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Can you rent a car with a debit card?

It’s possible to rent a car without a credit card, but the process is more complicated and time-consuming

Summary

Most car rental companies accept debit cards. Unfortunately, additional requirements and stipulations make the process more difficult and can lengthen the time spent in the car rental office. Here’s what you need to know.

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If you’ve ever rented a car, chances are you used a credit card to make your reservation.

But what if you don’t own a credit card or prefer to pay using a debit card? While renting a vehicle with a credit card is preferred, most U.S. car rental companies will accept a debit card as a payment form in some cases. They don’t make it easy, though.

Renting a car with a debit card can involve several extra steps and may depend on which location you rent from. The process is much less convenient. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car with a debit card.

See related: What are the differences between a credit card and a debit card?

Can you rent a car with a debit card?

Yes, many car rental companies let you rent a car with a debit card. Using a debit card to rent a car isn’t as simple as using a credit card, but it’s an option for most renters who meet a rental company’s qualifications and requirements. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a quick and straightforward process, you’re better off using a credit card if you have one.

Rental companies prefer credit cards over debit cards but will accept debit cards. That’s because accepting debit card payment puts rental companies at greater risk.

Nobody plans to damage a rental vehicle when they leave the rental lot, but it happens. If a renter returns a vehicle with extra scratches or dents not covered by the insurance, there may not be much the rental company can do.

The same applies to other expenses like tolls and parking fines. Companies can charge a renter’s credit card for the damages without them being present. Debit card purchases work differently and require the cardholder to be present and enter a PIN number.

See related: Do you need a chip-and-PIN credit card?

What do you need to rent a car?

Renting a car with a debit card requires jumping through a few more hoops than using a credit card. Rental companies have varying requirements regarding debit card payments. Here are some extra steps you may see if you decide to pay by debit card.

  • Credit check: Because of the added risk involved, some car rental companies run a credit check before approving a car rental with a debit card. They determine if you’re a rental risk based on your creditworthiness.
  • Deposit: Another way rental companies protect themselves is by requiring a deposit when paying with a debit card. You’ll get your funds back after you return the car, and the final charges are
  • Disclose travel plans: Some rental companies go as far as requiring proof of return travel plans.
  • Extra ID: You may be asked to provide more than one form of identification when you pay with a debit card. You might need a current utility bill or nongovernment form of ID in addition to a driver’s license.

Other restrictions may apply depending on the car rental company. For example, some rental companies only accept debit cards featuring the Visa, Mastercard or Discover logo. Prepaid debit cards or other debit cards are rarely accepted .

Rental companies may also restrict when you can pay by debit card. Some Budget locations don’t accept debit cards when picking up a rental but will accept debit card payment when you return the vehicle.

Most car rental companies already enforce age requirements, but many have tighter restrictions when paying by debit card. You must be at least 25 years old to rent a car from Avis using a debit card.

If you want to rent a luxury car, you will likely need to use a credit card instead. Rental companies restrict which vehicles you can rent with a debit card.

Car rental companies that accept debit cards

The good news is that most major U.S. car rental companies accept debit cards under certain circumstances. Check out our list below of popular car rental companies that accept debit cards when renting vehicles:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Fox
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Payless
  • Sixt
  • Thrifty

Individual rental locations often determine debit card policies. Always check ahead of time with the specific location to determine if they allow debit cards to rent a car.

In certain parts of the country, car rental companies are required to allow debit card use. New York prohibits car rental companies from refusing to rent to adults 18 and older for a variety of reasons, including not having a credit card.

Benefits of using a credit card instead

While you can rent a car with a debit card, but you might be missing out on significant benefits you’d have with a credit card. Yes, rental companies prefer credit cards, but there are also plenty of perks for renters who choose to pay with a credit card.

  • Rental insurance coverage: Several rewards credit cards come with car rental insurance perks. Some cards even offer primary car insurance, which means it kicks in before your own insurance. To activate the perk, pay for the rental with your credit card and decline the rental company’s insurance.
  • Earn rewards points: Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve® earn extra points for travel spending, including car rentals.
  • Use rewards points: Many credit card rewards programs allow you to use points to book car rentals.
  • Access to other car rental perks: In addition to auto insurance, some credit cards give you access to rental vehicle upgrades or elevated car rental rewards program.
  • Fraud protection: Credit cards typically offer better fraud protection than debit cards.

If you opt to rent a car using your credit card, be sure to pay off the balance on time and in full by the payment due date to avoid costly interest charges.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

Bottom line

Using a debit card to pay for your next car rental may not be worth the extra work and stipulations you’ll face. You’re better off using a credit card if possible. If not, do your homework before renting a car so you’re familiar with rental company policies. Contact the specific car rental location in case its requirements differ from corporate policies. And be prepared to spend additional time at the rental office because of the extra steps required.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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