Is a car rental without a credit card possible?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

Q: Is renting a car without a credit card possible? All I have is debit.

A: Is it possible? Yes. Is it easy to do? Definitely not! Here’s what you need to know if you plan on attempting it…

Why don’t car rental companies accept debit cards?

car rental sign at airportYou 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.

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.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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%.
  • 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…

rental policy for debit card

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.

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.


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

17 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. novacaine May 8, 2014 at 3:15PM

    ive rented with enterprise for years with a debit card and im a plus member. but now they require a utility bill with no past dues on it and a drivers license with your current address on file. i do not live at that address anymore so thats a huge inconvenience to me. they have lost my business as a result.

  2. KJ May 1, 2014 at 2:14PM

    I rent from Thrifty all the time, 2 weeks or more at a time, for the past 2 years, we just went to SC for 2 weeks they gave us an awesome SUV that was just amazingly comfy. Well we go back to get a car we put on hold for Easter, gave them our debit card we have used for the past 2 years, they know us in there, and they told us no we could not have the car this time, they did a soft credit check and they have to decline us at this time, but we can try again in 90 days and we should be able to get one then … 90 days Easter will be over and our family plans will be different. So I do not under stand these soft Credit checks why they do them, its sill they are getting their money, We will no longer rent from Thrifty after 2 years of using them, its sad they lose good paying customers ….

  3. Emile Tuter March 22, 2014 at 5:38PM

    To all those who have nothing to contribute but shout at the post, i have a quote for you from Denis Thatcher: “Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”

    • Lori May 9, 2014 at 4:10AM

      Really! Listen to your own advise!

  4. Cat March 12, 2014 at 7:03PM

    Enterprise at SFO rents out with a debit card and bad credit. No problem.

  5. Egypt March 9, 2014 at 1:04AM

    Sounds familiar, last year I rented a truck from Dollar rental car company with my debit card, but when I went in a few weeks ago to rent a car, they told me they don’t accept debit cards. Same place, same card.

  6. disappointed March 7, 2014 at 12:43PM

    Enterprise is prolly the best with just a debit card..they all will require a security dep without a major cc. They only verify your address…. rent a wreck..ah, dont waste ur time, they want 300$ deposit & proof that you have collision on your car & wont let you rent/pay for less than three days…what a joke, guess id rather hitchhike

  7. Ruslan February 20, 2014 at 9:28AM

    Last August I rented car with Thrifty in Milwaukee, WI (Milwaukee International Airport)with debit card issued outside of the USA. Everything was just fine: nice staff, they did not impose any extra services, new car, etc. Next time I decided to continue my relationship with Thrifty and just recently tried to rent a car in Chicago, IL (O’Hare International Airport). The experience was totally different. A Thrifty guy started to impose extra unnecessary things. Then he denied my debit card (exactly the same card I used in Milwaukee), I offered to pay with cash and he told me NO. But there was another company FireFly and they accepted my credit card. They charged for the car plus blocked $200 as security deposit. By the way, the car was pretty new, Mazda3.

  8. AJ December 27, 2013 at 1:21PM

    Alamo and National will allow rentals with a debit card with proof of a return ticket (i.e. airline, train). They only charge for the rental, no security deposit necessary.

  9. Rob Gillespie November 28, 2013 at 3:47AM

    Hi Alyssa, from what i was told its not actually a credit check more of an address check, similar to what a landlord would do, so this should have no bearing on your credit history.

  10. Frequent Traveler July 22, 2013 at 10:49AM

    I just recently rented a car from Budget in Maine. I used my debit card and they did inform me that they were going to run a soft credit check on me. They also told me that they would put a hold on my account for the estimated charges for the car ($492) plus a $200 deposit. I was in and out with my rental car in no time. My bank did not put a hold on my account for the two weeks I was there and I have less than perfect credit..so if they rented the car to me, then I don’t think anyone else should be worried.

    • paul April 7, 2014 at 8:06AM

      my credit score is around 600. should I be worried

  11. Alyssa Clay July 3, 2013 at 10:20PM

    what I dont understand is I was denied by credit check at thrifty, but they never even asked me if they could check my credit. I never authorized the credit check and now being denied gives me a ding on my credit report. It’s not fair.

  12. Larry Stevens January 14, 2013 at 11:07PM
  13. tina December 31, 2012 at 8:25PM

    Dollar Rent-A-Car at La Brea and Olympic in Los Angeles rents out cars with out credit cards or credit checks. (323) 933-4949.

    • BG October 20, 2012 at 6:32PM

      Enterprise will rent a car without a credit check in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio branch locations. This does not apply to the Cleveland Hopkins Airport location. The branch offices have limited hours of service. As far as I know, all of them are open until noon on Saturday and are NOT open on Sunday. They do require a deposit, one or two utility bills, and proof of car insurance. Also, car rental prices can be significantly different from one location to another.

    • amanda April 15, 2013 at 1:22PM

      I went to Dollar rent at car in December and I was denied because I didn’t have a credit card. I offered to pay with cash and they told me no. That they don’t accept cash.

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