How to Rent a Car With a PayPal Debit Card

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This is how debit-card car rentals are supposed to work: You hand the agent your PayPal Debit MasterCard, and she cheerfully places a hold on your account exceeding the rental cost by $100 to $500. When you return the car, the deposit goes back in your PayPal account promptly.

Here's the reality:

  • Most rental locations can refuse your debit card regardless of company policy. 
  • Reserving a car with a debit card does not mean you can actually rent a car with a debit card. 
  • Many rental locations will run a credit check before they take your debit card. 
  • The deposit may be higher than you were led to believe. 
  • You won't get your deposit back for up to two weeks.
  • You may have to rent an economy car.
  • If you're under 25, forget it.

You will usually need an additional ID, or "credential," with the same name as the one on your driver's license. Options include:

  • Round-trip airline, cruise or train ticket, or proof of one, such as an e-ticket itinerary.
  • Credit card.
  • Second debit card.
  • Passport or military ID.
  • Employee photo ID.
  • Car-insurance card.
  • A current (nondelinquent) utility bill, phone bill or bank statement.
  • Membership card from a discount store such as Costco.

Specific policies regarding debit cards vary from one rental car company to the next, and even from one branch of the same company to the next. It's best to call ahead to the relevant branch so you'll know its rules. However, there are a few things you can expect from major rental car companies if you want to pay with a PayPal (or other) debit card at U.S. rental locations:

Debit Friendly

Alamo

If the PayPal debit card has a VISA, MasterCard or Discover logo, you can use it at Alamo, but you must have a round-trip travel ticket or proof of one at the rental counter.

National

At National, debit cards with a VISA, MasterCard or Discover Card logo are accepted along with proof of a round-trip travel ticket (airline, cruise or train), but you must have a credit card, too.

Enterprise

Enterprise airport locations accept debit cards with proof of a round-trip air, cruise or train ticket. Other locations may accept debit cards, but you have to contact the location to be sure.

Credit Check Likely

Budget

Budget rental locations vary on debit card use, but no matter the policy you can expect a credit check. Each location's website specifies its policies. For credentials, airport locations accept a round-trip airline ticket, e-ticket or itinerary with a return date and the renter's name. Elsewhere, you'll need a passport or military ID, a current utility bill or a motor vehicle insurance card.

Dollar

Individual Dollar locations can turn you away if they want to. Dollar accepts MasterCard and Visa debit cards if you pass an Equifax credit screening and debit card check. If you fall short, you either use a credit card or walk away. The credential cannot be a keychain-sized credit card, such as a fuel-and-go card.

Hertz

Expect an Equifax credit check at the Hertz rental counter. If the rental location accepts debit cards at all, it accepts only cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo. You'll also need a credential from a comparatively restrictive list.

Thrifty

At Thrifty, you'll have a debit card check and Equifax credit check. Fail and you have to show a major credit card. Either way, the local office gets the final call, so before you make plans, make contact.

Bank Cards Only

Avis, Rent-A-Wreck

Avis accepts only bank debit cards, which means you probably can't use a PayPal card. Even after a credit check, a rental location can turn down any debit card for any reason or none. They may even spurn your debit card when you return the car.

Most Rent-A-Wreck locations accept debit cards linked to checking accounts. If your PayPal card links to a bank account, ask if that's acceptable.

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