Know How to Use a Debit Card for Car Rental
If you prefer not to use a credit card in order to rent a car, it is usually possible to use a debit card instead. All of the major rental companies in the United States, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Budget, allow most renters to use a debit card to book and pay for a rental car. However there are always caveats that can make the process inconvenient and somewhat time-consuming. Find out a rental company's terms and conditions before you initiate the process, and you'll be in the best position to determine whether it's the right option for you.
If you intend to use a debit card to rent a car, be prepared to take extra steps at the rental office. Policies vary by company and in some cases by location, but generally include at least one of the following requirements:
- A bank-issued debit card: Car rental companies accept only debit cards issued by a bank, as opposed to prepaid debit cards. Most will look for a Visa, MasterCard or Discover logo on your card.
- Cash deposit: A universal requirement for renting with a debit card is to charge an additional deposit on top of the cost of the vehicle rental. This might be an authorization hold on funds from your linked checking account, or a charge that will be refunded after you return the vehicle. The deposit amount is usually around $100 to $350, but can be higher.
- Credit check: Some rental car companies, including Avis, Budget and Hertz, run a credit check before allowing you to rent a car with a debit card. If your credit score is too low, you might not be able to rent a car, or might be required to put down a higher deposit.
- Additional identification: You might be required to present additional forms of I.D. as well as your driver's license. A utility bill matching the name and address on your license, a pay stub or a passport will usually suffice.
- Proof of insurance: Some companies want to verify that you have sufficient car insurance coverage, so have your proof of insurance ready. Otherwise, you might be denied a rental or asked to purchase additional insurance.
- Travel tickets: Airport locations sometimes require proof of your return travel plans, such as a return airline ticket.
Certain exceptions, which vary by company, mean that you can't use a debit card to rent a car in all situations. Here are the most common:
- Age: If you are under the age of 25 you might not be able to rent a car using a debit card.
- Vehicle exclusions: Some rental companies don't let you use a debit card to rent certain vehicle classes, such as premium cars, SUVs and convertibles.
- Location exclusions: Some rental companies that generally allow debit card rentals might not do so in certain locations. For example, Avis and Thrifty do not accept debit cards in the Tri-State area: Hartford, CT and Philadelphia, among other select locations.
- Call the specific car rental office that you intend to use before you go to ask about their policies, which may differ from the standard policies of the corporation. Make a note of the name of the person you talked to and what he told you. If you have difficulty upon arrival at the rental desk, you might need to recall those details.
- Remember that a deposit charge or authorization makes those funds unavailable to you during the rental period. The refund or removal of the authorization hold might also not take place until a week or more after you return the car.
- Are you staying in hotels during the period of your car rental? Hotels often charge authorization holds too, which on top of a car rental hold makes even more of the funds in your bank account unavailable.
- If you have a credit card but don't want to put the car rental charge on it, then use the credit card only for the reservation. When you return the car pay using a debit card or cash instead of the credit card.
- Are you traveling with someone else who does have a credit card? Ask if your companion can use her credit card to reserve the rental car, if you pay the rental charge upon return. This would mean your companion has to be the main driver (the card must be in the name of the driver) but you can add yourself as an additional driver, usually for an extra fee.
- If you have sufficient time before you need to rent a car, consider applying for a fee-free credit card specifically for the purpose. Pay for the rental upon return using a debit card, and if you wish, cancel the credit card after it's served its purpose.
A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.