How Do Car Rental Credit Card Deposits Really Work

Credit Card

Many complaints received at car rental companies are around the misunderstanding of credit card deposits taken at the time of a car rental.

Says Melissa Storey, Executive Head: Strategy, Development & Marketing, Nine percent of all queries received by First Car Rental, via our Cristil software directly and some via Hello Peter, are around the misunderstanding of refunding credit card deposits.

“This, unfortunately, gives a negative stance on the car rental industry because many of these people complain – sometimes in horrific language – on public forums. This automatically gives an unbalanced perspective of our industry practices and the banking laws that govern certain processes.

“First Car Rental intelligently and structurally handles most queries within our own customer service online channel. This includes the excess deposit hold queries, and our management team has access to each and every query type and its representation within the greater scheme of things. We run transparent financial transactions with all customers.

Explaining the authorisation process, Storey says, At First Car Rental, when we take an authorisation from a credit card, this means we only block this amount. There isnt a physical amount being charged and transferred to a First Car Rental account at this stage, but rather a security hold in the event of any additional charges incurred during a rental such as fuel, one-way fees or vehicle damage.

“Therefore this authorisation amount blocked at the beginning of your rental will not reflect as a refund after the rental period is completed because the funds were never removed from a customers credit card in the first place.

“First Car Rental is one of the only car rental companies that automatically sends the bank a ‘please release’ message to ensure that holds are released as soon as possible, but it is still up to individual banks to make these funds accessible. (The release period varies from 24 – 48 hours locally and even up to 30 days for international banks to release an authorised hold).

Here is an example of a First Car Rental booking process in action.

A customer hires a Group B car for 2 days on the Executive package (lower excess/deposit and higher daily rental rate).

This carries a deposit/excess of R2000 plus the daily rate of R233. A hold is then put on the credit card for this amount (R2466) until the vehicle is returned.

When a client returns the car, the petrol used is replaced, and scratches and dents are checked against the vehicle inspection sheet filled out and agreed to at the time of pick up.

The final invoice is then calculated and emailed to the customer within 24 hours from closing the contract showing the final invoice amount to be deducted off their credit card.

In this instance, it would be R466 for the daily rental fees, plus for example R85 petrol consumed + contract fee of R40 = R591 in total.

This amount is then charged to your credit card and will reflect on your credit card statement.

The blocked amount, still using this example, is R2000. This hold would be then released by First Car Rental and by your credit card bank, usually within 4 days but this R2000 would not reflect as a refund. It just means you now have access to this R2000 for spending again.

If the customer finds that this hold has not been released within this time period, they can contact First Car Rental customer services on with their contract number. First Car Rental will contact the bank directly via email to request the release. The bank will then confirm the date and time this block was released. This information will then be relayed to the customer.

Storey concludes, At First Car Rental our customers are as important as the air that we breathe. Our business exists because they do and we are constantly encouraged by the many compliments we get every week. We really need customers to communicate with us through our website or through First Cares.