Renting a car is one of the best transportation options when you travel across the United States as well as in some places in Europe. Renting a car is a great way to avoid wear and tear on your vehicle when you go on road trips or need a bigger vehicle than what you have. It can also necessary when your own vehicle has been stolen or is in the shop. Convenient that is until you go to rent one and you don’t have a credit or debit card to use. Car rental without a credit card is possible but requires you to jump through various hoops you may not be prepared for, even if your insurance company is picking up the tab. You can get a car rental with debit card payments instead, but in many cases, it’s much easier to use a credit card.
If your car was stolen or you were in an accident, your insurance may offer a provision that allows you to rent a car while you wait to find out if you will need to buy a new car or pay for repairs to the old car. Even so, you still need a credit or debit card to rent the car. Why? Because the insurance company may be responsible for making the daily payments on the vehicle, but you are responsible for any damages that are caused by you or your passengers while you have the rental. The insurance company does not have to cover those, and the car rental company surely isn’t going to.
Because of this, the car rental company will need some sort of reliable payment method on hand that they can automatically deduct the fees from without having to haggle with you or wait for a check or cash. The entire process is set up for automation just to avoid some of the issues involved in renting vehicles. In many cases, knowing that drivers can be held responsible for these costs is the only thing that keeps them from treating the vehicle poorly.
In some cases, such as when the insurance company is picking up the bill, there aren’t any charges on your card. When you rent the car, there may be a hold put on your card so that the company can process the charge when you return the vehicle. This makes it easier for them to just charge you once for however many days you had the car, but then they can also attach other fees, such as any damages to the car from smoking or from getting into an accident. If you buy insurance through the rental company, it will cover some of these expenses, but not those willfully incurred, such as fines for smoking in a rental car.
In addition to allowing the rental company to place a hold on the card, credit cards serve another purpose. They can validate your identity and address since the card is attached to your home address. This is one reason you may need to speak with them before using a prepaid card that is not attached to your physical address. Most rental car companies require additional proof in order to verify your address or identity.
Car rental with a debit card is a bit different. A debit card is funded by the money in your bank account rather than with credit, so vendors can only access the amount currently in the account unless your financial institution allows overages. Credit cards rely on credit limits instead of cash-on-hand unless they are secured, so the car rental company has a wider window when it comes to placing holds on your account.
When renting with a debit card, you may need to take some extra steps such as the following:
This goes a long way toward preventing identity theft by unsavory characters. In most cases, the security deposit is refundable when the vehicle is returned undamaged. For those who cannot get a credit card or don’t wish to open a credit account, it is nice to know that you can still do things like rent a car. It may require a bit more effort, but that is what you sometimes have to do in order to stay within your own financial limits. In the past, renting a car with a debit card wasn’t even an option. Working your way through a bit of red tape is still better than not being able to rent a car at all.
When you rent a car with a debit or credit card, you don’t always get the immediate information as it applies to charges that add up. Be sure to thoroughly read the contract so you know exactly what costs are involved. It’s important to understand the rules of renting as well as the rental terms.
Some companies charge by the day and mileage doesn’t count at all. Others charge strictly by the mileage, and some companies combine the two so that you pay a flat rate per day unless you go over the mileage you are allowed per day. So, if you are limited to 500 miles a day and you drive 800 miles one day and 100 the next, you’re still only going to get charged for two days with no mileage overages. This is because the mileage isn’t calculated until you return the vehicle when it is divided by the number of days you had the car.
There are limits to what you can do and how you can use a vehicle. For instance, if you hook a trailer to a car that wasn’t meant for towing, you may be fined for it when the transmission fails while you’re out. Smoking is another common issue. Rental units are meant to be clean and ready to go for the next renter. Smoking leaves a smelly residue that isn’t easy to get out. If you smoke in a rental car, expect to see some hefty charges on your bill.
Car rental with a debit card is completely possible. And, you can go through the car rental process with cash too, but companies that don’t require a credit or debit card are fairly few and far between and may not have the kind of quality you’re looking for.
Image by Håkan Dahlström