driver’s license when you rent a car. You may also be required to meet the minimum age requirements, which is usually 21 years old. Otherwise, you may need to put down a deposit if you are under the age limit. 
  4. Complete travel requirements. Some companies may perform a credit check and ask you to provide proof of return travel such as a boarding pass or itinerary if you are using a debit card. 
  5. Obtain your vehicle and drive safely. Once you’ve completed all the necessary requirements, drive safely on the roads and make sure that you return the vehicle in the same condition that you left with it. 

Keep in mind that airport locations may differ from other rental company locations due to the type of customer base they work with typically. Policies can also vary depending on whether you are local, from out of state or an international customer. 

What To Know When Renting a Vehicle with a Debit Card

couple loading suitcases into car at airport
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Here are some additional things you may need to know about the car rental process and what rentals may ask from you when using a debit card to reserve your vehicle.  

  • Trip Disclosure: Rental companies may ask you to disclose travel plans when using a debit card for payment, especially at airport rental locations. For example, you may be asked to provide proof of ticketed return travel itinerary at all airport locations when using a debit card.
  • Deposit: One of the primary ways rental companies reduce risk is by requiring renters to pay a deposit when using debit cards or cash. The car’s value is more than they would charge for a deposit, but charging a deposit creates more incentive for the renter to use precaution when driving. Barring any red flags during the return inspection, you should receive your deposit after assessing the final charges. 
  • Credit Check: Car companies may also run a credit check to verify your financial background. They use your creditworthiness to assess whether a customer is a rental risk.
  • Additional Forms of Identification: Some car rental airport locations require two forms of identification when paying with a debit card. In addition to a driver’s license or other government-issued ID, you’ll need a credit or debit card, military ID, passport, a company ID badge or other select non-government issued IDs. Also, the name on your secondary identification must match your driver’s license. 
  • Car Dropoff Policies May Vary:  Select car rental locations only accept debit cards for payments made when returning the car. If you need to pay charges upfront, you’ll need to use a credit card.
  • Car Type Restrictions: Some car rental companies restrict the type of vehicle you can rent using a debit card. For example, premium or luxury vehicle rentals may require a credit card to reserve. 
  • Age Restrictions: Most car companies restrict renters under 25 years of age from using a debit card.
  • Holds on Your Bank Account: When using a debit card, the car rental company places a hold on your account for the estimated rental amount. The funds won’t be accessible during your rental. The hold is released when you return the vehicle, although it could take a few days for your bank to lift it. Make sure you have enough funds in your account to cover the rental cost and any other expenses during the rental period. You, not the rental company, are responsible for any charges levied by your bank if you overdraft. 

Another thing to note is some car rental companies restrict the type of debit card you can use to rent a car. Some car rentals, for example, only allow debit cards with the Mastercard or Visa logo on them. That probably covers a large range of the debit cards out there but may exclude some. 

Car Rental Companies That Accept Debit Cards

While they don’t come out and say it, rental car companies prefer credit cards to other forms of payment. You can see that clearly when comparing rental policies using a credit card versus a debit card. That said, most of the prominent car rental companies accept debit cards. 

Here’s a look at a few companies that may allow you to book a rental car with a debit card. 

Policies can change and vary greatly between each company. Often it’s the local rental office that sets these policies. Contact your car rental company to confirm that they accept debit card payment before booking a rental.

Can You Pay for a Rental Car In Cash? 

Are you out of luck renting a car if you don’t have a credit or debit card? Not at all. Many car rental companies accept cash payments to secure a rental car. In some cases, you can even pay with a money order. If you thought using a debit card to rent a car was complicated, it’s more so when using cash. 

If you are paying for a rental car with cash, typically, you’ll need to provide a sizable deposit upfront in addition to the rental fees. You may still need some type of payment card, though. Budget, for example, lets customers pay in cash but must provide a deposit using a credit or debit card. So, in some cases, you’ll still need access to a credit or debit card even if you’re paying cash. 

For example, renting a car using cash at Enterprise is very involved. To do so, customers need to provide:

  • Current utility bills
  • Most recent paycheck stub
  • A cash deposit and the entire rental cost upfront
  • Proof of insurance
  • Personal references

Other car rental companies, like Hertz and Thrifty, allow cash payments, but only for customers with a cash deposit identification card. Receiving a cash deposit ID card requires submitting an application and paying a processing fee. Don’t wait until your rental date to apply if you plan to use cash. The process includes a credit check and may take up to 30 days to complete. Once approved, you can rent a car through those rental companies with an upfront cash deposit. 

Should You Use a Debit Card to Rent a Car?

woman paying online with credit card
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If you’re ok with the extra steps involved, you do have the option of renting a car using a debit card or cash. However, using a debit card could leave customers missing out on valuable benefits and protections when paying with a credit card.

Credit cards typically offer better fraud protection. You can also dispute charges later through a credit card issuer if you run into any complications or were mistreated by a rental company. Some credit cards also come with primary or secondary car rental insurance coverage. To access this coverage, use your credit card for payment and decline the rental company’s insurance when offered. 

One of the more enticing benefits to using a credit card is the rewards you earn when you rent a car. You’ll earn points or miles for spending with the rental company, which you can redeem for many other perks. While you can use a debit card to rent a car, you may be leaving a lot of value on the table. 

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Kevin Payne
Kevin Payne
Kevin Payne is a personal finance, credit card, and travel writer. He is the family travel and budget expert behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife and four kids. His work has appeared on several websites, including FinanceBuzz, Credit Karma, Millennial Money, Club Thrifty, Student Loan Planner and Slickdeals.

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