Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Renting a Car with a Debit Card when Flying to Another City

If you have a usable credit card but hope not to pay with it, the simplest way would be to ask them if you can put the car rental on the credit card upon taking out the car, but pay using your debit card upon returning the car. If you don't have a usable credit card, read on.

(I don't rent cars this fancy, but I wanted a nice car picture. I found this in one of my favorite grocery store parking lots.)

If you do not have a usable credit card, but have a major debit card associated with a bank account, some combination of the following should help, depending on the individual rental agencies and locations. You can check ahead of time, online or by phone, for their specific requirements.

1) Put enough money in the bank account associated with your debit card to cover the total estimated amount and/or a large deposit, knowing this is money that will not be available for other expenses during your trip. You can call the car rental site where you plan to pick up the car if you want to get an idea how much that needs to be.  Be sure you have let your bank know prior to the trip that you are going, so they won't put a hold on your account because of unusual activity. (You can either call the number on the back of the card or, for some banks, you can notify them online when you are signed into your web banking.)

2) Be prepared to show documentation of flight reservations for the return trip (flight or train or long-distance bus reservations, whatever will assure them you have a plan for going home).

3) For Enterprise, according to one website, you should be sure your debit card is signed (the same as the signature on your driver's license). This may be true for others as well. I just happened to see it somewhere as an Enterprise requirement.

4) If you own a car, or are listed as a driver on a family member's auto insurance, carry verification of your auto insurance from home, in case the rental car agency asks for it.

You also may want - not in place of the above insurance but in addition to it - to take out the CDW, 'collision damage waiver', offered by the rental car agency, or get that coverage set up before your trip from a trip insurance plan (carry documentation). I do this even when using a credit card so, if I should ding the car, I can walk away without liability for that. (For a more complicated issue, I would call the auto insurance company I use at home for my personal car.)

Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget appear to be more workable for someone who does not have a credit card.  The best way to know what an individual rental car agency requires is to call the specific location, as it apparently varies from one region or state or individual location to another.

From what I could find in my personal research, Hertz, Avis, and Thrifty may do a credit check if you present a debit card so, if I had questionable credit or didn't have a credit history, I would probably steer clear of these, unless checking first to find out the current policy at the intended location. Also, according to something I read at a Thrifty website, they may want another form of picture ID, in addition to your driver's license, such as a bank card with a picture, military ID, or even a picture ID from Costco or Sam's club.

In closing, I want to mention that there is a difference between picking up the car and the actual payment. Some companies will let you pay with a debit card, or even cash, when you return the car, or let someone accompanying you pay at return; but they all want both identification and assurance of responsibility from the actual driver for taking the car from the lot. It just varies as to what they require for that assurance. 

If one of your concerns is not covered here, for example, you do not own a car and are not covered on a family car, or you are renting where you would not have a round trip or return ticket, don't assume you cannot rent. Just ask the car rental sites, in the area where you would be renting, what you will need to rent a car from them, using a debit card. It varies widely, so be ready to look around to find what works best for your needs at a given time. 

Happy and Safe Travels!
Margaret Mary

This blog post was based on personal past experience from a time when I did not have a usable credit card, as well as more recent research for someone else who currently does not. Here are two of the various websites I checked recently.

The following article is from approximately a year ago (which is pretty young in web history, right?). This is where I got some of the above items about specific rental car agencies, although I did also visit some of the agencies' websites, too. 

The following article explains the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) better than I could. 

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