At some point, you might need to rent a car. It could be for any number of reasons, including:
- Your car is in for repairs.
- You don’t have a car of your own.
- You need to travel a long distance.
- You’ve flown to a foreign destination.
- You need more passenger or cargo space than your current vehicle offers.
Typically, you need a credit card to rent a car. Providing a rental car agency with the credit card itself or your credit card number ensures them that you will return the rental in the same condition in which you received it and at the agreed-upon time, or they will be authorized to charge you extra.
Here’s how a typical car rental works:
- You enter the location and choose a car to rent.
- The rental agent verifies your identity.
- You fill out a rental contract with the rental agent, agreeing to a return date and time.
- You are offered rental insurance, which you may accept or decline.
- You provide a credit card for a security deposit and verification that you have credit.
- The rental agent puts a hold on your credit card for a set amount.
- You drive the rental and return it at the agreed-upon time, damage-free.
- You pay the rental charges and the rental company releases the hold on your credit card.
In the past, if you didn’t have a credit card, your card was at its credit limit, or you made the conscious choice not to use your credit card, it was not possible to rent a car. Rental car agencies didn’t have the peace of mind that you would actually return with their vehicle once the rental term was up.
Now, some rental car companies are more receptive to renting a car to you if you don’t have a credit card, though you should expect the process to be more lengthy and intimate than it is when you rent a car with a credit card. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand how renting a car without a credit card works.
Part 1 of 4: Finding a rental agency
Not all rental car companies will rent you a car without a credit card, and policies will vary from branch to branch. Simply put, most rental agencies have someone right behind you in line that has a credit card and will rent that car hassle-free, so you will need to check with rental agencies ahead of time.
- Tip: Rental agencies aren’t obligated to rent you a car so if you are rude or aren’t compliant, they can refuse to serve you.
Step 1: Call local rental agencies. You might have to call several branches of multiple companies before you find one that will rent you a car without a credit card.
Step 2: Verify their terms. Know exactly what you need to bring when you go into the rental agency branch to rent the car.
You’ll be asked to bring identification, information for a credit score inquiry, and a form of payment for a security deposit.
- Tip: Make sure you have the required available funds in your bank account for the security deposit amount and the rental amount. The security deposit may be in place for a week or so beyond your rental in the event of traffic violations that the rental agency receives while the vehicle was in your possession.
Step 3: Make a reservation. If you can meet all of their requirements to rent a car without a credit card, make a reservation.
Many rental car companies have free shuttle service, so if you are without a car, arrange for the company to give you a ride to the rental location.
Part 2 of 4: Completing a rental contract
Step 1: Come prepared to the rental agency. Bring all the information you were requested to supply to complete a rental contract without a credit card.
Step 2: Approach the counter. When you arrive at the rental agency, speak with a representative to inform them of your reservation.
Step 3: Remind the agent that you are renting without a credit card. This will prepare the agent for a lengthier transaction.
- Note: Renting a vehicle without a credit card will likely restrict the type of vehicle you are eligible to rent. You won’t be able to rent an SUV, a luxury vehicle, or a sports car without a credit card.
Be patient and open with the agent. They may ask for personal information that may not seem applicable, but it may be required for a credit check.
Step 4: Provide your identification and any requested documents. Expect that they will take photocopies and will give you back the originals.
Step 5: Undergo a credit check. The agent will run a credit check to make sure you are who you say you are and to ensure you can be entrusted with their valuable rental car.
If you don’t have a favorable credit score, you may be denied the rental.
Step 6: Be prepared to purchase rental car insurance. You may be required to purchase rental car insurance from the rental agency. This further protects their interests in the event you return a damaged rental car.
Step 7: Complete the contract. Verify your information on the printed contract and sign it.
Part 3 of 4: Providing a deposit
Step 1: Verify the payment options. The rental agent will confirm the methods of payment acceptable for a deposit.
Typically, you will need to have a debit card with either a MasterCard or Visa logo on it. Your debit card should have your name embossed on the front of the card.
Step 2: Be prepared for the agency to confirm your card and account. The rental agent might call your bank to verify the validity of the card and ensure that it is your account.
Step 3: Be prepared for the agency to place a hold on your account. The agent will put a hold on your debit card, meaning they will request that the bank restrict a set amount of money in your account as a security deposit for the rental car.
This hold can be any amount set by the rental company, but you should already know this amount from when you called them previously.
Part 4 of 4: Inspecting and receiving your rental car
Step 1: Inspect your rental. Once the rental agreement or contract has been completed and signed and your deposit has been given, the agent will perform a walkaround inspection of your rental car with you to check for any existing damage.
Step 2: Check the odometer and fuel. Once you’ve both checked for and noted any damage, verify the odometer reading and the fuel level.
Step 3: Get the keys and rental contract. The rental agent will give you the keys and a copy of your rental contract, and then you’ll be ready to drive.
Step 4: Operate the rental vehicle safely and responsibly. If you receive parking or speeding violations while using your rental, they will be passed along to you through the rental agency and will reduce the amount of your security deposit that you get back once the rental is returned.
Step 5: Return the rental when you’re finished with it. Return the car at the agreed-upon time and date and at the appropriate location.
While it is certainly easier and quicker to rent a car with a credit card, if you ever need to do so without one, it is very possible with the right research. If you keep in mind the steps within this guide, you should still be able to get your hands on a rental when needed.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Rent a Car When You Don't Have a Credit Card and was authored by Jason Unrau.