Q: Is renting a car without a credit card possible? All I have is debit.
A: Is it possible? However, it’s not nearly as simple as when using a credit card. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on attempting it…
Why don’t car rental companies accept debit cards?
You would think that as long as they are getting paid, they wouldn’t care the method used, right? Well unfortunately they take a different mindset. It basically comes down to managing their risk of not getting paid if unforeseen things happen while the car is in your possession.
According to Thrifty’s website “Renting a car to someone with no credit card is risky for rental car companies. Not having a credit card is a red flag that you may be a credit risk.”
Other companies may not be so blunt in telling you this, but you can bet their mindset is the same as Thrifty’s.
Another reason that a car rental without a credit card is so difficult, I suspect, is because they want the assurance they will be able to charge you for extra costs after you turn in your vehicle – i.e. gas charges, smoking fees, vehicle damage, and so forth. If you paid with a debit card those charges (if applicable) might bounce if there isn’t enough money in your checking account. On the other hand, with a credit card, they’re far more likely to go through unless of course the credit limit has been maxed out. Prepaid debit cards can sometimes be better than ones tied to a traditional checking account in these situations, since any funds loaded on the card are less likely to disappear compared to funds in a checking account. So, if you have a sufficient amount loaded on a prepaid debit card, such as $1,500 or more, you’re probably fine in terms of being able to rent a car, assuming the rental company in question doesn’t have a policy against debit cards. Credit cards offer a credit line that can be temporarily “blocked out” by the car rental company until the charges are finally settled – this protects them (and other types of merchants that don’t know your final bill at the time they take your card information (like hotels and pay at the pump gas stations).
How to rent a car without a credit card?
The exact requirements will vary by company and location, but don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide any of the following:
- A credit check. Keep in mind that credit checks (not including those done by yourself) can have an adverse affect on your credit score. Too many will hurt you. This is why you want to save them for when you actually need them – applying for a loan, mortgage, credit card, etc. In my personal opinion, exposing yourself to a credit check just to rent a car is a bad idea.
- A security deposit charged to your debit card of probably at least $200, but it may be as much as $500.
- Insurance through car rental company. If you already have full coverage on your own car, odds are it probably covers you in rentals too. Regardless, to rent a car without a credit card, you may be required to purchase the rental company’s insurance coverage – that can increase the cost of your rental by as much as 35% to 70%.
- Extra proof of identity. I have heard stories of people being asked for utility bills, airline tickets and even pay stubs to prove their identity and their ability to pay.
- Additional restrictions. There could be other stipulations, such as age requirements, vehicle exlusions, and having to stay in-state.
Want an example for all of the above? When my car was in the shop last, I got a rental through Budget. Take a look at this notice which was posted on the counter. Sorry for the poor quality pic, as I snapped it with my phone…
Car rental companies that don’t require a credit card?
There is no simple answer, because even among the same company, the policies can vary based on location.
Thrifty mentioned on their website that they accept rentals at some locations with a credit check, deposit and additional restrictions. I have also heard that Hertz, Enterprise, and Budget don’t require a credit card at every location, if you are willing to endure some of the stipulations mentioned above. Call around to see if the company and location you’re interested in accepts debit cards.
If you don’t have a debit card or don’t wish to use one, then there is only one company that I know of that will accept cash; Rent-A-Wreck. I’ve actually rented from them once before (but using a credit card) when my car with in the shop and I didn’t have rental coverage on my insurance policy. As their name implies, their cars are absolute junk (mine was an old beat-up Hyundai) but if you need a car rental without a credit card, then they are probably your only option. On the plus side you don’t have to worry about getting a door ding in the parking lot when renting from these guys. As long as you don’t totally smash the car up or set it on fire you should be good.
If you don’t like credit cards for whatever reason, then you may want to consider a charge card. They are a little bit different than a credit card, because you have to pay the bill in full each month. However unlike a debit card, charge cards have rewards, benefits – and yes – you can even use them to rent a car. The only down side to having a charge card is that they typically charge an annual fee. It’s not that the card issuers are greedy in this case. It’s really the only way they can make money, since there are no interest charges. Here’s a list of the best charge cards on the market.
Last edited on April 11, 2016