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Can You Rent a Rental Car With a Debit Card? Why You May Want to Reconsider

Updated Sep 09, 2021 | Published May 23, 20196 min read

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At a glance

In some cases it’s possible to rent a car with a debit card, but it’s not usually a great idea. There may be extra age, ID verification, and insurance requirements, and you’ll probably have a hold placed on your card. Using a credit card, if possible, is more convenient.

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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.

Age Restrictions

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:

Alamo Avis Budget
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
Additional notes
  • Debit cards aren’t accepted for advance reservations.
  • A credit card is required at time of rental in Puerto Rico.
Dollar Hertz Thrifty
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:

Insider tip

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Written by

Ellen Sirull

Ellen Sirull is a writer with over 15 years of experience, covering topics from personal finance to identity protection to credit and credit cards. Her work has been featured on CNBC, New York Daily News, Fox News, Yahoo! Finance, AOL Finance, Experian and the Identity Theft Resource Center. She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling as much as possible and is always thinking about how best to invest her own money for retirement and her family’s well-being.

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