How to Rent a Car Without a Credit Card

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.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!

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  1. Jake Erickson

    These are great alternatives to credit cards. I hear so many people talking about the benefits and how a credit card is a necessity, but what most people don’t realize is that a debit card can do the same exact things. You can even find some that offer cash back nowadays.

    • Kevin

      Hi Jake – I think the credit card for car rentals connection has become more of a convention than a rule.

  2. Tony Nguyen

    Hey Kevin,
    This is great idea when we don’t have a credit card. We cannot deny the benefits of a credit card bringing about, bu we should not depend entirely on it, right?
    Thanks for such a useful writing! ^^

    • Kevin

      Thanks Tony. I also think that it’s always important to have other options in nearly anything that you do. And it’s best to know what they are before you need them!

  3. DesertRat

    I had used the cash method a few times, with Enterprise. I believe it was $350 each time. It was inconvenient although I got money back each time. Now I use my credit card to rent the car and pay the bill in full with my debit card. Once I forgot to tell the agent I would settle with the debit card and the payment was charged. No problem though because I immediately transferred the money from my checking into the card account. I have both accounts in the same bank.

    • Kevin

      It’s always better to have multiple payment options, it gives you control over the situation.

  4. Craig Ford

    I’d suggest that a person should compare the insurance differences between using cash, debit cards, and credit cards. If you have an accident your form of payment may dramatically impact what you are and are not liable to pay.

    • Kevin

      Hi Craig, that’s very true, but you should first check with your auto insurance company to make sure that the coverage extends to rentals. Mine specifically does, and there’s an extra charge in the policy for it. I just rented a car last week, and the attendant told me “we don’t worry about the insurance coverage, that’s up to you”.

      BTW, the daily insurance charge by the rental company was $29.98! That was right about the daily charge for the rental itself!

  5. DesertRat

    That’s a very good point. I carry rental coverage on my auto insurance. However, one time I had some scratches on the rental, and the rental place pulled the entire deductible from my credit card. Upshot is, I got my insurance involved and let them hash it out. Got most of the money back. While I waited on them, i talked to my card company to see if they could cover my loss. The answer was no.

    • Kevin

      I’m very dubious about the alledged credit card coverage, and have never relied on it. Fortunately, I’ve never had a damage claim. The coverage for rentals through my insurance company is just $10/month, that’s well worth it.

    • DesertRat

      Precisely. As I said before, I carry rental coverage on my insurance. In future though, if we should find damage again, I will insist on contacting my insurance before they pull the deductible from anything. The final cost of the repairs – 25 dollars – was nowhere near the 500 dollar deductible. At least I got the money back.

  6. This quite interesting information. I did not know that some companies allow to pay with debit card or cash for a car rental. We have some friends who don’t have any credit cards after they went bankrupt and they had to rent a limo for cash when they went to visit some family, since they thought that was their only option. It’s good to know that some companies still accept debit cards or cash for car rentals. Thanks for useful information as usual. I always learn something new here and am a huge fan of your blog!

    • Kevin

      Hi Elena – If you think about it logically, the car rental companies want to make money, and that’s best done by opening the market to as many people as possible. If they limit that to only people with credit cards, they’ll turn away a lot of business.

      Car rental companies have always accepted payment methods other than credit cards, but the credit card only myth is a strong one. We believe it because we’ve heard it recited so many times.

  7. jerrylewis

    This is a great way to rent a car on the go, I mean if you were in a hurry you could use your debit card instead of cash in your pocket (provided it is enough to pay the rent).

    This is a nice post, really informative

    • Kevin

      Hi Jerry – I like the idea of reserving with a debit card and paying with cash on the back end. It means I won’t carry a balance on my credit card.

  8. Sally

    I rent a car all the time with my Paypal Debit Mastercard. (I’m in bankruptcy and have NO credit cards, nor would I pass a credit check right now.) For some reason it registers as a regular credit card with car rental places. The deposit never even hits my checking account…they run the authorization, it holds up in the Paypal queue, expires, and when I bring the car back they don’t re-run it. It’s a relief to have it for car rentals!

    • Jennifer

      Which rental company?

  9. Diane K.

    I contacted Alamo’s customer service via chat about renting in LAX and they said you need a credit card to be able to pick up the car. Is this correct? Should I try to call the location directly to confirm?

  10. Jaya

    Hi, I have just moved in from India and looking to rent a car. We have only indian debit and credit cards. We can pay the rent with cash, but the hertz booking site is asking for a US or Canada credit card for insurance purposes. We will get an US account tomorrow, but will need another 25 days to get a credit card. We have a friend with a US credit card. But my understanding is that the credit card has to be in the driver’s name to claim insurance.
    Is that right? Or is there an alternative? Any info in this regard is highly appreciated. Thanks in advance 🙂