using a credit card to hire a car

Do You Need a Credit Card to Hire a Car? Here’s What You Should Know

Do you need a credit card to hire a car? Generally, yes, because most car rental companies prefer them for financial security. 

However, there are ways to rent a car without a credit card, though it may involve extra steps. In this article, we’ll explore your options and what to expect if you don’t have a credit card.

Key Takeaways

  • Car hire companies prefer credit cards due to their ability to secure potential charges for damages, refuelling, or cleaning, providing a financial safety net.
  • Renting a car with a debit card is possible but comes with additional requirements and limitations, such as proof of travel plans, age restrictions, and often credit checks.
  • Policies for using debit cards vary among major car hire companies, with Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz allowing it under certain conditions, primarily excluding premium vehicle rentals.

using a credit card to hire a car

1 Why Car Hire Companies Prefer Credit Cards

Imagine lending your car to a friend. You’d want assurances they’ll take good care of it and cover any mishaps, right? That’s precisely why car hire companies are fond of credit cards. 

These little pieces of plastic are not just convenient—they’re a safety net. Credit cards help manage financial risk by securing potential charges for damages, refuelling, or cleaning of rented vehicles. It’s like a silent guardian, ensuring that if the car returns with a new scratch, the funds to fix it are already promised.

Moreover, car hire companies insist on the main driver presenting a credit card to prove they’re not a credit risk, safeguarding the company’s assets. It’s akin to a gentle tap on the brakes, ensuring that they don’t speed into a rental agreement without some form of financial accountability. The credit card pre-authorization process acts as a buffer, earmarking funds for a security deposit without draining them from the customer’s account. This way, the deposit is blocked and not charged, preserving the customer’s credit line while still protecting the rental company.

Let’s not forget the additional security benefits credit cards offer. In the event of a disagreement over damages, credit cards can be a tool to help reclaim costs, thanks to the insurance coverage they typically provide. 

The blocked deposit also covers insurance excess for potential damages, adding an extra layer of protection for both the customer and the rental car company. It’s a mutual trust pact sealed with a card swipe.

Can You Use a Debit Card Instead?

Now, what if a credit card isn’t part of your wallet’s ensemble? Is the dream of driving off into the sunset in a rental car dashed? Not necessarily. While car hire companies are indeed partial to credit cards, debit cards aren’t entirely off the table. However, the road isn’t as smooth. The straightforward answer to whether you can use a debit card to hire a car is ‘no,’ but there’s a bit more to it than that. Some car hire suppliers accept major debit cards, but this varies by location and often comes with additional requirements.

For instance, when renting a car with a debit card, you might encounter the following requirements:

  • Show evidence of a return journey booked at least a day in advance
  • Present a debit card that matches the name on your driving license
  • Age restrictions and a possible credit check could also apply

It’s important to note that renting a luxury car with a debit card may not be possible. Some premium models are off-limits unless you have a credit card.

But it’s not all detours and roadblocks. Some locations, like certain Avis branches, may still let you pay with a debit card, provided you’re okay with leaving a credit card for the security deposit. In a pinch, some agencies, such as Sixt, might accept debit cards if you can show a return flight, train, or bus ticket purchased at least 24 hours before pickup. So, while you may need to navigate some extra steps, hiring a car with a debit card isn’t entirely out of the question.

Policies of Major Car Hire Companies Regarding Debit Cards

When it comes to payment methods, not all car hire companies are created equal. Each one has its own roadmap for handling debit card transactions, with various conditions and caveats depending on the vehicle type and rental location. Let’s take a closer look at the specific debit card policies of some of the industry’s heavy hitters and see how they measure up when it’s time to hit the road.

Enterprise Debit Card Policy

Enterprise, for example, rolls out the welcome mat for most major debit cards, but don’t expect to drive away in a 4×4 or a premium model with one; for those, a credit card issued by a credit card company is your only ticket to ride. Regardless of the vehicle type, the card used must bear the main driver’s name, ensuring that the person behind the wheel is the same one who’s financially accountable.

While they may require a credit check to ensure you’re good for the journey, Enterprise does offer the convenience of renting with a debit card at their airport locations—provided you can show proof of your return trip and can part with a deposit.

Avis Car Rental Debit Card Policy

On the other hand, Avis is more lenient with debit card users in the U.S. as long as they’re at least 25 years old. Most rentals can be secured with a Visa or MasterCard-branded debit card, but if you’ve set your sights on a premium vehicle, you’ll need to switch gears and provide a credit card instead. And just to keep you in the safe lane, Avis may run a credit check when you opt to pay with a debit card.

Hertz Debit Card Policy

Cruising over to Hertz, debit card acceptance is on the menu in select European countries, including the UK and France. But if you’re picking up your vehicle at an airport, be prepared to show two forms of identification and proof of your return flight.

And for those dreaming of the luxury experience, Hertz’s high-end Dream Cars® and Shelby GT-H range remain an exclusive club for credit card holders.

Additional Insurance and Its Impact on Payment Methods

While navigating the winding roads of car rental payments, you might wonder if opting for additional insurance could let you bypass the credit card requirement. Think of it as a sort of airbag—extra protection in the case of a collision. However, the need for a credit card typically persists even with additional insurance, such as the recommended top-up insurance covering damages outside the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW).

It’s not just about covering the damages; it’s about ensuring the rental company has a financial guarantee.

using a credit card to hire a car

Security Deposit Requirements

Let’s shift our focus to one of the key aspects of renting a vehicle: the security deposit. It’s the car rental company’s way of ensuring they have a safety net should the car return in a less-than-perfect condition. This deposit might also cover additional costs incurred during the rental period, such as refuelling or cleaning. While the deposit amount varies based on the location, supplier, and type of car, it typically needs to be blocked on a credit card in the main driver’s name at the car rental company.

Now, the process takes a different turn if you’re using a debit card. Instead of blocking the funds, the rental company may withdraw the full deposit amount and refund it after the car is returned without any reported damages or extra fees. Having a significant sum of money tied up for the duration of the rental, potentially up to two weeks or more, along with transaction fees, can be challenging. It’s a steeper hill to climb, but not impossible if you’re prepared for the temporary financial detour.

Remember, when renting a car or considering a hire car:

  • The card you present must be in the name of the main driver
  • The person at the wheel should be the same one holding the financial reins
  • The card should have enough credit to cover the deposit, providing a layer of financial asphalt for any bumps along the way.

No matter which card you use, it’s crucial to understand the deposit requirements to prevent any roadblocks when you’re ready to pick up your rental car.

Alternatives to Credit Cards for Car Hire

But what if a credit card is not an option for you? Are there any alternate routes you can take to hire a car? While credit cards are the preferred method, there are a few detours you can explore. For instance, some car hire companies might accept pre-paid cards for online bookings or even cash deposits in specific cases. However, these alternatives often come with their own set of challenges, such as not being accepted at the counter when you go to pick up the vehicle.

It’s worth noting that Hire2You, a car hire company that prides itself on beating any genuine quote and offering transparent pricing, might have flexible options for those without a credit card. While alternatives are limited and may require more legwork, they can be a viable option for those committed to finding a way to rent a car without a credit card.

Tips for Renting a Car Without a Credit Card

If you’re gearing up to rent a car without a credit card, it’s not all red lights and stop signs. You can navigate this path successfully with some strategic planning and knowledge of the rental landscape. 

First and foremost, check individual rental company policies, as they can vary significantly. Some companies may allow you to pay for the car using a debit card, while others might even accept a prepaid card when booking online or to pay at the end of the hire period.

In cases where a debit card is accepted, you might still need to provide a credit card upon pick-up to cover the deposit. Enterprise, for example, may request additional documents like proof of return travel from airport locations or additional identification such as a utility bill for address verification. Planning is also key, as some companies require bookings to be made at least 24 hours in advance when using a debit card.

For those in popular destinations like Mallorca and Ibiza, companies like Sunny Cars offer no-deposit packages, which can be a lifesaver for those without a credit card. By being prepared to meet additional requirements or provide extra documentation, you can put the pedal to the metal and secure a rental car without the traditional credit card.


As the road trip comes to an end, let’s glance in the rearview mirror. Car rental companies have a clear preference for credit cards, valuing the financial security and risk management they offer. Debit cards are sometimes accepted but often with additional requirements and limitations. 

Understanding the policies of major car hire companies and being aware of security deposit needs is crucial. While alternatives to credit cards do exist, they require some navigation. Armed with these insights and tips, you’re now ready to take the wheel and drive away in your rental car, credit card or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do car hire companies prefer credit cards over other payment methods?

Car hire companies prefer credit cards because they provide a secure way to manage financial risk. They ensure that funds are available for potential charges or damages without actually withdrawing them from the customer’s account, which reduces the company’s liability.

Can I still rent a car if I only have a debit card?

Yes, you can still rent a car with a debit card at some car hire companies, but there may be restrictions and additional requirements, such as a credit check.

Are there any car rentals that don’t require a credit card at all?

Yes, some car rental companies like Hire2You and Sunny Cars offer alternatives to credit cards, such as accepting prepaid cards for online bookings or cash deposits in specific cases. Therefore, it is possible to rent a car without a credit card.

What should I do if I want to rent a premium vehicle but don’t have a credit card?

If you want to rent a premium vehicle but don’t have a credit card, consider using a debit card. Be prepared to provide additional documentation or meet specific rental company requirements, as these steps will help you navigate the challenge of renting without a credit card.

How much is the security deposit for car rentals, and how is it handled with a debit card?

The security deposit for car rentals varies by location, supplier, and car type. When using a debit card, the full deposit amount is usually withdrawn and refunded after the rental period instead of being blocked as with a credit card.

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