I'm looking at companies like Bird, Lime and similar. They require an account so that they will have your credit card details on hand and be able to charge you at the end based on the length of your ride. However, I know that places like gas stations charge a large amount and then refund what was unused (during the recent spike in gas prices, the hold increased). I assume that bike rentals could do something like that, charge 100 EUR and then refund however much needed to.

But do companies like that exist?

  • I don't have a proper answer but I assume that a prepaid card might part of a possible solution? Something like mastercard.us/en-us/personal/find-a-card/…
    – pateksan
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 10:42
  • Also it crossed my mind that a nickname or made-up name might be acceptable to the TS&C's of some of those apps? What is the main issue for you, your name, card details or both?
    – pateksan
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 11:08
  • Specifically in the UK, eScooters are classed as vehicles, much like a moped. That means they have licenses, require insurance and a (provisional) driving license. Apps are therefore required to verify identity to ensure compliance and to do things like chase up traffic violations (e.g. speeding, going in restricted areas, skipping red-lights etc.). The same does not apply to bikes/e-bikes.
    – David258
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 15:50

6 Answers 6


The Freebike bikes in Helsinki, Finland, operate without app using credit card and contact payment, each bike with their own payment terminal. They claim it is the first in the world. Of course they have an app that can be used for locating bikes and finding the free return location (almost nobody actually does that, they're left around just like scooters).

EDIT: The "Boris bikes" in London, Velib in Paris and several others have accepted card payments at docking stations without app or user account for some time, so the claim is a bit exaggerated.

  • thanks, that is exactly what I was looking for. I'm a bit disappointed that it is the first (and presumably still the only). I see from @Renaud 's answer that Apple’s App Clips and Android’s Instant App are with on many bikes, but require a smartphone.
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 8:32

London's bicycle (Santander/"Boris bike") scheme allows this. You just enter your credit card at the terminal. No app.

  • great. I assume this isn't that new. If so I guess mastercard.com/news/europe/en/newsroom/press-releases/en/2022/… is not the world's first.
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 10:47
  • They could still claim it's the first system where the card reader is on the bike, but the story is worded more like they didn't know about the Boris bikes.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 11:04
  • Of course it isn't new. How do you think people did before smartphones?
    – njzk2
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:41
  • Indeed, not new, was that way from the start.
    – Nik
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 7:22

"Street rent-a-bike" schemes predate modern smartphones and apps, so the answer is, of course, yes.

Velib' in Paris is such an example. You pay with a credit card at the docking station. You can link the rental to your transit pass for convenience, but that's not mandatory.

  • 1
    I wouldn't say "of course". In Helsinki the first bike share didn't have a smartphone app, but you registered online using a web browser on a computer, paid on your bank's website and checked out the bikes by personal ID number or transit card.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:46
  • @ojs that sounds cumbersome. In Paris you'd get to the docking station, pay for a day or a week, get a receipt with a number on it that you use to unlock the bikes, and that's it
    – njzk2
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 20:50
  • it is cumbersome. But it's an example how you pay without an app or card terminal. A week costs almost as much as a full season so you don't usually do it that often
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 5:18

It doesn't strictly reply the question, some rental bikes/scooters are using App Clip/Instant Apps, that let you skip the part of installing the app and creating an account.

In this case, you initiate the transaction by scanning the QR code on the scooter, or an NFC chip. Given it's really depending on local parameters (scooter companies active in your area, the city in which you are, agreements between banks and payment providers,...) providing an exhaustive answer will be impossible. But at least this answer provides a clue for those who are not willing to install and app and create an account for the scooter operator.

Lime and Spin that you gave as an example offer this service. But their support page only indicates that it works in "selected cities".

Note the support of Apple/Google pay doesn't mean that the functionality is offered, Apple Pay can also be used as a payment method (case of Bird).

  • No need to "provide an exhaustive answer", can you link the 2 or so most popular ones that you can think of off the top of your head?
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 3:43
  • 1
    "Also, the mechanism of charging more to make sure that the funds are available and refunding the rest is independent from having an account linked with a credit card" I know, that's why I used gas stations as an example of not needing an app
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 4:37
  • @HanMah answer edited
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 4:52
  • I assume the support page is help.li.me/hc/en-us/articles/… . While it accepts payment from credit card, debit, apple, google, paypal ... it looks like all of the methods start with "Open the app menu by tapping on the icon in the top left corner." I'm looking for something that can be rented with no smartphone, only a credit card.
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 5:09
  • even if the rent-a-bike service has unmanned stations throughout the city, rather than taking and leaving the bike wherever
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 5:11

The "DIVY" Bikes in Chicago have a terminal where you can rent by credit card. You can rent: A standard bike, an electric bike, or an electric scooter.


I've not heard of one, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Main downside is they would have to have a credit card payment terminal on each scooter, or some kind of fixed scooter dispensing unit.

Payment terminals are controlled by the payment processing company - those that are unmonitored tend to be incredibly robust and protected. Getting hold of a live one could allow the criminally-minded time to reverse engineer the signals, and design card skimmers that are hard to spot.

You could do a one-time credit card spend and purchase the whole scooter. This has the upside of never needing to pay hourly/distance costs, but you will have to remember to bring it, store it, and charge it.

  • 1
    if the bikes are rented and returned from stations, then a terminal will only be need at the station. Terminals aren't security fragile infrastructure. Many small merchants in outdoor markets have them to accept credit card payments. Having a one time payment to buy the bike is similar (if not harder) than downloading an app, which is exactly what I am looking for examples against
    – HanMah
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 10:56
  • The contactless cards have well encrypted connection, because anyone nearby could be hiding a directional antenna and listening to the signals. As far as I know the only successful attacks have been based on relaying the signal.
    – ojs
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 10:58
  • @HanMah yes - I said "fixed scooter dispensing unit" meaning an unmoving vending spot/s but that's not how scooters are deployed in my area. Seems Europe is quite different.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 20:18

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