Rental Car Companies Trying Harder to Offer Credit

Written by: David Wilkening

The last plane leaving for home at midnight had been cancelled. Executive Steve Anderson was tired and just wanted to get out of the Tampa airport without spending the night there. So he thought: rent a car and drive to his home in Miami. It’s only a few hours away.

A good idea except that he only had a debit type of credit card. There were four rental car places at the Tampa airport. He tried then all. Not a single one would take his card because it was debit, not credit.

That was a few years ago and things have changed. Though he slept at the airport, you busy executives and others can now use debit cards to rent cars, with some stipulations.

In modern times, a credit card is a modern miracle: doing almost everything, including using one to buy a car. But renting a car is different, as the stranded commuter found out.

A CreditCards.com survey of the top rental car companies found that nearly all of the companies are now allowing drivers to rent their vehicles by substituting debit cards for credit. But the byword here is patience

There’s little question the best way to rent a car is with a credit card. Debit card transactions are now also accepted but what are the drawbacks? Several.

—Users will have to undergo a credit check.

—They will certainly have to present a valid driver’s license or US passport.,

—They may have to show an invoice of some kind such as a telephone or utility bill.

—They may have to show an airline ticket.

—Some rental companies accept debit cards but also require a regular charge such as a Visa or MasterCard.

—Some rental companies require a deposit.

Some companies when accepting a debit card will put a hold on the account. This can be expensive, $200 or even more, and some motorists who decide they want to use their car later for another reason such as a hotel bill may find that the funds are not there because they are being held. These holds can last for up to two weeks.

Something to consider: For those reserving a car with a debit card, when the company performs a credit check, it will show up on the credit report and may have an effect on a user’s credit evaluation.

Something else to think about: Without a credit card, reserving a vehicle may be difficult, especially if the driver wants a certain kind of car. Reservations made online or through national toll-free hotlines may accept only credit cards.

Some rental agencies also may ban in-state resident or exclude luxury or SUV cars.

And finally, if that’s not enough to discourage renters, it’s not uncommon at times to deny rentals to drivers under 25 years of age.

So that’s why renters pay cash. But not always.

Some rental car outlets allow customers to pay their final bills with cash or prepaid debit cards after reserving or picking up cars with credit or debit cards. Budget, for example, allows cash payments, but customers must preregister and prequalify. Customers must call a toll-free number four to six weeks before their trips to prequalify to pay in cash.

So for rental car customers, it’s obvious the best bet is to try harder to determine the particular policy before leaving home.


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Rental Car Companies Trying Harder to Offer Credit

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