How to Travel When You Have Bad Credit

How to Travel When You Have Bad Credit
Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Posted: February 25, 2014's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

Recently I heard from a reader who was in a quandary. This gentleman, let’s call him Jim, had previously been in a well-paying job and had a good credit history for most of his life.

Unfortunately, Jim had experienced a series of events that had left him with bad credit. In fact, Jim had suffered a job loss and subsequently lost his home as well.

Needless to say, his credit was shot.

However, not long ago Jim started getting back on his feet. He’d gotten a consulting job in his field of expertise and was again making a decent living.

The problem was his job required him to travel. Jim told me with his bad credit he was finding it hard to book a hotel and a car – specifically with not having a credit card.

I began to wonder if one can even travel when he or she has bad credit.

Well, I looked into it and it turns out it’s not only possible to travel when you have bad credit, but it’s also possible to travel very well.

That’s why I put together this quick guide on how to travel like a king when you have bad credit.

Here are some of the surprising things I found:

1. Make an online reservation.

Most hotels require a credit card to book a room. However, many of them will allow you to make an online reservation and prepay for your stay using a debit card.

As long as the charges clear your bank, the hotel will have no problem checking you in using your debit card.

Another option is to use a service like or Expedia to book your stay – they may even get you a cheaper rate.

2. Renting a car without a credit card isn’t impossible.

Again, you will have to prepay for your rental reservation and they will likely bill your card ahead of time.

But the fact is the deposit amount, usually between $250 and $500, can be billed to your debit card instead of a credit card. Also, it helps to have proof of insurance for your daily vehicle on hand.

3. You don’t need a credit card for airline tickets.

Again, if you prepay and/or use a travel booking service, you should have no problem.

Just be sure to carry the debit card you used to book the flight, as that will help speed the ticketing process along.

“If you prepay, you

should have no problem.”

4. International travel is surprisingly not difficult.

It turns out much of the rest of the world doesn’t rely on credit cards nearly as much as our American system of payment does.

If you have a debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo, you should have very little problem getting cash from an ATM.

You can also use traveler’s checks, although that method of payment is becoming less common.

5. Adventure doesn’t rely on credit.

If your idea of traveling like a king involves less luxury and more adventure, you have alternatives a business traveler doesn’t.

Staying at guest houses or even in private homes is becoming more common. Thanks to the Internet, many services are available that put together travelers and folks who earn a couple of extra bucks renting out rooms.

They are almost always willing to accept cash as payment and very few even have the ability to take plastic.

 6. Be cautious using debit cards.

One word of caution is in order regarding the use of debit cards. If your bank sees a lot of charges from different areas of the country (or the globe), they may put a block on your card.

If this happens during a critical payment time, like at that car rental counter, it can be a problem.

To prevent this possibility, notify your bank of when and where you’re traveling. Also, ask about overdraft protection in case you happen to exceed your estimated travel costs.

Whatever your idea of traveling like a king, your bad credit shouldn’t stop you from doing it. With a little planning and some advance preparation, you can use cash and a debit card for almost everything you need.

Of course, the fewer luxuries you desire, the easier it will be to travel in this way.

The bottom line is it can be done, so go and have fun.