Can I Rent a Car Without a Credit Card?
Whether you’re on vacation or need a car to commute to work while your personal vehicle is in the shop, the time will eventually come when you need to rent a car. The default option is to provide the car rental company with a credit card, at which point they will put the balance on your credit card and bill you for any extra fees they might need to charge later.
But what if you don’t have a credit card, or your credit card doesn’t have enough space to accommodate the full cost of the rental? Can you rent a car without a credit card as long as you have your driver’s license?
Today, let’s break down the answer to this question and more.
Why Do Rental Companies Prefer Credit Cards?
While car rental companies may accept several forms of payment, they usually prefer credit cards at the time of rental. Why?
Simply put, it’s because credit cards are the safest option and because they allow car rental agencies to rent out cars to as many people as possible.
Credit cards are the best way to purchase or rent things if you don’t have the cash on hand or the money in your bank account to finance the purchase upfront. You can use a credit card, then pay back the amount later.
This allows people who haven’t received their paycheck yet to still rent a car as long as they have at least one credit card with enough space to finance the purchase. However, credit cards have another advantage; they allow credit card companies to charge ancillary fees if the borrower does something harmful to the vehicle.
For example, a car rental company may decide to rent a car to a person who seems honest and trustworthy with the vehicle. But when they take the car, they get into an accident and try to flee without having to pay the car company back for the damage.
If the renter uses a credit card, the rental company can simply charge any extra fees or insurance costs to the credit card and still recoup their expenses. So if you want to rent a car quickly and easily, a credit card is your best bet.
Do You Always Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?
No. As mentioned above, you don’t absolutely need a credit card to rent a car since most commercial companies will also accept debit cards, cash, and other payment methods.
Some car rental companies also have location-specific policies. For example, Advantage doesn’t require a credit card if you make a reservation through our website or our phone reservation center. However, certain Advantage locations might require a credit card to make a reservation, though this is typically only for cars that are in high demand or at lots where there are only one or two vehicles available for a very popular make and model.
Because of this, you should always call the individual rental location ahead of time to see what their payment policies are.
What Limitations Will You Face if You Don’t Use a Credit Card?
While you don’t have to use a credit card to rent a car, you might face several limitations or extra fees.
For example, some rental car companies charge you extra to rent a car with cash or a debit card (unless you have a prepaid card with that company specifically). Other limitations might include:
- Additional identification requirements, including proof of a photo form of identification, like a valid driver’s license, and/or a passport if you are traveling internationally. They may also ask for proof of return travel and proof of insurance. If you have a credit card, this may not be necessary
- Restrictions on the types of cars you can book. Some rental car companies will only allow you to rent a certain vehicle type, like basic sedans, compact cars, or SUVs if you don’t have a credit card. Luxury cars or flashy rental vehicles may not be available
- A credit check, which can hurt your credit score depending on the car rental company you choose. A car rental company may perform a hard credit check to make sure you are trustworthy when loaning you a car
Alternatives to Using a Credit Card
What if you don’t have a credit card or you don’t have enough balance on your credit card left in order to finance a car rental? Let’s break down the alternatives to credit cards one by one.
Many car-rental companies come with prepaid cards. These are company-specific debit cards that are most often given out if you join a car rental company‘s loyalty or rewards program.
Prepaid cards can be a great way to rent a car, but they are only usable at the car company where you got them from. Because of this, their uses are inherently limited. You may also only be allowed a company prepaid card if you’re a good driver or if you prove an accident-free history over several years.
Debit cards are the second most common choice when renting a car from commercial rental companies like Advantage. But keep in mind that there are several trade-offs to using a debit card and paying for the car rental upfront.
For example, some car rental companies require you to make a premium security deposit. The security deposit is extra cash you pay the car rental company on top of the regular price so they have assurances that you will return the vehicle on time. The security deposit could take a few business weeks to be refunded before which you won’t have access to those funds in your debit account.
Additionally, car rental companies may require you to provide two forms of ID and undergo a credit check in order to rent a car with a debit card. You may also have to go without primary rental coverage, meaning you’ll have to process any accident or insurance claims through your own personal car insurance. You may also be asked for proof of travel plans or a ticketed return travel itinerary, current utility bill, and current home address.
Only certain cards may be accepted, like Discover, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, or other trusted card companies.
You may also be able to rent a car with cash, although some commercial car-rental companies won’t accept cash under any circumstances.
Even if they do accept cash, some rental companies may require a credit or debit card under your name in order to finalize the reservation process. Cash car rentals are only available for individuals above a certain age, typically between 21 and 25, and you may need to pay additional processing fees.
On top of all that, cash car rentals may take some time to reserve. So if you plan to rent a car with cash, be sure to call the car company ahead of time—it may take up to 30 business days to process your rental application.
At the end of the day, it’s still a good idea to rent a car with a credit card if at all possible. Renting a car with a debit card, cash, or a prepaid card is fine if you are in a pinch, but a credit card incurs fewer extra fees and comes with fewer risks for both you and the car rental company as long as you have sufficient available credit.
Fortunately, Advantage Rent a Car does everything we can to ensure you can get a ride no matter whether you have a credit card, debit card, or even have to pay with cash under certain circumstances. You can learn more about the types of payments we accept or check out our fleet of vehicles today—rent a car straight from the airport and for any need with Advantage.
Why Credit Cards Are Best for Car Rentals | US News & World
Is a Credit Check Required to Rent a Car? | Experian
Car Rental Benefits Offered By Credit Cards | Forbes