Can I Rent a Car With a Debit Card?
If you need to rent a car but you left your credit card at home or don’t yet have a credit card, don’t worry; you can still rent a car from a rental car company with a debit card. However, non-credit cards aren’t usually preferred by rental companies and you might face extra fees if you try to rent a car with a regular debit card and checking account.
Not sure why this is, or whether you can rent a car at your favorite rental company with your debit card? Let’s break down this topic in more detail.
Why Are Debit Cards Not Preferred by Rental Companies?
You’ve probably heard the saying that you should rent a car with a credit card if possible. But why?
There are actually a few reasons why car rental companies don’t prefer debit cards when credit cards are an option. These reasons include:
- Increased risk on the part of the rental company. When you rent a car with a debit card, you have to be present to enter your PIN or personal information number so they can charge your card. If you use a credit card, the company can bill you even if you aren’t present (or if a driver decides to take off with their rented vehicle without paying the rental location)
- A credit card allows a car rental company to charge you for extra fees or damages more easily. Again, if someone rents a car and takes off after getting into an accident, but they paid with a debit card, there’s little the insurance company can do to recoup those costs (aside from putting them on a “do not rent” list!)
- A credit card simply shows that a renter is less of financial risk since they were presumably approved for the credit card by a worthwhile financial institution
That said, most car companies do allow you to rent a car with bank debit cards. But you might face a few challenges, restrictions, or fees along the way.
What Happens if You Rent a Car With a Debit Card?
If you simply must rent a car but don’t have a credit card to make the reservation with, you’ll probably face some extra hurdles. Let’s break them down one by one.
Make a Security Deposit
For starters, most car rental companies will require you to make a premium security deposit. Like when you sign for a new apartment or home, a security deposit is some extra cash on top of the price of the rental itself. You’ll get the money back if you return the car unharmed. But the rental company keeps the security deposit as insurance and so they can pay for any damages the rental vehicle may sustain.
This is a downside for you since it artificially increases the cost of renting a car. On top of that, it may take between two or three weeks for you to see the security deposit refund in your checking account.
In this way, renting a car with a debit card is flatly more expensive than renting a car with a credit card.
Present More ID
You may also be required to present extra forms of identification for your rental application to be approved. If you apply for a rental vehicle with a credit card, you may only need to show one form of ID.
But rental companies may require you to show two or more forms of ID, such as a valid driver’s license, a passport, and/or a current utility bill. This requires more preparation on your part and requires you to bring those forms of ID with you to the car rental agency.
Use a Trusted Debit Card
Not just any card will do when you try to pay for a car rental with a debit account. Most car rental companies don’t allow you to use prepaid debit cards or gift cards for specific companies (unless you use a prepaid debit card for the rental company in question). So your debit card choices are limited to Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and other trusted debit card companies.
With credit cards, you can probably get a luxury rental using a card from a much wider range of companies or institutions like credit unions, etc.
Accept a Credit Check
That’s not all. When you apply for a car rental with a debit card, you’ll have to go through a credit check. If it’s a hard credit check, this could cause your credit score to decrease by a few points, which will take some months to recover from.
A credit check is necessary so the car rental company can determine your financial trustworthiness. It’s another metric they’ll use to determine whether they will risk giving you a rental vehicle if you don’t have a credit card for them to bill.
This also means you’ll need to have a credit score above a certain amount, usually 600 or above, to qualify for a rental in the first place. If you have bad credit or no credit, you may not be able to rent a car with a debit card no matter what.
Present Proof of Insurance
Alongside those other factors, rental companies may require you to provide proof of insurance before they let you take a vehicle off their lots. Proof of insurance once again reduces the risk for the company and may make them more comfortable with giving you a rental vehicle even if you don’t have a credit card.
Provide Other Proof
Lastly, some car rental companies might require you to provide proof of a ticketed return travel itinerary, like a return ticket or round-trip airline ticket for an outgoing flight from a trusted airline, before they let you take a rental vehicle and sign a rental agreement. This is most common at car rental companies located at major metro airport locations, but it might be a policy at the nearest car rental company to your home as well.
If you don’t have any proof that you’ll be back by a certain date, the rental company may refuse to give you the vehicle even if your other metrics check out.
What To Use Instead of a Debit Card?
As mentioned above, credit cards are most companies’ preferred means of rental billing. But some companies may also allow you to rent a car with cash or a prepaid card, especially if the prepaid card is from that company’s loyalty program.
Keep in mind that cash applications are rejected much more frequently than debit card applications, so you should only try to rent a car with cash if you have no other options.
In the end, it’s simply easier to use a credit card to rent a vehicle in 99% of cases. But if you want to rent a car with a debit card, rest assured that as long as you have sufficient funds, you can… with a few more strings attached. Be prepared to jump over those hurdles if you want your rental application to be accepted in a timely manner.
Companies like Advantage Rent a Car accept many payment methods when renting vehicles, including debit cards, cash, and even certain prepaid cards. You can check out our rental fleet today, and don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or if you have other questions about our payment policies.