Renting a Car Without a Credit Card: How You Can Do It
Whether you’re going on a work trip, taking a personal vacation, or your own car is in the shop, renting a car can be a daunting task. You’ll have to shop around at different rental companies to find the car you want at a price you can afford, and when you’ve finally find the right car at the right price, you’ll have to make the reservation.
When renting a car, you will make the reservation or put down a deposit before driving off the lot. Depending on the company, you may be able to pay in full either during the reservation process or once you return the vehicle. Either way, almost all rental car companies require, or at least prefer, the reservation to be made with a credit card.
Why are credit cards the standard payment for rental cars? If damages happen to the car that cost more than you have in your bank account, the car renter will receive compensation from your credit company. Credit cards have become the typical method of reserving rental cars because they offer a certain level of security.
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Can I Rent a Car Without a Credit Card?
Yes, you can rent a car without a credit card — though it may be inconvenient and more expensive. Each rental company has their own policy on other forms of payment. Though most companies will let you use some kind of alternative, these options tend to be onerous, slow, and not widely available. Some may allow cash payments, others might only accept credit or debit cards.
At almost all companies, if you do not use a credit card, you will be required to provide additional identification, undergo a credit check, and have a larger, longer hold or deposit on your account. Rental companies have a big incentive to accept credit cards, but by doing some research and shopping around, you can use another form of payment when renting a car.
How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
Use a Debit Card to Rent a Car
A debit card is the preferred alternative when reserving a car rental, and many rental companies will accept them as a form of payment. The funds will be withdrawn directly from your account, so cards that are not connected to a bank account, such as prepaid debit or gift cards, may not work. In addition, many companies will not accept debit cards that do not have a major logo, such as Visa or MasterCard.
Use a Prepaid Card to Rent a Car
Though policies will vary between companies, reserving a car with a prepaid card is difficult. You’ll have to shop around to find a company that will allow you to pick up a vehicle with a prepaid card; it is more common for rental companies to accept prepaid cards as a form of payment when you return the car. However, most rental companies will still require the presentation of a credit or debit card before releasing a car to you.
Use Cash to Rent a Car
It’s difficult, but still possible to use cash to reserve a rental car. Similar to prepaid cards, most major rental car companies will accept cash as a form of payment when you return the car, but will still need to see a credit or debit card before giving you the vehicle. Certain companies will allow you to apply for a Cash Deposit ID, and if you are accepted, will allow you to make reservations and deposits with cash. Smaller, independent companies may accept cash without seeing a credit or debit card, but may not be widely available, more expensive than larger companies, and have limited vehicle choices.
Prepare to Pay a Deposit
If you choose to pay with something other than a credit card, you will likely have to put down a hefty deposit; oftentimes, the price can exceed $200, on top of the cost of the car and any additional fees. If you use a debit card, the company may put a hold on the funds in your account. You won’t be able to use them, and will have to wait until they are released, which may take up to two weeks. If you’re able to make a cash deposit, the rental company will return it to you if the car is undamaged, typically as a check in the mail. Overall, be prepared to pay more and to not have access to those funds for a longer amount of time.
Bring Additional Identification
On top of a deposit, you will be required to present multiple forms of ID. Have your driver’s license ready, along with a second type of government-issued photo ID, such as a passport. Ensure that the names and address on your documents match those on your driver’s license. Each rental company has their own requirements, and depending on who you’re renting from, you may need to show all or a combination of the following documents:
- Recent utility bills with your current contact information
- Proof of vehicle/driver’s insurance
- A travel itinerary or plane ticket, if applicable or renting from an airport location
- An additional debit or credit card
- A company photo ID
- Store member card (such as a Costco card) with a photo
Anticipate a Credit Check
Expect a credit check if you don’t pay with a credit card. Should something happen to damage the vehicle while it’s in your possession, rental companies need to know that you or your credit provider can cover the cost. And if you have poor credit, they may not rent the car to you at all, even if you use a debit card. If you have good credit and are able to rent the car, the credit check may still hurt your credit score a bit.
While using a credit card is the easiest option, you can still rent a car without one. The whole process of renting a car takes longer, may cost more money, and comes with restrictions. When you don’t use a credit card to pay, many companies will likely restrict the kinds of cars you can rent, meaning that luxury vehicles, large cars, or anything too expensive are off-limits. There might even be additional restrictions, such as not being allowed to have additional drivers.
However, if you have poor credit and are trying to repair it, or don’t have a credit card yet, paying with another method may be the best choice for you. Figure out what your needs are, and then spend plenty of time shopping around for the company that will best suit them.
This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published February 10, 2018.