Car Rentals & Roadtrips

How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card

By
Jessica Spiegel
|
Freelance Writer
car rental sign.
March 10, 2022
|
7 min read

For as long as you can probably remember, you’ve assumed that in order to rent a car you’d need to have a credit card. That’s no longer the case.

All of the major U.S. rental car companies have options for booking a rental car using a debit card, though the requirements can vary substantially from one company to the next as far as what you’ll need to present in addition to the usual driver’s license. Most rental companies ask for proof of onward travel if you’re picking up at an airport. Many perform credit checks before they’ll approve a debit card. Some ask for recent utility bills and multiple forms of ID.

Assuming you have several car rental companies to choose from, it’s a very good idea to shop around a bit to find out which company’s policies for renting without a credit card are best for you and your trip.

Rental companies that let you rent a car without a credit card

Alamo

In addition to the usual credit cards, Alamo also accepts debit cards and good old fashioned cash to rent a car (prepaid cards are not accepted). The card must have a VISA, MasterCard, or Discover logo. If you’re using a debit card, hold charges are put on the card immediately when you pick up the car, which may impact your access to spending money while you’re traveling.

There are a few caveats depending where you’re picking up the car. For instance, airport rental counters will require proof of a return ticket if you’re using a debit card, and not all rental locations are even able to accept cash. And the Discover logo isn’t accepted in Canada.

Avis

Avis accepts debit cards with a VISA or MasterCard logo at “most U.S. locations,” provided you’re at least age 25. The car selection is a bit more limited than if you were using a credit card—you can’t rent a luxury or premium car with a debit card. And hold charges are placed on the debit card right when you pick up the car.

There are some Avis rental locations that won’t accept debit cards, as you likely guessed from the word “most” above. Some of the places that don’t take debit cards at pick-up are Canada, the New York Tri-State area, Philadelphia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Hartford (CT). You can use a debit card to pay when you drop the car off, however.

Budget

As long as you’re at least age 25, you can rent a car at Budget with a debit card at most U.S. rental locations. Budget recommends checking in advance to find out if the location you’ll be visiting will accept a debit card. Even at the locations where debit cards aren’t accepted when you pick up the car, you can still use a debit card to pay for the rental when you drop the car off.

Note that at airport rental counters, you may need to provide proof of a return ticket along with a debit card. Hold charges, which may include a refundable deposit, are automatically put on the debit card when you rent the car.

Dollar

Renting a car with a debit card at Dollar is easier than at some other big rental companies. There’s not even additional documentation required, provided you made the reservation 24 hours in advance. Dollar accepts debit cards with the VISA, MasterCard, or Discover logo.

If you’re not able to book the car that far in advance, you can still use a debit card to rent a car—you’ll just need to present two forms of ID (including a driver’s license) as well as proof of a return airline ticket. These additional documents are also required to rent a luxury or premium car, even if you did book 24 hours ahead. And using a debit card means hold charges (plus a refundable deposit) are put on the card when you pick up the car.

Enterprise

Enterprise’s airport locations accept debit cards with the VISA, MasterCard, and Discover logos for car rentals, though Discover isn’t accepted in Canada and prepaid cards don’t count. Airport rental counters require proof of a return ticket and put hold charges (plus a refundable deposit) on your debit card when you pick the car up.

Not all non-airport locations accept debit cards for car rentals, so it’s best to call ahead. Also note that if they do accept debit cards, they may also require several additional pieces of documentation—including multiple utility bills, a recent pay stub, insurance proof, and even personal references.

Hertz

Hertz accepts debit cards for rental cars, as long as the cards have the VISA, MasterCard, or Discover logo. If you’re renting at an airport location, you’ll need to show proof of a return ticket as well as two kinds of identification. At non-airport locations, a debit card can be used if you reserve 24 hours ahead, are at least 25 years of age, show proof of a return ticket, and have two forms of ID.

In most cases, premium and luxury vehicles are excluded from your rental options. If, however, you already have a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards account to which you have linked a debit card, you can use that card to rent even premium and luxury cars.

National

You can use a debit card with a VISA, MasterCard, or Discover logo to rent a car from National, though Discover is not accepted in Canada and prepaid cards aren’t included. National’s airport rental counters will only take a debit card if you can also show proof of a return ticket, and non-airport locations won’t accept debit cards at all.

Hold charges will be put on your debit card when you pick up the car, which leaves you less cash to draw upon during your trip. National does not accept cash as a deposit in order to pick up a rental car, and some locations don’t even accept cash as payment when you drop the car off.

Payless

Most Payless airport locations accept debit cards to rent cars as long as you have proof of a return ticket, though you’re limited to specific vehicle classes. These usually include premium cars and SUVs, but you should call ahead to the location you’ll be renting from to confirm.

The debit card will have a hold charge of the entire rental amount, plus a refundable deposit, applied to it when you pick up the car. Payless may also check your credit history before they approve a debit card.

SIXT

You can rent a car at most SIXT locations with a debit card, though the requirements and car categories that are eligible for debit card rentals varies depending on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state renter.

If you’re not local and renting from an airport location, you’ll need to show proof of a return ticket and two forms of government-issued ID (locals can’t use debit cards at airport locations at all). If you’re local and renting from a non-airport location, you’ll need two forms of ID and an original of a recent utility bill.

Thrifty

Thrifty accepts some debit cards for car rentals—cards with a VISA, MasterCard, or Discover logo. Hold charges in the full rental amount plus a refundable deposit are put on the card immediately when you pick it up.

Thrifty’s airport rental locations also require proof of a return ticket as well as two forms of identification (one of which is your driver’s license). You can only rent Compact through Full-size vehicles with a debit card, unless the debit card is already on your Blue Chip profile.

Turo

Turo has more non-credit card options for renting a car than most of the big rental companies. You can use VISA or MasterCard debit cards, including some associated with online banks like Chime and Ally, though prepaid or reloadable cards aren’t included. In addition to debit cards,Turo also accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay on mobile devices. Apple Pay is accepted at all rental locations while Google Pay is only accepted in the U.S. and Canada.

If you’re using Apple Pay or Google Pay, you’ll be charged for the cost of the entire rental when you submit your request. (It’ll be refunded if the host declines the request.) With a debit card, you’ll only get charged a $1 authorization fee when you submit the request. If you choose the “Book Instantly” option, you’ll be charged the full cost either 40 hours after authorization or one hour before the trip starts, whichever comes first.

Tips for renting a car without a credit card

  1. Make sure you have enough cash in your account. You’ll have to pay a security deposit (often $200-300) along with the full cost of the rental right when you pick up the car. This not only means you’ll have less cash available to use during your trip, but also that if you have any auto-payments that go through while you travel you may end up with overdraft fees. The security deposit is refundable, though sometimes it takes several days for the money to appear back in your account after you drop the car off.
  2. Check requirements for proof of travel. Most car rental locations at airports require that you provide proof of onward or return travel (and the dates must match up with the duration of the car rental) in order to rent with a debit card. This could be a boarding pass, a ticketed itinerary, or even a cruise booking.
  3. Be prepared for a credit check. Not every rental company requires a credit check for every debit card rental, but many say that it’s something they can choose to do before approving use of a debit card. And every time your credit history gets checked, that can impact your credit score.
  4. Make sure you meet the age requirements. Some rental car companies stipulate that you must be at least 25 years of age to rent a car, regardless of your method of payment. Others have similar age restrictions for renting with a debit card.

Summary

The days when a credit card was the only accepted payment method for renting a car are long gone.

Using a debit card is now widely accepted among the big car rental companies, though in every case there are additional factors to consider. There may be a credit check involved in the approval process, there are usually other documents required, and you’ll often be charged for the full cost of the rental up front—along with a security deposit.

The car sharing site, Turo, has some of the most accommodating rules about renting a car without a credit card, so it may be your best option.

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Frequently asked questions about paying for car rentals

Which rental car companies do not require a credit card?

All of the major U.S. rental car companies have non-credit card payment options at certain rental locations, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, SIXT, Thrifty, and Turo.

Can you use a prepaid card to book a rental car?

Prepaid cards are not an option for picking up with the vast majority of car rental companies, although Turo does allow the use of Revolut prepaid debit cards.

Can I pay cash for a rental car?

Some rental companies accept cash to pay for a car rental when you return the car, but not all locations are equipped to accept cash for security reasons. You’ll need to call ahead to find out if you’re dropping off at a cash-friendly location.

Can I use someone else’s credit card for a rental car?

The credit card used must match the name on the renter’s driver’s license. So, if someone else is paying for the rental car you’ll be driving, they still need to be present when you pick the car up in order to sign the paperwork. If you’re paying for the car rental but someone else will be driving, you can add an additional driver at the time of the rental.

Should you use a debit card to rent a car?

If you have no other option, renting a car with a debit card is fine, provided you understand the caveats listed in the “tips” section above. Also, without a credit card, you’ll need to confirm that your personal car insurance policy covers any rental vehicles—otherwise you’ll be stuck with the rental company’s (often overpriced) insurance.

Last Updated 
March 10, 2022
How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
Jessica Spiegel
Freelance Writer

Jessica Spiegel is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She's an obsessive knitter and loves Italy, pho, Sazeracs, the Portland Timbers, and altruism.

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