Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?

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You don't need a credit card to rent a car with most of the major car rental agencies, but there are good reasons to consider using one.

Depending on the rental car provider, you may also be able to secure and pay for a rental with a debit card. Cash, gift cards and money orders are typically not acceptable as a way to secure a rental, but you may be able to use one of these methods to pay fees when you return the vehicle.

That said, credit cards can provide added convenience when you rent a car, and you may also enjoy money-saving perks with some of the top credit cards.

Which Car Rental Companies Don't Require a Credit Card?

A lot of well-known car rental agencies allow customers to use a credit or a debit card to secure and pay for a rental.

However, there may be some caveats to keep in mind. For example, the company will typically place a hold on your account for at least the cost of the rental. If you don't have enough cash in your account, this hold may make it difficult to meet your other financial obligations.

Here are some other stipulations among popular rental companies:

  • Alamo: You'll need to pay a $200 to $400 refundable security deposit and provide proof of return travel if you're at an airport location.
  • Avis: You'll need to be at least 25 years old. Even then, not all locations accept debit cards, and some vehicles may be unavailable without a credit card.
  • Budget: You must be 25 years or older and agree to a hold of at least $100. Not all locations accept debit cards to secure the rental, however.
  • Dollar: You must undergo a credit check, provide proof of travel that coincides with your rental dates (if you're at an airport location), share two forms of identification and agree to a hold of the cost of the rental plus $500. Some franchise locations may not accept debit cards.
  • Enterprise: You can only use a debit card at airport locations, and you'll need to provide proof of return travel and a driver's license with a name and address that match your current home address. No one else can operate the vehicle besides you or your spouse or domestic partner.
  • Hertz: You can only use a debit card if it's saved to your Hertz Gold Plus Rewards profile. You'll also need to undergo a credit check and agree to a hold on your account for the cost of the rental plus $500. At airport locations, you'll also need to show two forms of identification and proof of return travel.
  • National Car Rental: At airport locations, you'll need to show proof of a ticketed return travel itinerary. Additionally, your name and address on your driver's license must match your current home address, and only you or your spouse or domestic partner can drive the rental.
  • Sixt: Most locations allow debit cards. You'll need to provide two forms of government-issued identification. If you're not local, you can't rent certain vehicles and you'll need to present your return travel itinerary.
  • Thrifty: You can use a debit card to rent compact through full-size vehicles only, and you'll need to pay an additional $500 security deposit and undergo a credit check. If you're renting at an airport location, you'll also need to provide two forms of identification and proof of return travel.

How Paying With a Credit Card Can Save You Money

While debit cards are generally accepted, you'll likely find credit cards to be more convenient, especially if you want to avoid a hefty security deposit or a credit check. On top of that, you could potentially save some money by using credit instead of debit when you rent your next vehicle:

  • Some cards offer discounts. Some premium travel credit cards give you access to special discounts when you rent a car with select rental agencies.
  • Some cards offer rewards and other perks. You can earn cash back, points or miles on your rental with virtually any rewards credit card, but some offer bonus rewards on travel-related purchases like rental cars.
  • You could get car rental insurance. Many credit cards offer a car rental collision damage waiver benefit, though in most cases, it's secondary coverage—which means you'd first need to file a claim with your primary insurance provider if you have one. Some premium cards offer primary coverage. Also, keep in mind that credit cards don't include liability insurance, so you'll want to consider purchasing that if you don't have a personal auto insurance policy or don't want to use it.

Get Help Finding the Right Credit Card for You

If you're thinking about getting a credit card for car rentals and more, it's important to find the best fit for you based on your needs, preferences and credit score.

Most of the top credit cards require good or excellent credit, and if you're not quite there yet, it's best to avoid applying until you're ready. Experian CreditMatch™ can help you get an idea of which cards you might qualify for based on your credit profile. You'll be able to compare your options and determine which one is best for you.

If you don't like your options, consider taking time to work on improving your credit score before you try again.