Now that we’ve all got cabin fever after a year of staycations and cancellations, it’s time for a road trip! Before you start packing your bags, you need to know that there’s a crazy rental car shortage from—you guessed it—the pandemic. That means you’re going to be paying a pretty penny just to drive around the lowest car on the rental car totem pole. And depending on where you live, you may as well start saving now. Current rental car rates in Hawaii are as high as $972 to drive around an economy car for a week.1 Yikes.
So, if you’re planning on taking a road trip this summer, reserve your car soon—but without a credit card. Now, you’re probably wondering how to rent a car without a credit card . . . and while we can’t help you find a rental car in this shortage, we can show you how to rent a car with a debit card.
If you’ve been living with the idea that you have to have a credit card to do business with rental car companies, buckle up—we’re going to show you how to rent a car without a credit card.
How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
If you’re still waiting to cut up your credit card because you think you need it to travel, think again. Here are seven tips for how to rent a car without a credit card. (Yup—it’s possible.)
1. Choose a company that lets you to rent a car with a debit card.
You may think that renting a car with a debit card is a story someone made up for attention. But believe it or not, it’s possible.
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Up until now, a lot of car rental companies would make you jump through some serious hoops if you slapped down a debit card instead of a credit card. And some of them still do. So, if you want to rent a car without using a credit card, you might be asked to bring in everything but your Social Security card, your medical history and your second grade attendance report.
Okay, okay, we’re kidding. Kind of.
There are some companies out there that actually let you rent a car with a debit card (that is, non-prepaid debit cards backed by Visa, Mastercard or Discover). Imagine that—a car rental company who will take your debit card (and not your firstborn with it).
2. Research your rental car options.
Some car rental companies limit the types of cars you can rent if you’re paying with a debit card. So before you set your heart on that new Dodge Charger, check with your rental company to see what kinds of vehicles you can rent if you’re paying with a debit card.
If you have your sights set on renting a luxury or exotic type of vehicle, you might have to lower your expectations. But don’t worry, those minivans and economy cars will still get the job done! And they’ll get you better gas mileage too.
3. Meet minimum age requirements.
Many car rental companies won’t give you the keys to the car unless you’re 25, or they’ll ask for quite a bit more money just because you’re underage.
That’s standard stuff. But if you do your research, you’ll find there are some companies that will let anyone over 20 rent a car. Oh—and you can pay with your debit card too.
4. Have a valid driver’s license.
This goes without saying, but if you want to rent a car, then you need to have a valid, up-to-date driver’s license. Why? Because those of us on the open road with you want to be sure you know how to drive. Funny how things work like that, isn’t it?
But really, don’t forget your driver’s license at home or that’s exactly where you’ll be staying—at home.
5. Be prepared for credit checks.
If you want to rent a car without a credit card, some companies will run a credit check on you. Yeah—even if you’re paying with a debit card. Look, we don’t get it either, but they’re letting you borrow their 20K piece of machinery here. We all know that a credit score doesn’t show how well you manage your money (or if you’re good for the price of the rental), but they need some way to figure out if they should lend the car to you or not. So just be prepared that you might have to go through this extra step.
6. Look out for travel plan requirements.
Car rental companies can be pretty nosy when it comes to your travel plans—especially at airports. If you land at the Nashville airport and want to rent a car with a debit card, you’ll be asked to show proof of your return flight out of Nashville. (Again, they’re rightfully a little possessive when it comes to their cars.)
7. Prepare for holds/deposits.
Holy inconvenience, Batman! No one really wants to see a hold from the rental company sitting in their bank account. Here’s the thing, though: A hold can be annoying—but they’ll give it right back when you return the car. So pony up for that hold or deposit, but just be sure you have the money sitting in your bank account (and don't spend it). The best thing to do is make a line item for it in your budget. There’s no such thing as being too prepared—especially when it comes to your money.
But Don’t I Need a Credit Card for Rental Car Insurance?
Ah, yes—this is a common misconception. Most people assume they need to use a credit card to rent a car so they can get rental car insurance coverage through their credit company.
But guess what? A lot of primary car insurance carriers offer rental car coverage (just double-check that yours does). Take that credit card companies! We don’t need you! Besides, not every credit card offers coverage, and some of them don’t even cover property damage or damage to another vehicle anyway.
Benefits of Renting a Car With a Debit Card
Here’s a crazy idea: Renting a car with a debit card means that the price they quote you is actually the price you’re going to pay. Why? Because paying with a debit card means no interest added (unlike paying with a credit card).
If you rent a car with a credit card, you’ll end up paying interest on the rental price you put on the card. And every month you don’t pay it off, you’ll add on more and more interest. So, a $300 car rental that seems like such a good deal could end up costing you . . . well, a lot!
Let’s say you charge that $300 car rental fee to your credit card, which has an annual percentage rate of 19%. You’re in no real hurry to pay it off and drag it out over the next year. The grand total you’ll end up paying back is now $357.
And that’s assuming you weren’t already carrying a balance on the card. If you had a revolving balance of $1,500 on the credit card and then charged this $300 car rental to it, your balance is now $1,800. But with that 19% interest being charged on the entire amount, you’ll now have to pay back $2,142 total. Ouch!
You Can Rent a Car Without a Credit Card
So, the next time you go out of town, rent your car without a credit card. You don’t need it! Really. All it takes is a little planning, a lot of budgeting, and the willpower to use your debit card (instead of a dumb credit card) for any spending. There’s no need to go into debt for something you can save up for yourself! When you make that decision, everything else is easy as pie (as long as you stick to the budget).
There are plenty of companies out there that will let you rent a car without a credit card. Just make sure you do your research, bring all of your required documents, and come to the counter knowing that they might want you to jump through a few more hoops. But that’s okay!
Listen: Traveling is stressful enough—why add debt to the mix? Make a free budget right now with EveryDollar. You can download the app, create your trip budget, and start planning. Just don’t forget to track your spending. Happy travels!