Renting a car with a debit card? While most major car rental companies will let you do it, you can expect to jump through an extra hoop or two. In many cases, you’ll go through a car rental credit check.
Car Rental Agencies and Credit Checks
There are many reasons why a car rental company would rather rent to someone with a credit card than a debit card, but in general it boils down to this: Debit cards pose a higher risk for them.
Why a Car Rental Company Might Run a Credit Check
There’s no hard and fast rule about car rentals and credit checks. Car rental companies have different policies regarding debit cards to begin with, and car rental agencies that are franchises often have a lot of leeway to set their own rules. In a study by CreditCards.com, less than 10 percent of rental car agencies refused, under any circumstances, to rent to customers with a debit card. Most of the remaining 90 percent of agencies permitted customers to use a debit card, but required customers to meet at least one extra qualification requirement. About half put a large hold on the debit card as an additional deposit and 10 percent mandated a credit check.
In most cases, rental car agencies that run a credit check are not looking for a magic number on a credit score but rather red flags such as delinquent lines of credit opened within the past several years. In a nutshell, they are trying to mitigate risk.
Some Debit Cards are Better Than Others
The CreditCards.com study found that, typically, rental car companies want to see a debit card with either a Visa or MasterCard logo that is affiliated with a bank, savings and loan or credit union. But otherwise, the big takeaway was a lack of consistency; the study found some agencies were willing to rent to local residents using a debit card, but refused to rent to out-of-state customers, while others allow debit card usage from out-of-state residents, but not locals. Some required that a renter using a debit card to be 25 years old or older, others had a lower minimum age. And many rental car offices said they placed a hold for a larger deposit of up to $500 on a bigger car than a smaller car. Again, these are all steps the rental car agencies can take to lower their own risk.
If you’ve only got a debit card, note that renting a car with a debit card recently got easier with sister budget chains Thrifty and Dollar, which now accept debit cards with virtually the same ease as credit cards for customers 20 years or older.