Renting a car without a credit card

DaniloAndjus/Getty Images

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

Every rental car company has its own policy regarding reservation and method of payment – but the idea that you can’t rent a car without a credit card is a myth.

What’s true, however, is that the process of renting a car without a credit card may be more difficult. So, if you’re up in the air about whether to use a credit or debit card for payment, here’s what you can expect from both.

The case for renting a car with a debit card

Depending on your circumstances, renting with a debit card may be the only realistic option. It’s great to have the option available, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when considering renting with a credit card versus a debit card.

The major benefit of using a debit card for your rental is the price you’re quoted is the price you’ll pay. You’ll have no added interest expenses over time, like you would with credit cards. Some rental companies, like Thrifty, work to make the rental process as straightforward as possible, whether you use a debit or credit card.

Checklist for renting with a debit card

1. Start with research

Not all rental car companies allow you to use a debit card – so it helps to find out which ones you can work with ahead of time. Most companies will ask for additional background information when paying with a debit card, such as proof of car insurance, recent bank statements and even pay stubs.

Keep in mind that some rental companies may limit your vehicle selection when you pay with a debit card. So be sure to ask if this applies — unless you’re okay with being stuck with a two-door sedan.

2. Update your forms of ID

Rental car companies operate under different standards. Whether you have a credit card or not, the majority won’t rent a car to you if you’re under 25. Typically, companies that do allow rentals prior to age 25 will charge additional fees.

Although, some companies, such as Dollar Car Rental, allow drivers as young as 20 to rent a car with a debit card at no extra penalty. As always, be sure to bring a valid, active driver’s license.

3. Have travel documentation ready

When paying with a debit card, rental companies will want a little extra assurance that you’ve in fact disembarked at their location with a real need for a rental car. You’ll likely need to provide proof that you will be returning, typically by way of a plane or train ticket.

4. Have deposits/holds available

Rental car companies typically require a deposit or put a hold on your bank account for a certain amount, while you’re in possession of the car. Each company will have their own policy regarding the hold amount (some as high as $500), so you’ll want to find out ahead of time.

The hold will be refunded after returning the car in good condition. However, you may want to do some homework here — as some companies are known to take up to three weeks to pay you back.

The case for renting a car with a credit card

Rental car companies prefer doing business with credit cards for added protection. Credit card issuers provide validation of your identity, payment history and overall level of trustworthiness to rental car companies. When paying with a debit card, you are required to provide that validation through documentation — typically making the rental process more expensive and time consuming.

In addition to the potential fees, age restrictions and limited vehicle selection, some rental car companies have added rules, making it even more difficult to rent with a debit card. Some of these rules include credit checks, providing multiple forms of ID, location-specific rules, major city prohibitions and other restrictions. By renting with a credit card, you could increase your chances of having a hassle-free rental process..

You’ll also take advantage of the several benefits that come with travel credit cards, such as quicker checkout, earning rewards and other hidden travel perks.

Sure up the insurance.

It’s often believed that you can only get rental car insurance through a credit card company. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. While there are credit card issuers that offer good rental coverage according to your needs, not all of them do. Even the ones that do offer insurance won’t always cover all the damages.

Whether you have a credit card or not, your primary car insurance provider should cover your rental car as well. Contacting them ahead of time should alleviate some concern in this area.

Bottom line

While it is recommended, you don’t need to have a credit card in order to rent a car. However, attempting to use a debit card with the wrong rental car company, or failing to provide the necessary background information could have you feeling a little road rage before starting your engine.

Written by
Joey Robinson
Credit cards contributor
Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree concentrated in Finance, Joey worked at “Big Four” (Ernst and Young) accounting firm before exploring the world of credit cards. Over the past two years, he’s shared his expertise and has brought understanding to complex topics as a writer and editor for sites like Bankrate, and NextAdvisor. His advice on avoiding common credit card fees, top balance transfer tactics and more financial tips have been featured on MSN Money and other various news publications.