As a lot of Americans have done in light of the economic status, I have cut up my credit cards and gone instead with a Debit Card. They have the MasterCard, Visa and sometimes even American Express logo on them and these cards are becoming more and more acceptable even to rent an automobile.
There is a catch though as I learned the hard way yesterday.
As another way to save money, which has worked only in the past, I had become used to using Priceline. Even as the popular company (featuring the obnoxious characters played for many years by William Shatner and that really large burly looking dude in the ridiculous fur coat) have disappointed me time after time, I continued to use them because I believed that it was the only way I was able to rent a car using my debit card. Not true and a great sigh of relief now that I know I no longer have to listen to that theme song ever again.
I can actually be loyal to one company that has always treated me the best.
So, what’s the truth behind renting with a debit card? The same truth is what will save you a lot of money and heartache if you are running low on funds and still need to rent a car.
Even on the Priceline website I have found that some car rental companies are extremely arrogant in believing that they can charge absorbent rates and get away with it. Let’s take Denver Colorado for instance. I put in fake dates of February 9th through February 16th to see what kind of rates I would be offered. Of course, this area of the county has more to choose from so these statics will vary.
One of my favorite rental companies out there is Fox Rent-A-Car. It may sound a little strange to some of you but their cost for the week, using the same cars as the major brands, is $64 plus tax for a total of $107 a week. Payless was actually less at $50 per week plus taxes for a total of $89 a week. The major companies will cost you totals of $159-$280 a week, with National being the highest.
In a closer market to some, I have seen rates at Alamo run for $36 a day and up to $98 a day at Avis and Hertz! The only thing that I can say is, REALLY? And folks, it gets worse and here’s what I learned just yesterday. I rented the car on Priceline for $19 a day for three days. By the time all of the Priceline extras and taxes were added, the total cost was $92. In case you’re adding along with me, $19 times 3 equals $57. I was still really happy with the cost and surprised to see that even though Alamo was the cheapest if reserved outright, the Bid Option awarded me Hertz. I didn’t think anything of it until I went to actually pick up the car.
I handed over my debit card like any other time standing at the Alamo rental counter and was told that my card was declined. How is this possible? How much are you trying to charge on there? It was declined because I had already paid $92 for the rental and was prepaying the fuel for a total of $58 PLUS a $200 deposit that they require! Alamo has never wanted that much of a deposit. I thought for sure it was a mistake and that the manager would be able to fix it, however, there wasn’t a mistake and the only way to get the car at that point was to use a different card. They are not even allowed to change the reservation (even if not through a third party) and try again. One try on each card is all you get. So, back to the airport I go and take the shuttle to my hotel.
This morning I sat down and called each of the rental companies to check out their deposit requirements. The results are incredible. Remember that Hertz holds a deposit of $200 above and beyond the reservation no matter what even if your rental is for one day and only cost $1.
Budget and Enterprise’s deposit amount is $250 (I just had to add Enterprise after going Downtown to find out that they lied to me on the phone when the rep told me that they only hold 20%~back to the airport I go)
Alamo and National hold an amount equal to your reservation
I am not sure how much the companies mentioned above (Fox and Payless) hold for a deposit but I know that I have used my debit card with each of them without having that much on the card and it was never a problem.
So, as John Matarese says, Don’t Waste Your Money! You are not buying the car, you’re only borrowing it at the occasional sky high price called “they’ve got what you need and will charge as much as they want.”