Can you rent a car with a debit card?

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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.

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.

Higher rental car rewards program status

Just for having 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 give their highest points or miles per dollar rate on travel purchases, which include car rental purchases. Some credit cards where this is the case are the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card* and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card, which give 3 points per dollar on travel purchases. (Note that the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on travel spending after you earn an annual $300 travel credit.)

*The information related to the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

Best credit cards for car rentals

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum offers instant status in three rental car company reward programs and robust secondary car rental loss and damage insurance. 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 rental car insurance (meaning you will have to file a claim) including $5,000 if injured in an accident, up to $300,000 in death or dismemberment coverage, $1,000 per person to a max of $2,000 in lost or stolen property and $75,000 for theft or damage to the car.
  • Discounts and upgrades with Avis
  • Complimentary Executive Emerald Club membership with National
  • Free enrollment in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and one free car upgrade past intermediate class

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card is rare for offering primary rental car insurance coverage, it also comes with a $300 travel credit and you can earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases, including car rentals.

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

Wells Fargo Propel American Express card

This card gives you secondary car rental insurance and the same points per dollar on travel purchases as the Chase Sapphire Reserve with no annual fee.

  • 3X points on travel purchases (including car rentals), delivery and dining out
  • Secondary rental car insurance up to the actual cash value of the car for theft or collision damage
  • No annual fee

Additional reporting by Aaron Broverman.

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 ticketed return itinerary. 24 hours or more: Full refund minus $50 cancellation fee

Less than 24 hours: Full refund minus $100 cancellation fee

Enterprise Plus

Free to sign-up with Gold, Silver, PlatinumSilver: 10% bonus points, one free upgrade per year after 6 rentals.

Gold: 15% bonus points, 2 free upgrades per year after 12 rentals or 40 rental days.

Platinum: 20% bonus points, 4 free upgrades per year after 24 rentals or 85 rental days.

National Yes, but at airport locations, you must present ticketed return itinerary. 24 hours or more: Full refund minus $50 cancellation fee

Less than 24 hours: Full refund minus $100 cancellation fee

Emerald Club

Base: 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 6 rentals, pay mid-size rate when you rent full-size or above, guaranteed upgrades mid-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 5 rentals, guaranteed reservation with 24 hours’ notice, private airport delivery if arriving by private plane at 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

Credit card provided, not charged

Within 48 hours: $75

Budget Fastbreak

Free to sign up, choose your own car from the lot, various exclusive deals for members throughout the year

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 7 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 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

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: $50

Pre-paid within 24 hours: $100

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. Also 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 $1 point per dollar on rentals and earn a free weekday for 500 points or a free weekend day for 625 points. You can also skip the counter and get priority service at select locations, and add a spouse or partner as a driver for free.

Alamo Yes, but at airport locations, you must present ticketed return itinerary. More than 24 hours: $50*

Less than 24 hours: $100*

*(Alamo is waiving cancellation fees for rentals booked directly with Alamo due to start before Jan. 1, 2021.)

No fee for pay later reservations.

Alamo Insiders

5% 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

Earn 4 points per dollar, points go to supercertificates with retail partners or Fox Bucks toward 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 stored and prepopulated at PaylessCar.com