Are you planning on renting a car in the near future? Whether you're making a reservation online or renting in person at the counter, the easiest way to pay is usually with a credit card.
But what if you don't a credit card? Can you rent a car with a debit card?
The short answer is: It depends. Learn what happens when you rent a car with a debit card.
Why Rental Car Companies Avoid Debit Cards
Many rental car companies prefer not to let customers use debit cards because it increases the risk they take on when renting to you.
Unlike a credit card, a debit card only has as much money on it as you put in your bank account. If you cause serious damage to the rental car and the charge is declined, the rental car company will be on the hook for the difference.
In addition, some debit cards require you to enter your pin each time a charge is made, which can lead to problems if you skip town after you return your rental car.
Having a credit card also shows the rental car company that a financial institution trusted you enough to extend you a line of credit, which makes you a safer risk for renting a car.
Extra Requirements for Renting a Car With a Debit Card
Because of the extra risk involved in allowing you to rent a car with a debit card, most car rental companies will add additional requirements or deposits if they allow you to do so.
Debit Card Hold
If you use a debit card, many rental car companies will put a hold or a block on your card of several hundred dollars. This protects them, ensuring that the money is available if necessary.
However, a hold means you cannot spend that money out of your checking account until the hold is lifted. Before renting with a debit card, you'll want to be sure you have enough money in your checking account to cover the cost of your travel plus any hold on your funds.
Rental car companies bank on your ability to repay your bills, and that includes any damage you might cause to the vehicle they are loaning you. A credit check might be required before you are allowed to rent with a debit card.
If your score is too low, you might not be able to rent the car. Remember, credit checks can lower your credit score, so it pays to ask the rental company in advance whether or not they run credit checks for debit card transactions.
Confirm Your Travel Plans
If you are renting a car at an airport location, you might have to show the rental car company your return ticket. This provides confirmation that you will return the car by a certain time.
Rental companies will breathe a little easier if you have ample personal car insurance. Remember, while credit cards typically cover damage to rental vehicles, debit cards do not, so you might want (or be required) to purchase additional coverage.
Bring Extra ID
You may need to show a passport or proof of residence (such as a cellphone or internet bill) before you’re allowed to rent.
Are There Restrictions When I Rent With a Debit Card?
Whether or not there are restrictions on your rental for using a debit card depends on the rental car company and location. Make sure you check the website of the specific location you’re headed to, not just the national site, so there are no surprises.
You probably won’t be able to rent a luxury vehicle using a debit card, and it is unlikely that you will be allowed to drive the rental car out of state.
You will probably also need to be 25 or older. Though some companies allow those between ages 21 and 24 to rent a vehicle if they pay an additional young driver fee, that is not likely to be an option for debit card renters due to the increased risk.
Where to Rent a Car With a Debit Card
Some major rental companies will allow debit card rentals at select locations, including:
Not every location these companies own will allow rentals with debit cards, and the additional requirements you'll have to meet will vary by company. To avoid surprises, call ahead to confirm the rules and procedures for renting a car with a debit card.
The Bottom Line
Using a credit card to rent a car will save you time, money, and hassle. But if you can’t get a credit card, you can still use a debit card to rent a car. Be prepared to take additional steps, review any restrictions, and check with the rental company.