When you show up at the counter to rent a car, many rental companies expect you to hand over a credit card. However, what if you only have a debit card on hand? The question then arises: can you rent a car with a debit card?

While the age limits on renting a car are more straightforward, using a debit card to pay for a rental car is more complicated. We’ll delve into and explain whether or not you can rent a car using a debit card and how the process may work.

Is it possible to rent a car with a debit card?

If you find yourself wondering if you can rent a car with a debit card, the quick answer is it varies. Some companies at specific locations may allow it, but using a debit card usually requires you to jump through several additional hoops.

Car rental companies need to protect themselves and having a credit card means you have been vouched for by a financial institution. Your credit card issuer looked into your previous spending habits and decided you are responsible enough to be trusted with credit. When you can’t provide a credit card to a rental car company, you lose some of this credibility. Also, the company might need to bill you after renting the car for damages or an empty gas tank but it can’t do that with a debit card without you being present and inserting your PIN.

Therefore, the rental companies typically require you to prove yourself in other ways, like paying a deposit, showing additional forms of identification or providing your car insurance information. Companies like Alamo, Budget, Enterprise and Thrifty may allow you to rent a car with a debit card, but it depends on the location. Franchise locations often play by their own rules, so it’s best to call ahead to ask about the policy.

Does it make sense to rent a car with a debit card?

Let’s look at the positives of renting a car with a debit card. If you don’t have a credit card because you’re just starting to build credit, have a credit score that’s too low to qualify for a credit card or just don’t want a credit card in your wallet, using a debit card may enable you to rent a car for your next trip.

What are some potential downsides? Although it’s possible to rent a car with a debit card, you may not want to put in the extra work the company will probably require. Typically, you’ll have to pay an additional deposit, which can be around $200. This deposit will remain unavailable in your bank account for potentially several weeks, which isn’t an issue with a credit card.

Furthermore, you might have to provide proof of car insurance and up to three forms of ID. If you’re at an airport, you may have to provide a passport or an employee ID with a photo and a roundtrip ticket. If you aren’t at an airport, you might have to pull out a bill or a lease to prove your identity.

Many companies also require documentation of travel plans. The company might even require a credit check to make sure you are responsible enough to be trusted with a rental car. There also could be an age limit — although most companies allow you to rent a car under the age of 25 if you pay the “young driver” fee, the companies may also require you to be over 25 if you use a debit card.

Finally, the company may restrict where you can take the car, potentially banning you from taking it out of state. This restriction isn’t a problem for more local drives, but it could ruin longer road trip plans.

What do these rules look like in practice? Enterprise says the cost of its deposit varies based on location so it’s best to call ahead to find out, no matter the company. The current policy with Thrifty requires you to make the reservation at least 24 hours in advance for a standard car — no convertibles for you, sorry. The company does require a deposit but it doesn’t make you go through all the extremes of showing other forms of identification or proof of travel plans. And you can be as young as 21 years old.

Why using a credit card makes more sense

If you’re considering using a debit card to rent a car, you might want to think twice. You may get collision insurance built into your reservation through your credit card provider, for one. This makes for a more straightforward process and a safer drive so you’ll get basic insurance coverage without having to lift a finger.

Additionally, you don’t have to hold up to $500 on your debit card for up to a few weeks. If the cost of the rental is $300 and the deposit is $200, your bank account will take a hit for a while. It can take 14 days to get your deposit back and many people can’t afford to lose those funds for that long. Be sure to take into consideration the amount of money you need in your bank account for upcoming expenses even after your trip will be over.

More so, it’s easier to dispute charges on credit cards since the consumer protections are stronger. When you purchase an item or service on a credit card, the Fair Credit Billing Act comes into play. The act covers you for no more than $50 of fraudulent charges and most credit card providers don’t require you to pay anything for false purchases. Therefore, if something fishy happens with your car rental purchase, you won’t be held responsible.

Finally, a credit card earns rewards, which means you can earn cash back, travel or points on your rental car purchase. You won’t get that with most debit cards.

If you’re thinking of renting a car with a debit card, do some research. Call around and make sure you know what will be required of you and that you can manage it. Overall, renting a car with a credit card makes more sense in most instances. It’s more straightforward, more secure and less work for you. If you’re in the market for a new credit card to use on your next journey, take a look at our best credit cards page to find one that works for you.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.