Car rental companies tend to be cautious about lending out assets worth tens of thousands of dollars each, so they traditionally require a credit card to rent a car. But it’s now easier to rent a car using a debit card, too—albeit with more restrictions. Here’s a look at your options.
Usually both credit card or debit payments require a deposit or “hold” that covers more than what the rental will cost, typically between $200 and $300. This allows car rental companies to cover extra charges like traffic violations or gas usage, which can crop up after you’ve dropped off the car.
Rental car companies prefer to be paid with a credit card, as it reassures them that you’re a real person with a credit score high enough to be trusted with unsecured credit. Since it’s easier to qualify for checking accounts, as they don’t require any information about your credit history, car rental companies might have the following requirements or restrictions:
- You will need to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance.
- You’ll have to provide extra identification to prove your identity and address, such as a passport, military identification card, bank statement, pay stub, or utility bill.
- Only the most trusted bank-issued debit cards can be used (typically any card with a MasterCard or Visa logo on it) and it can’t be a prepaid card.
- You must be 25 or older, and locations that allow for debit card rentals vary.
- Your selection of cars will be limited—don’t expect to rent a luxury car without a credit card.
- You’ll have to buy rental insurance or prove that you already have your own (unlike debit cards, credit cards usually include auto insurance coverage).
- If you’re traveling in another state, you might also have to include proof of a return travel ticket, as well.
- A credit check may be required to determine your credit worthiness.
The last item, a credit check, will be what’s known as a hard inquiry on your credit history. A hard inquiry hurts your credit score by five points and remains on your credit reports for about 24 months, according to Experian. If you’re planning to apply for loans or credit cards during that time, you might want to use a credit card if you have one to ensure that you qualify for the best possible interest rates (which is based on your credit score). Not all companies will require a credit check, but it’s a possibility.
Also, if using a debit card, the deposit amount in an authorization will come straight from your bank account, so be aware that it can tie up money you might need for days.
While it’s generally more convenient to rent a car using a credit card, debit cards are increasingly an option. The following companies will allow you to rent a car with a debit card: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Sixt, and Thrifty. Note that while these companies allow for debit card payment, it’s not consistent across all car rental branches, so make sure you check with your local branch before going to rent.