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Can You Get a Rental Car Without a Credit Card?

Feb. 12, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Once upon a time, it was impossible to rent a car without a credit card. Fortunately, rental companies have done some thinking, and they agree that they would really like your money, even if that means accepting a debit card. But still, you may run into some difficulty trying to get a rental car without a credit card. Why? For one, rental companies view customers with no credit as inherently risky. Plus, car rental companies love to charge ancillary fees for things like vehicle damage and gas charges. They don’t want your checking account running out of funds and bouncing.

To protect themselves from unnecessary losses, rental companies commonly impose restrictions on debit card payments. If you can’t or don’t want to pay with a credit card, we’ll walk you through a few of the obstacles and stipulations you may encounter when renting with debit.

Call around. Every car rental company has its own unique set of rules. Don’t assume that one company’s policy will be representative of another’s. Call around until you find a place with reasonable rates and restrictions.

Expect limited card options. Just because a company accepts debit cards doesn’t mean it’ll accept your debit card. Before you decide on a company, ask whether your particular card is an acceptable form of payment. Usually, a Visa or MasterCard logo is absolutely necessary. Your card will also probably need to be linked to a bank account. Prepaid debit cards are generally not accepted.

» MORE: Rental Car Insurance: Which Credit Cards Have You Covered

Be ready to pay a deposit. When you check out, the company will almost definitely put a hold on your card for a few hundred bucks on top of the rental fee. This is to cover any ancillary fees you might incur. If you don’t have to pay any fees, they will refund the full amount of the deposit when you return the car. Make sure you have enough money in your account to handle the deposit.

They will check your credit. If you’re renting without a credit card, the company will check your credit. In case of catastrophe, they want to know you can pay the damages. If you have decent credit, this isn’t a big deal, but expect your credit score to drop a few points. Your score is dinged every time someone makes an inquiry, including car rental services.

Don’t expect a luxury vehicle. Your vehicle options will be limited. Again, the company wants to reduce risk associated with renting to debit users. You’ll probably only be eligible for something relatively small and cheap.

You’ll do some waiting. Paying with a debit card tends to be a lengthier process. They need to check your credit, verify your identification, check your insurance and will sometimes even call your bank. Expect to be treated like a second-class customer.

Ask about insurance requirements. Your car insurance may cover rentals, but if you’re paying with a debit card, you may be required to purchase insurance from the rental company. The cost can be enormous. Always ask about this during the initial phone call. You don’t want any nasty surprises at the checkout desk.

Bring plenty of identification. You may be required to present additional identification when paying with a debit card. Make sure you prepare your documents in advance. This could mean presenting a travel itinerary or utility bill.

There you go! Now you know what it takes to rent a car without a credit card. Though, you really may want to consider a nice travel credit card so you can earn flights and hotel stays with these kinds of expenditures.

Car keys image courtesy of Shutterstock