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Can you rent a car with a debit card?

Man renting a car at Hertz
Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

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The short answer is yes, you can rent a car with a debit card.

Major rental car companies—including Avis, Budget, Enterprise and Hertz—all permit rentals on a debit card. But it’s important to read the fine print. While most companies accept debit cards, they look for specific types of cards and require you to take additional steps that can make the process more time-consuming.

However, travel credit cards can make travel more convenient and affordable by offering travel rewards and insurance benefits—and some cards are particularly useful for rental car insurance.

Let’s take a look at what the process to rent a car with a debit or credit card looks like.

What’s the matter with debit cards?

When customers rent a car with a debit card, the rental company assumes added risk. Remember, debit cards require the cardholder to be present to enter their PIN number to make charges, while a credit card can be billed without the holder being present.

A renter could return a car with small dings that the insurance policy won’t cover, or the customer could incur parking fines, toll fees or other expenses. If the rental car company has no customer credit card to bill, it might have to swallow those costs. What’s more, if you don’t have a credit card, it signals to rental companies that you could be a credit risk.

Extra steps to rent a car with a debit card

Rules about renting a car with a debit card vary not only by company but by location. For instance, Budget says that some of its offices allow debit cards, while others accept them only to settle a bill at return time, not at pick-up. It’s a good idea to call the specific rental office where you plan to pick up your car to ask about its policy.

No matter where you rent with a debit card, expect to comply with one or more of the following requirements:

  • Provide a bank-issued debit card with a Visa, Mastercard or Discover logo. Rental car companies are unlikely to accept prepaid cards.
  • Pony up a deposit. If you pay with a debit card, you’ll be charged an additional deposit on top of the rental fee when you pick up your car. Typically, this involves placing a hold of $200 or more on the account tied to your card.
  • Provide extra identification. You may have to present multiple forms of I.D. in addition to your driver’s license—such as a passport or a utility bill.
  • Offer proof of insurance. While credit cards typically provide some insurance coverage for a rental car, debit cards do not. That means you may have to show that you have sufficient coverage or purchase more from the rental company.
  • Undergo a credit check. Some rental car companies will run a credit check before allowing you to rent with a debit card. If your score is low, the company may refuse to rent to you. Keep in mind, too, that a credit check may lower your credit score by five points or so.
  • Show a return ticket. Some rental companies at airport locations require proof of your return travel plans.

There may be restrictions

Even after jumping through all the hoops to rent with a debit card, you may face other restrictions as well. For instance, you may have to be 25 or older to rent with a debit card. If you use a credit card, most car companies will rent to you if you are 21 to 24, as long as you pay an additional “young driver” fee.

There may be restrictions about where you can take the car, too—such as not traveling out of state. Finally, certain cars may be off-limits. That Tesla or Porsche you were hoping to drive? Sorry, you’ll likely need a credit card to roll off the lot with high-end wheels.

Why renting a car with a credit card is better

Better rental car insurance

If you turn down the collision damage waiver provided by the rental car company, certain credit cards can provide more rental car insurance with fewer exclusions. Additionally, there are more covered circumstances than the rental car company will provide, including theft, damage, injury and potential loss of life. Credit cards often feature higher coverage amounts than the rental company as well.

So, the only thing left to emphasize here is the difference between primary and secondary coverage. Most credit cards offer secondary insurance for rentals cars, which means if you find yourself in a fender bender, you will have to file a claim with your own insurance first.

The secondary coverage offered through your credit card will pay only the amount not covered by the policy you already have.Primary coverage on the other hand means it applies first. If you get into an accident, you can start the process of filing a claim by calling your credit card issuer immediately.

Higher rental car rewards program status

When you have a certain credit card in your pocket, you may be able to jump tiers in certain car rental company reward programs. This gives you more perks and discounts than other customers without having to spend the money or rent the requisite number of times to earn them.

For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers exclusive benefits like class upgrades to cardholders who rent from Avis and a four-hour grace period on rental returns with Hertz. It also gives you automatic Emerald Club Executive status at National.

More reward points or miles for travel purchases

Many credit card loyalty programs award their highest points or miles per dollar rate to travel purchases, which include car rental purchases. Standouts include the  Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, which both allow cardholders to earn 10 points per dollar on car rentals and hotels when booked through the issuer’s portal. (Note that the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 10X points on travel spending after you earn an annual $300 travel credit.)

Best credit cards for car rentals

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a solid choice when it comes to securing a car rental with a credit card, because it is one of the best cards for travel insurance and luxury benefits. While the Sapphire Reserve comes with a hefty $550 annual fee, its benefits are geared toward travel, making this card well worth the cost when used strategically.

Not only does it provide rental discounts and primary rental car coverage for theft or collision, but cardholder’s earn a boosted rewards rate when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can earn 10X total points on car rentals and hotel stays through Ultimate Rewards, and 5X points on air travel. It also comes with a flexible $300 annual travel purchase statement credit.

  • Up to $75,000 in primary car rental insurance for collision damage or theft in North America and abroad
  • Enjoy discounted rates with National Car Rental, Avis and Silvercar
  • Statement credit up to $300 for travel purchases
  • 3X points on travel and dining (after earning your $300 travel credit)
  • 50 percent more value on travel redemption (including car rentals) through Chase Ultimate Rewards. (50,000 points = $750)

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers primary auto rental coverage for damage and collision much like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but with a significantly lower annual fee at $95. Coverage is good for rental periods of up to 31 days.

This card is one of the best beginner travel credit cards on the market due to its low annual fee, cardholder benefits and rewards, and various travel protections. Cardholder’s earn a 25 percent points-value boost by redeeming points for travel via the Chase portal—including car rentals, plane tickets, hotels and cruise vacations.

  • Primary collision damage waiver, which covers theft and collision damage for up to the cash value of the car being rented
  • 25 percent value boost to points redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express offers robust car rental loss and damage insurance along with complimentary premium car rental program membership benefits. Cardholder’s earn 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year). It also offers up to $200 in Uber credits to get you back home or drive you to a far-away parking lot for your own car and has no foreign transaction fees.

  • Secondary auto rental coverage (meaning you will have to file a claim) including up to $75,000 on rental periods of 3o consecutive days or less
  • 2X points on prepaid car rentals through American Express Travel capped at $500,000 per calendar year
  • Enhanced benefits with Avis, Hertz and National

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit card is Capital One’s newest travel card, and it offers a plethora of great perks for frequent travelers including 10X miles on car rentals and hotels when booked through Capital One Travel. Additionally, the Venture X offers cardholder’s auto rental collision damage waiver coverage for eligible rental vehicle theft and loss: up to the vehicle’s actual cash value of $75,000.

  • Primary rental car protections against theft or collision
  • 10X miles on car rentals and hotels when booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn up to $300 in annual statement credits for Capital One travel purchases

Rental car companies at a glance

Rental car company Accepts debit cards? Cancellation policy Rewards program
Enterprise Yes, but at airport locations, you must present a ticketed return travel itinerary.
  • 24 hours or more; Full refund minus $50 cancellation fee.
  • Less than 24 hours notice; Full refund minus $100 cancellation fee.

 

  • Enterprise Plus: 0-5 qualifying rentals needed and membership is free. Plus, with every qualifying rental, you will earn points and elite status.
  • Silver: 10 percent bonus points, one free upgrade per year after 6 rentals.
  • Gold: 15 percent bonus points, 2 free upgrades per year after 12 rentals or 40 rental days.
  • Platinum: 20 percent bonus points, 4 free upgrades per year after 24 rentals or 85 rentals days.
National Yes, but at airport locations, you must present a ticketed return travel itinerary.
  • 24 hours or more; Full refund minus $50 cancellation fee.
  • Less than 24 hours notice; Full refund minus $100 cancellation fee.
  • Emerald Club: Choose any car at midsize or above, choose either free rental days or points/rentals in favorite frequent travel program and other perks when renting internationally.
  • Emerald Executive: Free rental day after six rentals, pay mid-size rate when you rent full-size or above, exclusive pricing when you upgrade to premier selection after 12 paid rentals or 40 rental days.
  • Executive Elite: Free rental days after five rentals, guaranteed reservation with 24 hours’ notice, private airport delivery if arriving by private plane at a small airport in North America after 25 rentals or 85 rental days.
Budget Yes, but some locations only accept them at the time of payment (not at the time of reservation).
  • Pre-paid cancellation prior to 24 hours: $50
  • Within 24 hours: $150
  • If you provided a Credit card but not charged ahead of time: You may cancel up to 48 hours in advance without penalty or face a $75 fee
  • Budget Fastbreak: Free to sign-up, choose your own car from the lot, various exclusive deals for members throughout the year including $25 Budget Bucks after renting twice through December 31, 2022.
Hertz Yes, but at airport locations, you must present return travel itinerary. At other locations, debit cards may be used at the start of the rental (though this is not available at some branches).
  • Pre-paid 24 hours or more: $100
  • Pre-paid within 24 hours: $200
  • No show: Full pre-paid amount
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (Gold): 1 point per dollar, choose your own car, free additional driver, 5-star rental benefits for a day after seven rentals.
  • Five Star: 1.25 points per dollar, access to a wider range of cars, one class car upgrade based on availability, President’s Circle benefits for a day after 15 rentals (access after 12 rentals or spending $2,400).
  • President’s Circle: 1.5 points per dollar, guaranteed one class upgrade, access to a wider range of cars than Gold or 5-Star, dedicated phone number for members (access after 20 rentals or spending $4,000).
Avis Yes, at most U.S. locations (not all types of vehicles are available to rent with debit).
  • Pre-paid prior to 24 hours: $50
  • Pre-paid within 24 hours: $150
  • No-show: entire pre-paid amount
  • Avis Preferred Program (Avis Preferred Basic): Skip the line at most locations
  • Avis Preferred Plus: Preferred benefits plus 1.25 points per dollar earned on rental and 2.5 points on optional products, after 12 rentals or $5,000 spent. After 25 rentals or spending $7,000 earn 1.5 points per dollar on rentals and 3 points on optional products. Gain access to upgrades (based on availability) and dedicated phone line.
  • President’s Club: Invite-only, automatic double upgrade for intermediate or higher, guaranteed car, 50 percent more points per dollar. 24/7 assistance.
Dollar Yes, though some debit card rentals (made less than 24 hours before the rental or for a luxury vehicle) may require two forms of ID and a return itinerary.
  • Pre-paid prior to 24 hours: $100
  • Pre-paid within 24 hours: $200
  • No-show: Entire rental amount
  • Dollar Express Rewards: One point per dollar on qualifying North American rentals
  • Free rentals for 500 points on weekends and 625 for weekdays
  • Earn priority service, skip the counter, ability to add a spouse or partner as a driver for free
Thrifty Yes, though some debit card rentals (made less than 24 hours before the rental or for a luxury vehicle) may require two forms of ID and a return itinerary.
  • Pre-paid prior to 24 hours: $50
  • Pre-paid within 24 hours: $100
  • No-show: Entire rental amount
  • Blue Chip Rewards: Earn 15 percent off the base rate of rental vehicles.
  • Skip the counter and get priority service at select locations, and add a spouse or partner as a driver for free.
  • E-Return (drop the keys and go).
Alamo Yes, but at airport locations, you must present ticketed return itinerary.
  • More than 24 hours: $50*
  • Less than 24 hours: $100*
  • No fee for pay later reservations
  • Alamo Insiders: 5 percent discount in North America, Caribbean and Latin America and earn points from hotel and airline loyalty program partners
Fox Yes, under certain conditions.
  • All Fox prepaid rentals are non-refundable and the full rental amount is forfeited.
  • No fee for pay later reservations.

 

  • Fox Rewards: 4 points per dollar; redeemable towards gift cards with retail partners 0r future car rentals
Payless Yes, for most types of vehicles. A return itinerary may be required at airport locations.
  • 48 hours or more: $50
  • Less than 48 hours or no-show: entire amount forfeited
  • No fee for pay later reservations
  • Payless Perks Club: Discounts on pre-paid reservations, exclusive offers and promotions for members, booking credentials stores and prepopulated at PaylessCar.com
Written by
Aaron Broverman
Personal Finance Writer
Aaron Broverman has been covering personal finance for over a decade for Bankrate and Creditcards.com, starting with its former sister site Creditcards.com Canada. His personal finance work has also appeared on Yahoo and Money Under 30.
Edited by
Associate Editor