Renting a car without a credit card is certainly possible, as all the large rental companies now accept Debit Cards, subject to certain restrictions in most locations. Renting with neither a credit or debit card can be difficult in some parts of the world, but not impossible.
The main issue is an obvious one. The car rental company is letting you drive away with a highly valuable asset. They therefore need to safeguard against you not returning it, or damaging it and not having funds to cover your liability.
Finding a company who will rent you a vehicle without a credit card is often a matter of trial and error and ringing round to check out local policies. As many outlets are franchises you may find that a local branch adopts a different policy to that quoted on the company website.
Renting using a Debit Card –
Most large rental companies now allow customers to use a debit card in USA and Europe . Debit cards (also called cheque/check cards) are cards issued under a Visa or Mastercard logo which draw funds directly from the cardholder’s account. However, prepaid or Retail store cards which have a Visa or Mastercard logo are not generally accepted to qualify for rental.
When using a Debit Card expect additional checks and restrictions which vary by company and may include –
A ‘hold’ fee being charged to your account of anything between $100 and $500.A ‘hold’ blocks access to the funds in your account and hold periods can vary between 24 hours and 14 days, depending how long it will take your bank to transfer the funds to them.
A requirement for foreign or out of state visitors to produce a return plane/ship/train ticket (though if you were planning to steal a car, I doubt the cost of buying a return train ticket would deter you)
Restrictions on the type of vehicle you rent. You may be limited to smaller cars only.
Age restriction of 25+
The ability to demonstrate that your account hold sufficient funds to cover the rental and deposit
Other forms of guarantee such as production of photo ID, wage slips and two utility bills for your home address.
Bear in mind that the rental company will want to perform additional checks if you don’t have a credit card and this can take time. You should therefore try and arrange the rental before you set off on your trip rather than arriving at the rental office as a ‘walk up.’
Renting on a ‘cash only’ basis.
In Africa, Asia and other parts of the developing world, paying by cash will be acceptable if not the norm when using local companies. However you will be expected to leave a sizeable deposit, most likely in dollars or Euros so you should be very clear on what’s required before you arrive to collect the vehicle. Some companies may even ask to hold your passport for the rental period. I would personally always advise against this. By all means let them take a copy, but I am always reluctant to be separated from my passport. Especially when I’m going to be driving, with the inherent risks of brushes with the law that brings.
In USA, Europe,Australasia and with Localiza in South America, the big rental companies obviously prefer customers to use a credit or debit card as security for their vehicle . Therefore most don’t advertise the fact that you can rent from them on a cash only basis. However, most of the big companies do allow this, though all seem to have different rules and processes which are obviously subject to change. If you intend to pay by cash I strongly advise you to call the company as far in advance as possible to ensure you will be able to pay cash at your preferred rental location. I’d also ask them to confirm this in writing if possible.
Some examples of the different approaches and rules and criteria employed by the big rental companies in the USA -Hertz run a Cash Deposit ID Card scheme. Though their website doesn’t make it clear how this actually works. It does say the card can be applied for at any Hertz office, applicants must be over 18 and the application takes around 30 days to process and there is a $15 processing fee.Budget say that customers can pay by cash in some locations. National allow rental of only economy size vehicles to cash renters. Alamo allow rental of economy and mid size cars but have a number of restrictions and checks for cash renters. Avis make no reference to criteria for cash renters but say to contact their customer service number to enquire about rules at specific locations.
Using smaller companies in the developed world, will probably provide more opportunities to pay by cash, especially in places like holiday resorts where there may be a large number of companies operating. Faced with an option of having vehicles sat idle versus taking a risk on a cash rental on an older, small vehicle and most companies will probably accept the cash. Again you will have to leave a large deposit and again you may be asked to leave your passport. Same rules apply on that as anywhere else in the world as far as I’m concerned.
There are a large number of companies online advertising Cash Car rental, covering most of the USA. South Africa also has a lot of online options from a google search of ‘cash car rentals in xxxx’.
These websites list car rental companies in major US cities who will rent on a cash basis.
This company offer cash rentals in the Washington DC area
This company cover Orlando-
This is one company who claim to rent top of the range vehicles for cash in SE USA though you need to call them –there doesn’t seem to be any online booking.
These companies offer cash rentals in South Africa -
This company accept cash at their Brisbane outlet -
This company cover Sydney -
In New Zealand this company rent campervans and will accept a cash bond instead of a credit card which they will hold for 21 days-
This NZ company will rent without a credit card but require a $1000 cash bond.
In Europe, no local companies seem to advertise cash rentals online. I would suggest trying the big companies before you set off on your trip – I would be surprised if you didn’t find one offering cash rental at the location you need. Failing that, you may have to resort to hunting out small rental agencies when you arrive, though if this is the case, you should make sure you have plenty of time and a back up plan!