Why do I need a credit card to rent a car?

Why do I need a credit card to rent a car?

It's a common point of frustration for travellers, but one that is almost unavoidable – you need a credit card to rent a car. This strict requirement can be a major road block with very few ways around it. So why is it that car hire companies insist on a credit card?

Credit cards vs debit cards

What you need to know

Unlike a debit card, a credit card can act as a safety net for the rental company. It allows them to block a deposit amount as insurance in case something goes wrong during the rental. The deposit – which is not withdrawn from your account – gives them the ability to easily collect repair fees or any outstanding traffic charges. Companies prefer credit cards because it proves to them you're not a financial risk; their costs will be covered as they can recover part or all of the deposit if needed.

With a debit card, the company cannot pull money from a bank account if it has insufficient funds. There is also no way to block a specified amount on a debit card. So even if you have enough money in your account to cover the deposit, the car hire supplier would have to completely withdraw the funds, and then refund the money later on.


Do I have to pay for my rental and collect it using the same card?

No, you do not have to collect your car using the same card you paid for it with online. Therefore, it is possible to pay for the car using a debit card and then leave your credit card details with the supplier upon pick-up.

Whose credit card can I use?

The credit card must be in the main driver's name, as they are legally responsible for the car during the rental period.

Additional things to remember


A security deposit is blocked from your account, not actually debited. But you must still ensure that you have a credit limit large enough to cover the deposit amount.


Read the fine print or get in touch with the company to be sure of their rules on using credit and debit cards.


Pre-paid cards are rarely accepted by rental companies and in places like the US, you may have to pass a credit check to hire a vehicle when using a debit card.


The same company may have different policies at different branches, even within the same country. So check the details of the specific location you are hiring from. For example: Enterprise will accept debit cards at Heathrow Airport but not at their London Victoria station branch.

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