How to book flights, cars and more without a credit card

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There are several advantages to paying for your travel arrangements with a credit card. Purchase protection and possibility to pay with miles are among those benefits. However, not everyone has a credit card. For example, you might have bad credit or be against them because of horror stories you’ve heard.

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Whatever your reason for avoiding credit cards, you always have ways to pay for your trips. There’s no reason to think you’re stuck if you don’t have a credit card – or don’t want to pay with one just yet. Keep reading to find out what your options are when booking travel.

Ways to pay without a credit card

There are several ways to book a flight, hotel or rental car without a credit card. Consider these options if you don’t want to pay with plastic.

Pay with a debit card

In some ways, paying with a debit card is similar to paying with a credit card. Many debit cards are Visa branded and have a 16-digit card number. Enter your card details at checkout, including card number and expiration date.

But unlike paying by credit card, you’ll need to make sure you have enough money in your checking account before paying. Travel can be expensive, so you might need a lot of money up front. And if the money doesn’t clear from your checking account immediately, an airline may hold the purchase amount on your card until it clears.

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Use a payment app

Your debit card is far from the only way to pay online with your checking account. An alternative is to use a payment app like PayPal, Venmo, or Apple Pay. These payment processors are often (but not always) an option when booking travel. And they may be a better option than using your debit card. Payment apps don’t require you to provide your card details when paying, which can help protect your account.

Pay in cash

Of course, you won’t be able to pay cash if you plan to book your flight or rental car online. However, some airlines sometimes accept cash as a form of payment. Here’s what different airlines are saying about cash:

  • American airlines: You can pay by cash or check at some airport counters or travel centres.
  • South West Airlines: You can pay for your purchases in cash at counters in international airports.
  • United Airlines: You can make a cash payment at an airport ticket office or a United ticket office.

When booking hotels, you might find it harder to pay cash. Some popular hotel chains such as Holiday Inn and Radisson Blu accept cash payments. But even though you can pay for your reservation with cash, hotels may still ask to keep a credit card on file for incidentals.

Buy gift cards

Most major hotel and airline brands offer gift cards that you can use as payment. For example, all of the following have gift cards available:

  • United Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • American airlines
  • South West Airlines
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • Airbnb

You may have noticed walls of gift cards near the storefront of grocery stores for various brands. Sometimes you can find gift cards for airlines and travel accommodations there. You can buy them with cash or debit card and use them to pay for your flight, hotel room, or Airbnb.

Payment over time

People sometimes use credit cards to pay for purchases when they don’t have enough cash available. But you can pay for your travel arrangements over time, even without a credit card.

For example, American Airlines accepts Affirm to allow you to pay for your reservations over time. The airline notes that you can use it to pay for flights and seats, but not upgrades like extra baggage. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines both accept Uplift for pay over time. Southwest notes that the APR for Uplift ranges from 0% to 36%.


While booking flights, cars, and hotel rooms with credit cards has advantages, it may not be for everyone. You may not have a credit card or choose not to use it. The good news is that you still have plenty of options. Debit and gift cards, payment apps, and cash are among your choices.

Remember that you might get hiccups if you don’t use a credit card. For example, if you pay with a debit card, additional holds may apply. Or you might need a credit card to register when booking a hotel room. While you may have a slightly bumpy ride if you choose not to use a credit card, it’s more than possible if you’re determined.

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