Rental car company Hertz and the two brands under its corporate umbrella—Dollar and Thrifty—have begun accepting debit cards as a payment option for car rentals in Europe.
Previously, a credit card was required, but that is no longer the case at Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty locations in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia, mainland Spain, and the U.K. (For the record, Hertz already accepts debit cards for rentals in the United States.)
In a news release, the company says that the change in European payment policy was enacted in order to provide customers with more flexibility and convenience.
Not everybody has a credit card, Hertz points out, and others simply prefer to use a debit card whenever possible.
To rent with a debit card, customers "must have a Debit Mastercard or other recognised debit cards," according to the news release, which is written with U.K. English spelling variants, "and will undergo the same ID and Driving Licence checks before renting the vehicle. A pre-authorised deposit for the vehicle will be held on the customer's account."
That last part makes the strongest case for not renting with a debit card and using a credit card instead if you have one.
Because your debit card is tied directly to your bank balance, the hold for the amount of the rental deposit will be placed on your checking account—and you won't have access to those funds until you return the car and the hold is released, minus any owed charges.
Hertz says it typically takes "four to seven days" for the deposit amount to return to your checking account, but it could take longer depending on the card issuer.
Rentals with credit cards, on the other hand, affect your line of credit—not the actual funds in your checking account—so you shouldn't feel the squeeze unless you have a low credit limit.
Additionally, many credit cards come with rental car insurance so that you don't have to purchase additional coverage from the rental company. Debit cards rarely, if ever, have that perk.
Plus, credit cards often reward customers for purchases and tend to have better fraud protection than debit cards.
For all those reasons—and in spite of Hertz's claims of greater convenience—a credit card is still the best option for renting a car.