Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by Elizabeth

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Just because something is allowed doesn’t mean it’s a smart idea. Using a debit card to pay for a rental car falls into this category.

In the last year, the three rental car companies under the Hertz Corporation umbrella—Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty— updated their payment policies and are now accepting debit cards in many European countries, including Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

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But you should know that paying for a rental car with a debit card—especially when outside the U.S.—is not without risk. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to pay for an overseas rental with a debit card.

Hertz’s New Policy on Debit Cards in Europe

The new “Pay Your Own Way” policy allows customers to pay with a Debit Mastercard or other recognized debit cards when renting standard car and van rentals at key European locations. Renters will undergo the usual ID and driver’s license checks before renting the vehicle.

Why it Matters How You Pay for an Overseas Rental Car

Credit cards may offer collision protection.

Most credit cards offer secondary car rental insurance, which effectively becomes primary car rental insurance when you’re outside the United States. This can mean you’re not forced to opt for the pricey over-the-counter collision insurance offered by the rental car company.

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Be aware that the laws surrounding car rental insurance can vary from country to country in Europe. In some countries, such as Italy, collision damage waiver (CDW), theft protection waiver (TPW), and third party liability (TPL) are automatically included by law on all rentals. In other countries, such as Greece, car rental contracts generally require fire insurance and third-party liability, so those supplemental fees will automatically be added to the cost of a rental, while the driver is still responsible for obtaining collision coverage through a credit card or by paying for it at the counter.

Debit cards mean a hold on your checking account.

If you pay with a debit card, the rental car company will hold a pre-authorized deposit for the vehicle on your account. When you return the car, the deposit will be released less any owed charges. Typically, it can take four to seven days for the deposit to appear back in your account, but it can take up to 30 days.

Credit cards can help with disputes.

In addition, paying for a rental car with a credit card gives you a back-up if you end up in a dispute. If the rental car company tries to charge you for not refueling the vehicle or for a ding on the fender that was there when you picked up the car, for example, your credit card can help you appeal the added fee. (No matter where you rent a car, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by inspecting the car and taking note of dings, dents and scratches. Document everything with photos at the time you pick up and return the car.)

European Car Rental Guides