Renting a car with a debit card is possible, but it’s rarely anyone’s first choice.
Most car rental companies prefer that their customers use a credit card, and the ones that accept debit cards often attach extra requirements that can drag out the rental process. For starters, rental companies use credit cards to secure the rental agreement. Credit cards are preferred because they allow companies to place a pre-authorization hold on your card to cover potential damages or extra charges during the rental period. Not having a credit card is a flag to rental companies that you might be a higher risk.
If you do try to rent a car with a debit card, you may find that you need to supply additional documents, such as your return flight itinerary, car insurance or even a passport, depending on the company.
Using a debit card for a large purchase — including car rental — also comes with significant risks to the consumer. These could impact your financial well-being and tie up your finances for much longer than expected.
How to rent a car with a debit card
No matter what kind of car rental you’re looking for, paying with a debit card always comes with extra hoops to jump through.
If the additional burdens haven’t changed your decision to try to rent a car with a debit card (or if it’s unavoidable), here are three steps to follow when renting a car with a debit card.
1. Find a car rental company that accepts debit cards
If you don’t have a preferred car rental company, sit down and do some research. Finding one that will accept your debit card might take some extra time. Some companies may allow debit cards when reserving a car, while others only let you use it to settle any outstanding charges. Others might limit debit card usage to people who are older than age 25.
Before you head to the pick-up location to get and pay for your rental car, call that location first to ask about their policy. Debit card policies don’t just vary by company; each location might have its own rules, too. Knowing their policy in advance can save you some trouble.
2. Determine what extra documents you’ll need
You’ll probably need to provide additional documents or information to prove that you can cover the costs of renting a car. Look at the rental company’s website or call their office to ensure you have those details handy before you rent a car. This will save time. Common documents rental companies might ask for include, but aren’t limited to:
- Extra identification, such as a passport or utility bill
- Proof of auto insurance to cover damages to the car
- Proof of return travel plans, especially for airport car rentals
- Documentation related to a credit check, including your credit score
3. Check security deposit requirements
In addition to documentation about your identity, rental car companies also want to ensure you can cover the cost of any damages to the car. They may charge a security deposit or place a hold for a specific dollar amount on your debit card. This isn’t a problem with a credit card, but if you’re using your debit card to rent a car, it can tie up your finances because those funds won’t be available to spend elsewhere.
Finally, your debit card usually must be backed by Visa, Mastercard or Discover. Rental car companies typically don’t accept prepaid cards, even if they’re from American Express.
Security deposit amounts can vary depending on the vehicle and rental company, so it’s essential to ensure you have the funds available in your account. They will also be held for the duration of your trip and potentially a few days after, so make sure you won’t need that money for your trip or immediately after.
Renting with a credit card is better
Yes, paying for a car rental with a debit card is possible. You might even be tempted to prepay for your rental car on an “opaque” website like Priceline or Expedia. But you probably shouldn’t.
Renting your car with a credit card is almost always a better bet for many reasons. These include:
- Fraud protection: One of the best reasons to use a credit card for car rental (and other large purchases) is fraud protection. Credit card companies often have policies to protect their customers in the event of fraudulent purchases, including car rentals. Being able to contest charges can give you peace of mind.
- Better rental insurance: Most credit card companies offer car rental insurance as part of the cardholder benefits.
- Keeping finances available for your trip: Because credit card pre-authorizations do not hold funds in the same way as debit cards, you can use your debit card for purchases during your trip.
- Fewer required documents: With a credit card, rental car companies don’t need you to provide as many details related to your travel, insurance, identification and finances.
If you’re able to use a credit card and prefer a rental car experience with fewer hurdles, consider using Avail car sharing, an alternative to renting from a traditional car rental company. Avail lets car owners earn money by sharing their vehicles at locations throughout Chicago and Denver, and allows borrowers to reserve them for a day or longer. Rental locations are in convenient spots downtown and in neighborhoods, so you don’t have to trek out to the airport to start your trip. And each Avail location has express self-service pick-up and drop-off, so you can get on the road much quicker than at a traditional rental agency. Explore more information on car sharing vs. car rental to help determine the best option for your needs.
While Avail does give drivers the flexibility to reserve a vehicle for day trips or long-term rentals, one of the Avail car rental requirements is a credit card. If you have a credit card and need a convenient car rental, download the Avail car sharing app and search for the right vehicle for your trip today.
Renting a car with a debit card FAQs
What are the requirements for renting a car with a debit card?
Renting a car with a debit card is possible, but the additional requirements quickly add up. Most companies require people who want to rent a car with a debit card to be at least 25 years old and show two forms of ID. Renting with a debit card at an airport often requires proof of your travel itinerary, including round-trip airline tickets.
In addition to age and ID requirements, you’ll also need to put down an additional deposit or even pass a credit check. If Visa, Discover or MasterCard don’t back your debit card, there’s a good chance your booking request will be declined.
Is a credit check necessary to rent a car with a debit card?
Credit checks aren’t always necessary when renting a car with a debit card, but they are a standard practice. A car rental company’s decision to run your credit depends on several factors, including company policy and the specific location you’re renting from.
Companies that run credit checks for car rentals usually do it as a soft inquiry, which doesn’t impact your score. That said, poor credit might affect your ability to rent a car.
Before renting a car with a debit card, contact the rental company directly to ask about their specific requirements.