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Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?

Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated October 13, 2022
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Visit a rental car company, and the first thing that you will likely be asked for is a driver’s license and a credit card. But what if you don’t have a credit card? Can you still rent a car?Generally, yes. Depending on the rental car provider, you may be able to secure and pay for a rental with a debit card and, in some cases, other forms of payment. However, you will likely have to jump through a few extra hoops if you don’t pay for your rental car with a credit card. You may also miss out on money-saving perks offered by some of the top rewards credit cards.Here’s what you need to know about renting a car without a credit card.

Is It Possible to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card?

Yes, it’s possible to rent a car without a credit card. Most of the major car companies will allow you to rent a card with a debit card rather than a credit card. Some will also allow you to use cash or a prepaid card to pay for rental when you return it.  However, if you don’t use a credit card to rent the car, you will generally have to meet some additional requirements. You may have to show additional ID, undergo a credit check, be over a certain age, as well as put down a large security deposit. There may also be some limitations on the cars you can book.Recommended: How Do Credit Cards Work? 

Steps for Renting a Car Without a Credit Card

Renting a car without a credit card can take a little more time and effort then renting one with a credit card. The following steps can help simplify the process.

Researching Companies That Don’t Require a Credit Card

As you’re considering companies to rent a car from, you’ll want to take a close look at their credit card requirements. Some will accept a debit card to hold and pay for a rental car, but only in certain situations.For example, Avis will typically only rent to those over 25 years of age if they don’t have a credit card. With Dollar, you may need to complete a credit check, provide proof of travel that matches your rental car reservations, and offer two forms of identification. Some companies may also ask you to make a deposit or provide a debit card hold that includes the cost of the rental plus an additional sum to cover incidentals.

Having a Valid Driver’s License

No matter what form of payment you use to rent a car, you will always need to produce a valid, up-to-date driver’s license. And in many countries, you will also need to show your passport and an international driver’s license. An international driver’s license is merely a translation of your license into multiple different languages. You can apply for one through the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Preparing for Deposits or Holds

When renting a car with a debit card, you’ll often need to have a hold placed on the card or submit a cash deposit. To prepare for this, you’ll want to make sure that you have sufficient funds in your account to cover both the cost of the rental as well as the additional amount of the security deposit or hold, which can run several hundred dollars.Keep in mind that if you have a hold placed for a certain amount of money on your debit card, you won’t be able to use those funds for other purchases until the hold is lifted. Typically the hold is lifted several days after you return the rental car with no damage. 

Car Rental Companies That Don’t Typically Require a Credit Card

Car rental companies that may rent cars to people without a credit card include:
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz 
  • National

Other Payment Options That May Be Accepted for Renting a Car

While most rental car companies prefer credit cards, they may accept these other forms of payment. 

Debit Cards

After credit cards, debit cards are generally the most common form of payment accepted by rental car companies. Just be aware that you will have to have sufficient funds available for the cost of the rental as well as any security deposit or hold. 

Gift Cards

Car rental agencies typically do not accept gift cards to secure car rental. However, they may accept them as a form a payment at the end of the rental.

Cash

Some rental car companies will accept cash to secure a car rental, but not all. In some cases, you may be able to secure the rental car with a debit card, but make the actual payment in cash after you return the car. 

Use Another Person’s Credit Card

To pay with a credit card, it needs to match the name on the reservation and on the driver’s license. So while you can’t simply borrow another person’s credit card, you could use another person’s account if you are an authorized additional cardholder. In this case, the credit card issuer will send you a card with your name on it, even though the primary account holder will be responsible for repayment of all charges. 

Why Car Rental Agencies Typically Require a Credit Card to Rent a Car

There are several reasons why rental car companies often require a credit card to rent a car.

To Cover Other Charges

When a car is rented, the driver may incur other charges, such as a parking or speeding ticket, that exceeds the security deposit or comes in after the car is returned. A debit card may not have the funds to cover the additional charges. With a credit card, on the other hand, the rental agency will likely be able to get the money, so long as the cardholder hasn’t exceeded their credit limit.

To Cover Any Damages

Rental cars can be damaged in an accident or as a result of poor treatment by renters. Having a credit card on file allows the rental company to recover damages without having to go through the time and expense of billing and collections. 

For Identification

When a renter has a major credit card, it essentially serves as an additional form of identification. Requiring renters to produce both a current driver’s license and a valid credit card in the same name reduces the likelihood that either is counterfeit. 

How Paying With a Credit Card Can Save You Money

While you can often use a debit card to rent a car, it’s not necessarily ideal. Using a credit card at the rental counter not only saves time and headaches, it may also save you some money. Here’s how.

You Could Earn Valuable Rewards

The best credit cards reward you for spending. As a result, paying for the rental car with your credit card can translate into cash back, or points you can cash in for travel-related expenses. Some cards also offer bonus rewards on travel-related expenses like rental cars.

You Might Score a Discount

Some travel credit cards give you access to special cardholder discounts when you rent a car with certain rental companies.

You May Get Free Rental Car Insurance

Many credit cards offer some kind of rental car insurance (something you may want to look for when choosing a credit card). It might be primary care insurance coverage or secondary coverage (meaning you have to file a claim with your car insurance first). Either way, your card’s benefits, combined with your regular auto insurance, may allow you to waive expensive car insurance sold by the rental company.Recommended: Credit Card Terms, Explained 

The Takeaway  

While you can rent a car without a credit card, it’s not always easy or convenient. Many car rental agencies allow you to use a debit card to secure and pay for a rental car. However, they will generally require you to go through a few extra hurdles, which might include providing extra forms of ID, showing travel documents, undergoing a credit check, and having a security hold put on your card. If you’d prefer the convenience of a credit card, but don’t have one because you don’t meet the requirements, you may want to look into getting a secured credit card. Secured cards work just like regular credit cards, except they require putting down a deposit, which then becomes your credit limit. If your deposit/credit limit is large enough to cover the car rental, you can likely use it to rent a car without any issues.If you're interested in exploring your credit card options, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online marketplace, you can shop different types of cards (including secured credit cards) and compare multiple credit card offers all in one place without making any type of commitment.
Photo credit: iStock/IJzendoorn
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.LCCC0822002

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a prepaid card to book a rental car?
Can I use cash for a rental car?
Should you use a debit card to rent a car?
Is it easier to rent a car with a credit card or a debit card?
Do I need a credit card for rental car insurance?

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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