When you go to rent a car chances are that the rental agency will want to see a credit card. Indeed, the whole rental car industry is set up to favor credit cards. As a result, you may have a few hoops to jump through when you try to rent a car with a debit card. You should realize that in most cases you will need some type of card to be approved for the rental at all. You might be able to settle up in cash when you return the car, but you will need the plastic to get into it first.
What You Might Need to Rent a Car with a Debit Card
Before you rent a car you should call around to see which agencies will allow you to use a debit card instead of a credit card. Find out the requirements if they do allow debit card rentals. Make sure you know ahead of time what the agency requires of you. Otherwise you might be unpleasantly surprised. Some of the hoops you might have to jump through include:
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- Extra paperwork: You may need to confirm that you are returning the car to the branch’s area. You may have to show evidence that you are returning by presenting an itinerary or return ticket for consideration. You will also likely have to bring extra forms of ID so that the rental agent can verify that you are who you say you are.
- Credit check: If you don’t use a credit card the rental car company may want to double check that you have reasonable credit. The rental car company is entrusting you with an expensive asset, and if you have poor credit there are concerns that you may not be responsible with the car. Paying with a debit card may be an indication that you don’t have credit and rental car agencies are wary of such situations. Realize that this credit check is most likely going to be a hard inquiry and could affect your credit score.
- Holds on your account: Another thing to find out is how much the hold on your account will be. Rental car agencies (as well as hotels) often place holds on your account when you use a debit card. This hold represents a block of funds that is held on top of the rental price. It can be anywhere between $200 and $500. Find out the amount of the hold. Realize that it might be on your account for as many as 14 days. During this time you will not have access to those funds.
- Restrictions: Debit card holders may also face restrictions regarding the types of cars they can rent. Those who use a debit card rather than a credit card may find themselves unable to rent luxury vehicles or SUVs. Additionally if you are under 25 you might not be able to rent a car at all with a debit card; if it is allowed you may have to pay an extra daily fee.
The truth of the matter is that, while it is possible to rent a car without a credit card it can be difficult. Credit cards are designed to provide protection for both the consumer and the rental agency, and many car rental agencies prefer you to use credit cards. As a result it is difficult to use a debit card — and even more so, cash — when performing these types of transactions.
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.