After a long journey, nobody wants to be stuck at the car rental agency after being refused the keys due to a poor credit score.
Depending on the country and the company’s policies, a credit check may be required when hiring a car abroad depending on which payment method you choose to use.
Read on to find out what credit score is needed to hire a car and how to make the process as seamless as possible.
Why is your credit score important when hiring a car abroad?
Rental car agencies run a credit check to mitigate risk to their business. A car is a valuable asset and companies need reassurance that you can pay your bill or any additional expenses.
Credit checks are not just about looking for a certain number on a credit score.
A credit check will also highlight any red flags such as delinquent accounts which indicate late or missed payments on credit cards or other accounts.
A clean credit report will reassure the lender that you won’t have any problems paying for charges such as a late return, the fuel not being replaced to the agreed level or for damages.
Car hire companies will inform you of their fuel policy at the start of the hire period.
If you return the car with a lower amount of fuel than agreed, the charges can be more than the cost of fuelling the car yourself so don’t get caught out by this.
There are no credit check car rental companies out there, it just depends on their policies and procedures.
Types of payment methods when hiring a car abroad
If you’re paying for a car rental with a credit card it’s unlikely that the agency will require a credit score.
If you’re using a debit card when hiring a car aboard the lender may need to run a credit check to ensure they are happy to lend a car to you.
Different companies and countries will have different policies so it’s important to find out what they are before choosing which company to hire a car from.
If you want to use a debit card when hiring a car abroad ask the following questions first:
- Do they accept debit cards?
- Will they place a hold on money in your account?
- Are there any restrictions on using a debit card?
- Do they require a credit check for a debit card to be used?
Another option might be to use a credit card to put on the agency’s file when you collect the car to secure it, but change your payment method to a debit card when you collect it and pay. Check with the agency that this is acceptable beforehand.
Sometimes there are extra fees associated with using a debit card for hiring a car abroad so shop around and find the best deal available to you.
What credit score is needed to hire a car?
Many people ask if you can rent a car with bad credit. The answer is yes, but there are other things you will need to do before driving away in a hire car.
Rental car agencies do not typically state credit score requirements for renting vehicles.
Every company will have different policies that they have to follow before handing over a set of keys to a customer. Some companies also have minimum qualification criteria that you have to meet before getting behind the wheel.
Instead of looking for a minimum score, they might check for any red flags that would impact your ability to hire a car such as a failure to make repayments on a credit card.
In addition to meeting a certain credit score rating, you may have to provide additional ID documents and proof of insurance.
Ultimately, if your credit score is too low, the rental company may refuse to hire a car to you.
Some companies will still consider lending a car to you if you have a poor credit score but you will have to provide additional information and documentation.
This could include the following:
- A full clean drivers licence (convictions and points can be considered)
- Proof of your current home address To be registered on the electoral roll to allow the hiring company to conduct an address check
- An International Driving Permit if you are travelling from outside of the EU
Most car hire companies who hire a car to a driver with a poor credit history will request a deposit which would be refunded at the end of the hire period, subject to meeting the terms and conditions of the hire agreement and passing a vehicle inspection for damage.
Will hiring a car abroad affect your credit rating?
There are two types of credit checks that a rental company can do—hard and soft.
A hard inquiry occurs when a lender reviews your credit report as part of their decision-making process.
A hard credit check will appear on your credit report and could decrease your score by a few points temporarily.
A soft inquiry will not impact your credit score and involves a background check that shows what you would see when looking at your own credit report including any lines of credit, loans, your payment history and any outstanding collections.
Another way hiring a car abroad could affect your credit rating is if you incur additional expenses due to damage which means you owe the rental company money.
If you are given a bill to pay for cleaning or damage to the vehicle it’s important to pay it as soon as possible to prevent the agency reporting you to the credit bureaus, which could have a negative impact on your credit score.
Enquire about any deposit and documentation requirements as well as any age or mileage restrictions before you collect the car so you know what to expect.
Other unexpected charges when hiring a car abroad
Before signing a contract with the rental agency, read it thoroughly and check the documents for the following unexpected charges:
Additional mileage: some car hire companies may charge you if you go over a certain amount of miles per day.
This can be an expensive fee so make sure you’re happy with the limitations before making a decision.
Admin fees: on top of paying for any damage that is caused to the vehicle, you may be faced with a costly admin fee to arrange for the repairs to be done.
Cleaning: if the interior of the car is stained, you might be faced with a cleaning bill.
Always ask for photographic evidence before paying for these services and check the vehicle yourself before handing it back.
Late collection: if you’re late to the rental desk you may find that your pre-booked car is no longer available.
You will then potentially have to pay more for a car that is available for hire.
Always inform the company of your flight details when booking so they are aware of any flight delays that may affect your collection time.
Late return: late car returns can incur a late fee which could be as much as a daily rental charge. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to hand your keys back.
Ways to maintain a healthy credit score before hiring a car abroad
Maintaining a good credit score will eliminate the requirement to find out what credit score is needed to hire a car next time you go abroad.
Adopt these financial habits and never receive a poor credit report again:
Pay your bills on time: including credit cards, loans and even library book fines.
Keep credit card balances low: the higher your credit card balance, the worse your credit score will be.
Keep old credit cards open: well-managed and long-lasting credit accounts prove that you are a reliable borrower, improving your credit score.
Limit your amount of credit inquiries: every time you apply for credit it has a negative impact on your score. Only apply for credit when it is necessary.
Check your report regularly throughout the year and highlight any mistakes as soon as possible.
Use companies such as Experian to regularly keep on top of your credit score.
If your sore has been adversely affected they will be able to show you exactly why and explain how it has happened, providing advice on how to get your score back up.
Request a free copy of your credit score from Experian every 30 days.
Keep your personal finances and credit score healthy
Now you know what credit score is needed to hire a car, regularly check your personal finances to prevent hiring a car aboard becoming a problem in the future.
Plan ahead for your next holiday and you’ll be on the beach in no time, instead of stuck at the car rental offices.