How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
You can rent a car without a credit card, but it depends on the company's policies. Some companies will accept cash or prepaid cards for a car rental, and they may require a large deposit. When you rent a car without a credit card, the rental company takes on additional risk. As a result, if you rent a car without a credit card you may have to provide additional documentation and pass a credit check.
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UPDATED: Jan 11, 2022
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- Most rental car companies will check your credit score if opting out of paying with a credit card
- You will be required to provide additional information and documents if you choose not to pay with a credit card
- Your deposit for the rental car will often be higher if you choose to pay with a debit card instead of a credit card
There are no two ways about it—rental car companies would prefer you pay for your vehicle with a credit card. Credit cards provide the company with a financial guarantee and, in addition, some credit cards cover rental car insurance.
Do you lack sufficient free credit for a week-long rental? Or would you simply prefer to travel without worrying about the security and whereabouts of your credit card? There are many reasons why you may want to rent a car without putting down plastic.
The good news is that most companies will rent you a vehicle using another form of payment. However, they may place restrictions on the services they provide or require additional documents before they let you drive away. This guide will tell you how to rent a car without a credit card.
Before you learn more about renting a car without a credit card, make sure you have the car insurance you need. Enter your ZIP code above for fast, free auto insurance quotes from top companies.
Why do companies not want you to rent a car without a credit card?
First, it’s important to understand the reasons why car companies prefer their customers to pay with credit cards in the first place.
The primary reason that rental car companies favor credit cards over other forms of payment is security:
- When you drive off the lot, the rental car company is placing an asset worth tens of thousands of dollars in your hands.
- 92,000 rental cars were stolen in the USA between 2015 and 2018. It makes sense that the rental car companies are wary.
- Paying with a credit card provides an additional level of assurance that you’ll return that asset on time and in good condition.
There are two main ways that a credit card gives rental car companies a greater feeling of security.
Credit Card Company Vetting
Credit card companies don’t hand out their cards to everyone. Having an active card from a major company (like Visa or Mastercard) demonstrates a degree of credit trustworthiness.
This gives the rental car companies some confidence in the reliability of the person renting their vehicle.
Full Payment Guarantee
Even if you pay in full for your car rental reservation upfront, you may accrue additional fees if you:
- Return the car after the agreed-upon date and time
- Return a damaged or dirty vehicle
- Return the car without a full gas tank
Rental car companies want to make sure that they collect any rental fee in full. Depending on the size of these rental charges, the customer may not be able to afford them at the time. However, credit card companies have near-limitless resources to ensure that rental car companies are paid the full amount.
After that, getting that money from the cardholder falls on the credit card company. Rental car companies don’t want to serve the role of debt collectors. Credit card companies are much more experienced in this regard.
On your end, many cards include rental car insurance, which can protect both you and the company.
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How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
If you’re not using a credit card to pay for your rental car, you have several options—not all of which are created equal.
- Debit card – A debit card is issued by your bank and tied directly to your checking account. Next to credit cards, debit cards are the easiest form of payment to rent a car. Nearly all rental car companies accept debit cards as a form of securing your reservation and paying for your rental.
- Cash – Some rental car companies allow you to use cash to pay for your rental car. Even if you use cash to pay for the rental, most companies will still require you to use a credit or debit card to make a reservation and cover additional charges.
Therefore, cash can be an option if you want to avoid a large rental charge on your credit card bill, but you may be out of luck if you don’t have a card at all. Check with the specific branch you wish to rent from to see if they accept cash. For security reasons, some branches within the same company differ in their policy.
- Prepaid card – Renting a car with a prepaid card is like renting with cash. Enterprise and Hertz accept prepaid cards from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express as payment.
Before renting a car, call several branches to see what alternate forms of payment they can accept.
Yes, you need to call. In this case, a web search alone will not suffice. Different rental car companies have different policies, and these policies can change. Likewise, policies may vary between branches.
Once you’ve found a company that will accept your chosen payment method, make sure you know what’s in the fine print of their policy.
Additional Requirements and Limitations When You Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
Even if you’re allowed to rent a car without a credit card, your specific experience will depend on where you complete your transaction.
In this section, we’ll summarize some of the common policies of the major car rental brands.
Rental companies frequently require a security deposit of a few hundred dollars on top of the rental cost. This deposit is often higher if a debit card rather than a credit card is used to pay for the rental. These funds are unavailable for the duration of the rental.
It can sometimes take a few weeks for the rental company to refund you fully. If you pay for your rental with a debit card, these funds will come directly out of your checking account. With a credit card, your deposit should be refunded before your bill is due, so you’re never actually on the hook for that money.
Most companies will check your credit if you wish to pay for your car rental without a credit card. If your credit score is low, they may decline your rental.
Fortunately, this is a “soft pull,” so this credit check will not affect your credit score.
A valid driver’s license is always required to rent a car, but additional documents may be required if you choose to pay without a credit card.
Most rental car companies will require additional forms of identification. Here are some of the commonly accepted ID documents:
- Alternative credit or debit card (i.e., not the one used to pay for the rental)
- Military ID
- Non-governmental ID with name and photo
- Current utility bill with the same name and address as driver’s license
Dollar Car Rental requires you to apply for their ID card if you wish to pay with cash.
If you’re renting from a branch at an airport location, you may also be required to provide evidence of a returning plane ticket that matches the end of your reservation.
Many people know that the magic age for car rentals (or at least car rental prices) is 25. The same applies here. Many rental car companies will not let people under the age of 25 rent a car without a credit card.
Many rental car companies will not open their full fleet to renters using cash or debit cards. Instead, they will likely limit you to their basic options.
For example, Avis will not let you rent a vehicle from their Signature Series without a credit card. That excludes you from renting:
- Sports cars, convertibles, and muscle cars
- Luxury SUVs and crossovers
- Luxury sedans
Enterprise and National won’t allow people other than the spouse or domestic partner of the renter to drive the vehicle when using a debit card payment. For a short trip, this might not matter, but it’s something to consider for longer road trips with friends or other family members.
Even within the same company, various branches can have different policies for different forms of payment. There are several reasons for this:
- Airport versus non-Airport – Some companies treat branches attached to major airports differently from “freestanding” ones.
- Branch ownership – Some rental car companies own all of their branches, while others franchise their branches (meaning that different individuals own and operate each location under the authority of the main company). Still, other companies operate as hybrids of the two extremes. If your chosen car rental company operates franchised locations, each owner may have different payment policies.
- Local laws – Vehicle liability and state auto insurance requirements vary. As a result, the same rental car company may place different restrictions or charge different fees depending on the state you’re renting in. If you’re wondering, “Should I get rental car insurance” or “Can you take a rental car out of state,” our team of experts is here to help.
It’s important to check the company’s policies you plan to rent from and those of the individual branch. If the company’s payment policies (or any policies) vary by rental location, there should be information on their website.
How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card: The Bottom Line
Rental car companies prefer credit cards because they provide an additional level of assurance that their financial needs are protected. A credit card is the best way to rent a car in order to protect both yourself and the rental car company.
There are ways to rent a car without a credit card, although you may need to provide additional guarantees and there may be limits on your rental.
Regardless of how you pay for your rental vehicle, you should protect yourself in case it is damaged or stolen. If you frequently rent cars, then you may want a personal insurance policy that can lower your yearly costs.
Now that you know all about renting a car if you don’t have a credit card, find out how much you could save on car insurance. Just input your ZIP code and a few other details, and we’ll compare the best local rates, all in one place.