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 debt 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 card holder 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 card 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.