If you rent a car, either in the UK or abroad, you are usually asked to provide a credit card for a deposit in case anything goes wrong.
But recently Cathy Adams, 31 from Essex, was caught out when she arrived at Glasgow airport to pick up a prepaid rental car.
Ms Adams was in Scotland for a wedding and had with her an American Express credit card and her debit card.
Ms Adams wasn’t allowed to pick up her rental car because the firm wouldn’t accept her card
After prepaying for the rental with the firm Green Motion through the online website Rentalcars.com for £66.54 for three days, she was then surprised to find she wasn’t allowed to pick the car up.
In fact the provider said it only accepted Visa or Mastercard credit cards and she wasn’t able to collect her car.
Ms Adams, a travel editor who has recently moved back to the UK from Hong Kong, said: ‘I always double check details of every trip – even printing out copies of my proof of address as Green Motion had asked for this.
‘Now I just feel really angry and very frustrated for falling for such a cheap price and not reading the (awful!) reviews online first.
‘The person on the desk said I couldn’t hire the car because I didn’t have the right credit card – even though this is hidden in the small print which I doubt anyone studies – and instead I had to get the bus into Glasgow and have no idea how I’m going to get to the wedding tomorrow.’
We spoke to Rentalcars.com and Green Motion to find out if this was a standard policy or if there had been an error with Ms Adams’s case.
There is no mention of the credit card clause in the main booking page at Rentalcars.com
After we got in contact a spokesperson from Rentalcars.com took Ms Adams’s details and arranged a refund for her, and for her to pick up a car later in the day.
They also confirmed that the policy on not accepting American Express credit cards wasn’t something all providers followed, but it did occur in some cases.
In a statement they said: ‘At the car rental desk, the lead driver will be asked to provide a credit card in their name to cover the deposit for the hire of the vehicle. In almost every case this needs to be a credit card, not a debit card, and in some cases American Express cards aren’t accepted.
‘The terms and conditions vary between different providers so it’s really important to check these before you arrive at the desk. If you are in doubt, please contact the customer services team.
‘Rental car companies will only accept credit cards because the deposit money is ‘blocked’ on the card, rather than taken out. A debit card doesn’t allow this, as the money comes straight out of your bank statement so that’s why you will need a credit card to pay the deposit.
‘It is very rare that car hire companies accept debit cards, so it’s always best to take a credit card and check what they will accept in advance.’
A spokesperson from Green Motion commented: ‘We aim to provide fair and reasonable terms and conditions for all of our customers. In relation to our acceptance of American Express, unfortunately, due to the high charges raised by this provider, it makes it prohibitive for us to accept this card in our UK locations.
‘We work diligently to ensure that our terms and conditions are clear and accessible to all of our customers to ensure that they can understand what is required on their part to commence with the rental. However, we are not in a position to be able to comment on how Rentalcars.com display these during their booking process.
‘We appreciate the feedback from all of our customers and will ensure that this is fully considered in our decisions going forward with our UK network.’
Car rental check list
To make sure you’re not caught out, make sure you bring the following documents.
The main driver and any other drivers you are adding will need their full driving licence. If it is a paper driving licence – without a photo card – the car hire company will also ask to see your passport as proof of identity.
You may also need to provide additional information on penalty points or convictions, which aren’t shown on the photo card or updated on paper licences anymore.
To do this you can get a licence check code from the DVLA which the hire company can use to check your driving record, and you can print out and take with you.
Proof of address
The car hire company will ask to see some proof of your identity. This could be your passport, or proof of address if you’re hiring in your own country. Some car hire companies ask for two separate proofs of address, such as a utility bill and a bank statement.
You will need to take a credit card in the main driver’s name. This is because when you hire a car the car hire company will ask for a deposit to cover the cost of any repairs should you damage the car while out on the road.
Rental firms usually take this deposit by ‘blocking’ an amount on a credit card so the money can’t be spent elsewhere. It’s rare for companies to accept debit cards, as money can’t be ring-fenced in the same way.