Can you rent a car without a credit card?

It’s interesting how often I run into the idea that you need a credit card to rent a car. It’s particularly interesting because it isn’t particularly true.

Relevant quote:

“Be sure you check ahead in advance, but I fly all over America and rent cars every week, virtually, I am appearing somewhere, speaking somewhere, doing something. I simply reach into my pocket, pull out one of my two Visa debit cards, on my personal account or on my business, and I can rent a car anywhere except a couple of the majors, and I don’t don’t do business with them anyway — they are too expensive.” — Dave Ramsey, in the “Dumping Debt” session of Financial Peace University

I can vouch for this, too. I’ve rented one car from Rent-A-Wreck and several cars from Enterprise using Visa check cards (aka debit cards).

So the money comes straight out of my checking account, with none of that “I promise I’ll pay it later” nonsense.

Warning, though: I was talking to someone a couple weeks ago who said their car died in the middle of nowhere, and they tried to rent a car from the local Enterprise office, which wouldn’t take their check card. So it may be a regional thing. Be sure to call ahead and check.

Also from my personal experience, when I tried to rent from Budget Rent-A-Car a few years ago, they said they didn’t accept check cards. Which kind of sucked, because they didn’t bother to tell me this when I placed my reservation; I didn’t find out until I got to the counter to pick up the car, with all my other travel arrangements already booked and non-refundable. I wasn’t too happy that day.

Moral: do be sure to specifically ask, ahead of time (this is important), whether the rental agency accepts the Visa check card. But I’ve rented cars on several occasions with non-debt-bearing plastic. Check with the rental agencies in your town; chances are, you’ll find one less reason to keep a credit card.