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You can usually rent a car with a debit card, but before you do there are a few things to know about the requirements. Each major car rental company has slightly different hoops to jump through, and what’s needed may also vary by rental location.
In general, debit cards are only accepted if they have a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover logo.
Common Rules for Renting Cars with Debit Cards
Some of the added steps when renting a car with a debit card may include:
Running a Credit Check
Rental car companies may require a credit check. If your credit scores are too low, you may not be able to rent a car or may face a higher deposit.
A Hold on Your Debit Card
You’ll likely get a hold placed on your debit/check card when renting a car. This means the amount of money being held will not be available for use, so you’ll want to make sure you have extra funds or cash on hand for any travel expenditures.
The amount held varies by rental company and location, usually ranging from $150–$350. This essentially acts as a security deposit.
When you return the car, the money will be returned to your account as long as there are no damages or issues. However, that process can take from a few days to a couple of weeks, so don’t expect the money to be available immediately.
While you’ll also likely have a hold when using a credit card, it’s usually won’t matter much unless you have a low credit limit.
Showing Additional Forms of Identification
Another I.D. may be required (in addition to a valid driver’s license) if you’re not using a credit card when renting. Usually, acceptable options include a passport or utility bill that shows the same address as your license.
Showing Proof of Insurance Coverage
You may need to prove that you have car insurance by showing an auto insurance card. Additionally, the rental car company may contact your insurance company to verify the policy. So, be prepared as this may add some additional time to the rental process.
Proving Your Return Trip
Depending on the company and location, you may also need to show proof of a return ticket when renting a car with a debit card. Having your plane or train ticket available can help speed things up.
You may not be able to rent a car with a debit card unless you’re 25.
Restrictions on Certain Car Types
Many times rental car companies will restrict debit card users to certain classes of cars, excluding luxury cars and convertibles. This is common since those rentals are usually more expensive. You shouldn’t have any problems renting economy, compact, mid-size, full-size, and SUVs.
Debit Card Policies for Major Car Rental Companies
Here you can see the guidelines some major rental car companies have for paying with debit cards:
|Debit cards accepted||Yes||Yes, at most U.S. locations||Yes, at most U.S. locations|
|Credit check required||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hold placed||No||Yes, for estimated charges||Varies by location, usually $100–$500|
|Additional I.D. required||No||Usually||Varies by location|
|Proof of auto insurance required||Varies by location||Varies by location||Varies by location|
|Proof of return ticket||Required||Varies by location||Varies by location|
|Age restrictions||No||Must be 25||Must be 25|
|Car class restrictions||Varies by location||Varies by location||Varies by location|
|Debit cards accepted||Yes||Yes, at most locations||Yes|
|Credit check required||No||Usually||No|
|Hold placed||Yes, $200||Yes, estimated charges + $200||Yes, $200|
|Additional I.D. required||Only if booked less than 24 hours in advance||Yes||Only if booked less than 24 hours in advance|
|Proof of auto insurance required||No||Varies by location||No|
|Proof of return ticket||Only if booked less than 24 hours in advance||Usually||Only if booked less than 24 hours in advance|
|Age restrictions||No restriction, but may pay added fee if under 25||Must be 25||No restriction, but may pay added fee if under 25|
|Car class restrictions||Convertible, premium, and luxury class cars require return ticket and additional I.D.||No||Convertible, premium, and luxury class cars require return ticket and additional I.D.|
Note that some specific rental car locations may have stricter rules for renting with a debit card, so your best bet is to call ahead and check on any specific guidelines to keep from being caught by surprise at the time of pickup.
Recent Changes for Dollar and Thrifty
In February 2019, Dollar and sister company Thrifty announced some changes tailored to help those who may not have credit cards and need to use debit cards for car rentals. The updates included:
- They no longer run a credit check on renters using debit cards.
- Rentals booked more than 24 hours in advance with a debit card only require a driver’s license (no additional form of I.D.).
- Rentals booked less than 24 hours in advance, or rentals for convertibles and luxury/premium vehicles, can still use a debit card but require two forms of identification and proof of return travel plans.
- The incidental hold amount was reduced from $350 to $200, plus the cost of the rental, for both debit card and credit card rentals.
Susan Jacobs, Senior Vice President for Dollar, explains, “This is yet another way we can do our part to help minimize any stress when traveling, especially for our customers who choose to use a debit card. Listening to our customers and providing a better experience is in our DNA here at Dollar, and that’s why leading the industry with this big policy change is so important to us.”
Renting a Car in New York
The New York Attorney General has specific rules for car rental companies, outlined on its website:
“New York State law prohibits car rental companies from refusing to rent to consumers who are 18 or older, who do not have a credit card, or because of race, color, ethnic origin, religion, disability or sex.”
While car rental companies in NY must rent to anyone 18 or older, they can still add a young driver surcharge for anyone under 25.
Can I Pay for a Rental Car with Cash?
This policy varies by location. In most cases, you must pay rental charges with a credit or debit card when picking up a rental car, but may be able to pay additional charges in cash upon returning it. For security purposes, many rental car locations don’t accept or keep cash on hand at all.
A major credit card is the preferred form of payment for most car rental companies because they represent the lowest risk of not getting paid. Usually prepaid debit cards or gift cards aren’t accepted at the time of rental, but may be accepted at the time of return.
Why You Should Rent Cars with Credit Cards
Overall, credit cards are usually the better option for car rentals because:
- While you may still have to make a deposit, it won’t be taken from your bank account.
- There are fewer steps to take when renting a car with a credit card, which means less hassle and time spent before getting on your way.
- Many credit cards offer rewards for whatever you buy, and some have particular bonus categories for rental car purchases.
- Many travel and rewards credit cards offer car insurance for added protection when renting a car, and in some cases this is even primary auto insurance — so it will take effect before your main insurance (you must decline the rental company’s own insurance to qualify).
- Credit cards usually offer better fraud protection than debit cards and you can more easily dispute a charge.
Credit Cards with Car Rental Perks
While using a debit card for a car rental is usually possible, you’ll likely save yourself time (and get some extra points or perks) if you’re able to use a credit card instead. Some cards to consider using when renting a car include:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) and Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review): Offer extra points for car rentals and primary car rental insurance
- Southwest credit cards: 2X points on rental car purchases
- United credit cards: Primary auto rental insurance
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (Review): 3X points on travel purchases, primary auto rental insurance for business purposes
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Review): 6X points on car rentals with select companies
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