If you’re planning on hiring a car for the first time, you might wonder if you can do it without a credit card. The answer is… you can, but it’s a little tricky.
There’s nothing like hiring a car. Having your ‘own’ wheels can turn a run-of-the-mill holiday into a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
However, accidents can happen, and rental companies protect themselves against the unexpected. That’s why they take a security deposit when they hand over the car key.
Most of them will need a credit card in the main driver’s name for that deposit. There aren’t many that will accept a debit card.
WHY don’t most rental companies take debit cards?
A lot can happen between pick-up and drop-off. The car might come back with a new scratch or a broken wingmirror. It might be really dirty and need a lot of cleaning. The fuel tank might be empty. The driver might be delayed and bring the car back a day late.
If something like that happens, the renter will lose some of their deposit to cover the extra cost. They’ll get the rest of it back, and that’ll be it.
But some things aren’t so straightforward.
If the car’s in an accident, the repairs could end up costing more than the deposit. And if the renter gets a parking ticket, a speeding ticket, or a fine for not paying a toll, for example, there’s no guarantee that they (or the rental company) will know about it in time for the drop-off.
This is why rental companies tend to take credit cards, but not debit cards, for deposits. It’s in case a repair bill ends up being bigger than the deposit, or a fine doesn’t show up until months after the rental.
- If the renter used a debit card for the deposit, the rental company might find there’s not enough money in the account to cover the bill.
- But if a credit card was used, the rental company know they’ll be able to take the money. That’s because the money comes straight from the card provider – and the cardholder pays it back to the card provider later on.
What if you ONLY have a debit card?
If you don’t have a credit card, there might be other options:
- Before you book, compare different car hire companies online and look for one that will accept a debit card for the deposit. Some of them will, but most will only accept a credit card in the main driver’s name.
- Find out if someone who’s going with you has a credit card – and book the car in their name.
- Buy extra cover from the rental company when you get to the counter.
Most rental companies will offer a kind of extra cover that means you don’t need to leave a deposit. They should accept a debit card for this, as long as it’s in the main driver’s name.
Of course, the vast majority of rentals go smoothly… no bumps, no scratches, no speeding tickets, and no reason for either customer or company to worry about paying for them. But if you’d like to find out how to protect yourself while you’re on the road, see our guides to Insuring your rental.
To find out more about the difference between credit cards and debit cards when it comes to security deposits, see Why do I need a credit card to rent a car?