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Do You Need a Credit Card to Rent a Car?

Published April 20, 2023
3 min read

Key points about: car rentals with a credit card

  1. You don’t always need a credit card when renting a car, but some companies will require one.

  2. Renting a car with a credit card can make the process simpler and offers additional benefits, such as which type of vehicle you can rent.

  3. Using a credit card to rent a car can also help you earn rewards on travel expenses.

When you show up at the car rental counter, they usually ask for a credit card. But do you need a credit card in order to rent a car? Couldn’t you just use a debit card instead? 
It depends. While most car rental companies prefer credit cards and sometimes even require them, there are alternatives available for people who are looking to rent a car with a debit card. But you’ll need to do your homework up front to find a company that allows debit cards and be prepared to jump through a number of hoops when you get there. You may be required to provide additional documentation, and in some cases, even undergo a credit check. You may also have limited vehicle options.
Using a credit card offers you more convenience and more options. In addition, using a credit card offers the chance to earn credit card rewards when you use the card to rent a car.

You don’t need a credit card to rent a car

Rental car companies prefer credit cards to debit cards, and for good reason. Having a credit card on file makes things easier for them, provides a form of security, and shows that you’re a responsible borrower.

You don’t need a credit card to rent a car, but having a credit card will make some things easier and give you more options. For example, some rental locations (such as airport locations) do not accept debit cards to book the rental if you don’t have proof of return travel. Some locations may allow you to pay for the rental vehicle with a debit card, but may still require a credit card in the driver’s name as security anyway. Make sure you check the rules for the rental car company and branch location that you’re planning to rent with as they vary considerably across the board.

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Benefits of renting a car with a credit card

There are a number of benefits of using a credit card to rent a car as opposed to using a debit card.

  • You’ll have more options: Using a credit card means more options when choosing a car rental company, branch location, and vehicle. Some companies only accept credit cards. Some allow debit cards but only at certain locations. Additionally, many companies will not let you rent a premium vehicle with a debit card, or they may require a significant deposit up front.
  • It’s easier: When you use a debit card, you might need to provide additional forms of ID, along with proof of address in the form of utility bills. In some cases, you may need a return ticket as well. You may also need to have a credit check done, depending on the car rental company.
  • A credit card can help you save: With a debit card, you may have to make a larger deposit and contend with having the entire cost of the rental plus a deposit taken from your account. Alternatively, you may have to pay more for extra rental car insurance coverage. Using a credit card means that you won’t have to worry about the amount coming out of your bank account.

Did you know?

Some credit cards offer rewards programs that could help you earn cash back rewards when renting a car. For someone who travels a lot, and may occasionally rent a car on their trip, the Discover it® Miles travel card could be a good option because they could earn 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase. You can turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.1 Someone who enjoys taking extended road trips with rental cars may find the Discover it® Chrome card more rewarding. With Discover it® Chrome, earn 2% Cashback Bonus® at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically.2

If you’re looking for a credit card, check to see which cards offer rewards or cash back for categories that you frequently spend in—this approach can help you maximize your rewards and save even more.

You don’t need a credit card to rent a car, but it’s usually a safer and more convenient option, and can provide an opportunity to earn credit card rewards. With some car rental companies and in certain locations, a credit card may be the only option. Be sure to check around to see which companies allow debit cards, and make sure they accept them at the branch location you plan to rent from. Then ensure you have any documentation required to rent. Keep in mind that you may still need to present a credit card in the driver’s name anyway as security, even if you don’t use it to pay for the car.


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