Can You Rent a Car With a Debit Card

Signing a Car Rental Agreement
••• Getty Images/simonkr​

Are you planning on renting a car in the near future? If so, it is helpful to have a credit card. But what if you do not have or want a credit card? Can you rent a car with a debit card? The short answer is: It depends.

Why Don’t Rental Car Companies Like Debit Cards?

Unlike a credit card, a debit card only has as much money on it as you put in your bank account. If you cause serious damage to the rental car and the charge is declined, the rental car company will be on the hook for the difference. In addition, some debit cards require you to enter your pin each time a charge is made, which can lead to problems if you skip town after you return your rental car. Having a credit card also shows the rental car company that a financial institution trusted you enough to extend you a line of credit—in other words, you’re financially responsible.

Additional Steps to Take If You Rent With a Debit Card

Because of the extra risk involved in allowing you to rent a car with a debit card, most car rental companies will add additional requirements or deposits if they allow you to do so.

Deposit: If you use a debit card, expect to put down a significant chunk of change. Many rental car companies will charge you $200 or more in order to use a debit card.

Credit Check: Rental car companies bank on your ability to repay your bills, and that includes any damage you might cause to the vehicle they are loaning you. A credit check might be required before you are allowed to rent with a debit card, and if your score is too low, you might not be able to rent the car. Remember, credit checks can lower your credit score, so it pays to ask the rental company in advance whether or not they run credit checks for debit card transactions.

Disclose Your Travel Plans: If you are renting a car at an airport location, you might have to show the rental car company your return ticket so they can be a little more sure that you’re going to come back. 

Show Insurance: Rental companies will breathe a little easier if you have ample personal car insurance. Remember, while credit cards typically cover damage to rental vehicles, debit cards do not, so you might want (or be required) to purchase additional coverage.

Bring Extra ID: You may need to show a passport or proof of residence (such as a cellphone or internet bill) before you’re allowed to rent.

Are There Restrictions When I Rent With a Debit Card?

This depends on the rental car company and location. Make sure you check the website of the specific location you’re headed to, not just the national site, so there are no surprises. 

You probably won’t be able to rent a luxury vehicle using a debit card, and it is unlikely that you will be allowed to drive the rental car out of state. You will probably also need to be 25 or older—though some companies allow those 21-24 to rent a vehicle if they pay an additional young driver fee, that is not likely to be an option for debit card renters.

Where Can I Rent a Car Using a Debit Card?

Some major rental companies will allow debit card rentals at select locations. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz all allow such transactions at certain locations, though you will likely have to go through some of the additional steps mentioned above.

The Bottom Line

If at all possible, you should get a credit card if you are planning on renting a car anytime in the near future. It will save you time, money, and hassle. But if you can’t get a credit card, you can still use a debit card to rent a car, if you are willing to put up with a bit of research and tap into your reserves of patience. Be prepared to take additional steps, review any restrictions, and check with the rental company.