There is a common misconception that in order to get a rental car you must pay with a credit card.
In reality, there are at least two ways to rent a car without a credit card.
One is by using a debit card – and you probably already knew this – but the other may surprise you.
It’s cash! Yes, cash.
On the surface it seems impossible, or at least unlikely, but at least some car rental companies will accept cash as a form of payment for your rental car.
But let’s take a look at paying with a debit card and by cash.
Paying with a Debit Card
In most respects, paying for a rental car with a debit card is almost identical to using a credit card. The one major exception is the car rental companies will often run a limited credit check on you before accepting the debit card for payment. This will be especially true if you are a new customer to the rental car company, as they will often waive the credit check if you are a previous customer.
Historically, another major difference has been the assessment of an upfront deposit in conjunction with use of the debit card. The deposit, or hold, typically runs anywhere from $100-$300 over and above the actual cost of the car rental, and will be refunded to you a couple of days after returning the vehicle. However, the upfront hold requirement is no longer unique to debit cards, as many car rental companies are also assessing it on credit card transactions.
By the way, you can save some money using a cash back debit card!
Paying with Cash
I can’t certify that all car rental companies will accept cash, but three of the big ones that I investigated – Hertz, Enterprise and Avis – will accept cash. Acceptance policies vary from company to company, and you will need to check out the requirements for any car rental company you work with if you plan to pay by cash.
Hertz (enter “payment methods” in the search box) has the easiest cash acceptance policy, though it does require some advance preparation. You must obtain a Hertz Cash Deposit ID Card. In order to do this you must be at least 18 years old, and pay a $15 nonrefundable processing fee. The application will take about 30 days, so leave yourself plenty of time to obtain the card before making the rental. Once you have the ID card, you can present it along with your cash payment, and it will be good at various locations.
Enterprise also accepts cash, however their process is a bit more complicated. Enterprise refers to this as the Cash Qualification Process, and unlike Hertz, it must be done each time you pay cash for your car rental. Furthermore, the company warns that cash may not be accepted at all locations.
Per the Enterprise website, the Cash Qualification Process involves providing the following documentation at the time of rental:
- Two current utility bills.
- Most recent paycheck stub.
- Driver’s license issued from the rental state.
- A minimum deposit plus the entire cost of the rental which will be debited from the account at the time of pickup. (Deposit amount varies by location from $100 to $300 plus the actual cost of the rental). Please contact the rental branch directly to find out the exact amount that will be required. Translation: You will have to pay the entire charge upfront.
- Proof of insurance.
- Personal references.
Presenting all of this documentation each time you rent a car is not at all convenient, but if you don’t have a credit card it’s an option well worth taking advantage of.
Avis has the most restrictive policy on cash. They require that you have either a credit card or debit card as acceptable forms of credit identification in renting the vehicle, however they will accept cash as full payment upon return of the vehicle.
With the combination of cash and at least a debit card, you should be able to obtain a car rental even without having a credit card. Just keep in mind that the policies vary from company to company, and sometimes even from location to location within the same company. Some car rental outlets are corporate-owned and will conform to company-wide policies. But other sites are independent franchises that will set their own policies regarding acceptable payment methods.
Gift Cards and Prepaid Cards Won’t Work
I’m covering gift cards and prepaid cards only very briefly because these seem like logical alternatives in the absence of a credit card. But for the most part, they’re not acceptable. You can sometimes use them to settle your account upon the return of the vehicle, but they are not acceptable forms of credit identification that will help you in the upfront rental process.
Additionally, there is a higher likelihood that these forms payment will not be accepted by an individual car rental outlet to the same degree that cash will be. Be sure to check with any car rental company for their latest policies in regard to accepting any form of payment other than credit cards.
Have you ever tried to obtain a car rental using any payment method other than credit cards? Leave a comment and tell us about it!