Rental car reservations that exclusively require credit cards may soon be a thing of the past if Dollar Rent-A-Car’s latest policy is a hit with customers. The Hertz-owned company announced Feb. 5 that its latest policy will enable employees to accept debit cards to put a hold on vehicles as well.
Dollar’s strategy is to make it much easier for customers to drive off each of its lots in a rented car. Credit checks will not be necessary, while the need for ID cards and proof of return requirements will be far less cumbersome. The company will also cut down the age restriction from 25 to 20 years old. Costs surrounding incidental holds will also drop from $350 to $200.
Anyone who books a vehicle more than 24 hours ahead of time will simply need a driver’s license and debit card, while those who reserve less than 24 hours beforehand will also need to provide proof of return travel plans. The latter stipulation also affects customers wanting a convertible, luxury, or premium vehicle, regardless of when they book.
Consumer debt affecting Americans was one motive for introducing the policy. A 2017 Federal Reserve study found that more than half of adults in the country had credit scores below 660. That same study found that 44 percent of Americans opt for debit over credit, while a Gallup Poll from 2014 indicated that less than 30 percent of those surveyed don’t even own a credit card.
But there’s another target market that Dollar is aiming for, millennials, a demographic that is already larger in size than the boomer population. According to a bankrate.com survey, only a third of millennials have credit cards, most of them prepaid. Other profiles cite that demographic also prefers paying cash and show an aversion to borrowing, considering many of them are already hampered by student loans.
The policy is a gamble in the sense that car rental agencies traditionally prefer credit cards to protect their fleet if a customer decides to drive away with one of their cars with no intentions of returning the asset. Debit cards don’t provide anywhere as much protection. Then there’s the stigma that debit card advocates are riskier customers who don’t carry credit cards due to financial hardship and lack deep pockets to cover such a transaction as a car rental.
So far, the debit policy exists only in the U.S. Thrifty, another Hertz-owned company, announced plans to introduce the same initiative.
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