Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?

Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?

When you need to rent a car, you want to know as much as you can about the process before making your reservation. You don’t want to be ready to go on your trip only to realize that there’s a hangup on your end. 

If you’ve never rented a car before, you may not know how you’re expected to pay for the rental. It is easier to rent a car in most instances if you have a credit card, but do you need a credit card to rent a car?

People often advise that credit cards are to be used for emergencies only, and this is to help avoid debt. A rental car on your vacation doesn’t really sound like an emergency, though. However, most rental companies will only rent out their vehicles if you pay with a credit card even if you have sufficient funds. Why is that? Why can’t you pay with other forms of payment such as a debit card, virtual credit cards, money orders, gift cards, and cash?

Why Do You Need A Credit Card To Rent A Car? 

Premium cars are not a cheap purchase. Even for companies, premium vehicles are assets with a serious potential for future liabilities. They require maintenance and repairs, and they can be lost in an instant due to unforeseen circumstances. Then, they must be replaced, and again, it is not a cheap purchase.

For this reason, premium car owners do not usually want to hand over their keys to someone they don’t know or don’t trust. Yet, rental car companies turn over the keys to people every day. How do they secure their assets and develop trust with customers?

The rental car company provides a clean and safe means of transportation with clear instructions for use and offers additional features like proof of insurance, car seats, and other car features that make the ride fit your needs. 

When a customer approaches the rental car company to obtain a vehicle, a credit card provides the most assurance that they will be properly compensated for anything that occurs while the vehicle is under the customer’s care. 

For example, if speeding tickets, traffic violations, or parking fees are incurred during the rental, the rental car company may not be aware of them at the time of rental. When renters pay with a credit card, the company can get compensation for these fees more easily. 

So, the rental car company will accept a credit card payment for the deposit on your vehicle rental to ensure that if repairs that exceed the deposit or fines are discovered after the rental is turned in, they can charge the credit card. 

Accepting a deposit with a debit card could mean that there is not enough money available for the fines or repairs when they need to be processed. These potential additional charges are also known as surcharges, and debit cards are not allowed to be charged tax. 

What Type Of Credit Card Do You Need? 

When you’re trying to book your reservation for your rental car, you need to know what type of credit card to use. Like most other businesses, most rental car companies primarily accept major credit cards like American Express, Visa, Mastercard Diner’s Club. Unfortunately, prepaid cards or check cards that money can be added to will not work. 

In addition to a credit check, if you have concerns about whether your credit card will be accepted or not, it’s best to contact your rental car company for clarification or visit their website. 

What If You Don’t Have A Credit Card? 

If you don’t have a credit card or you are worried your credit card may be declined, you can probably still rent a car, but you need to know how to do it without a credit card. If you only have a debit card, you will need to provide essential forms of identification of the renter’s name. Always have proper forms of ID in hand, such as a valid driver’s license, military identification card, and passport. Here are the steps you can take to book a vehicle for your trip.

Comparative Research 

Shop around the different rental car companies in the location you need to rent from to see who will accept a debit card as a form of payment. Then, compare the associated fees for using a debit card to pay, and choose the one that best meets your needs and your budget.

Look To Your Traveling Companions

If you aren’t traveling alone, you can ask another member of your group if they have a credit card to use to secure the rental car. Just remember that the main driver on the rental has to also be the name on the credit card. If you still plan to be the driver, you may pay an additional fee to add you as another driver. 

Consider Additional Coverage

Some rental car companies will allow you to skip a security deposit if you opt for more comprehensive coverage for the vehicle while you’re renting it. You’ll want to ask the company if that is an option available if you would prefer to pay by debit card. 

The extra insurance coverage alleviates the burden on the company to cover damages or loss, which frees them to make the exception and allow you to make a reservation without a credit card. Remember that the main driver’s name will still need to be on the debit card if that’s the form of payment you choose to use.

Get A Card

It’s truly easier to use a credit card to secure your reservation for your rental car, but there can be more benefits to you when you do. Some credit card companies provide free auto insurance for your rental car when you use their card to pay for the rental car, so it’s worth calling your credit card companies to find out if you have a card that provides that perk. 

If you don’t have a credit card, you may want to consider getting one for this purpose if you have time before your trip. This might be a great avenue to pursue if you plan to rent vehicles again in the future. You can secure your rental, build your credit, and be on your way to enjoying your trip.


Renting a car for your trip can be a lot easier if you use a credit card. Sometimes, a credit card is the only accepted form of payment. It all depends on the company and what you’re willing to pay if you prefer to pay another way. 

It’s important to remember that the rental car company is taking the risk by lending out their vehicles. There needs to be some assurance that they will be appropriately compensated if an unexpected event occurs. 

You may have to adjust your methods if you want to rent a vehicle without a credit card. But it’s nice to know that if you use a credit card, some credit cards will automatically provide you with auto insurance before the end of the rental when you use their card. If you are entitled to a refund, it will be released to your bank.

Surcharges |
Credit Cards: Types of Debt & How Credit Cards Work |
When a Company Declines Your Credit or Debit Card |

Recommended Articles