Debit cards are revolutionising the way bank customers pay for goods and services. With a debit card, you don’t have to carry as much cash. You also limit the need to write cheques, show identification and wait for approval. What is more is that, debit cards are more readily accepted than cheques, especially when you are travelling away from home, according to a report by http://www.gettingaheadassoc.org.

According to the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, there are two basic types of debit cards:

Automated Teller Machine card — This card is used to obtain cash from ATMs and is accepted for payment by using your Personal Identification Number at certain supermarkets, retailers and filling stations.

A card that carries the logo of one of the two major payment card companies— This card can be used to withdraw cash from an ATM, as well as to make purchases anywhere the logos on these cards are accepted.

The following points will help you make the most of a debit card’s convenient features;

  • A debit card may look like a credit card, but it works like the electronic equivalent of a cheque. When you pay with a debit card, you authorise the bank to take money directly out of your bank account and pay it to the merchant. Like a credit card, you simply sign a receipt for your purchase. Unlike a credit card, there is no bill at the end of the month and no interest charge. The debit simply shows up on your bank account.
  • Debit card deductions are instantaneous. Debit card purchases are immediately deducted from your account, which means that your spending is limited by the balance in your account. Be aware that if you have written cheques that have not yet cleared, your debit card may allow you to overdraw your account.
  • It is important to notify your card issuer/bank immediately if your debit card is lost or stolen. It is true that under the law, there is a higher liability for debit cards, but, in response to consumer concerns about liability for fraudulent use, some cards have instituted a zero liability policy. The zero liability policy applies to purchases made using your card or account information at a store, over the phone, or on the Internet. It does not, however, apply to ATM transactions.
  • A debit card can help track spending. Because debit card purchases are listed on your monthly statement, using your debit card makes it easier for you to track your spending and eliminates the need to try to remember where you spent the money you withdrew from the ATM. Also, if you are banking online, many personal finance software programmes download debit transactions to your software, where you can assign them to the proper spending categories.
  • Debit cards do not provide the same purchase protection as credit cards. In most cases, if you have a problem with merchandise or services you charged to a credit card, and you have made a good faith attempt to work out the problem with the seller, the law allows you to withhold payment for the purchase plus any finance or related charges. Regulations make no such allowance for debit card purchases (although some financial institutions might). Typically, you are out of the money that has been deducted from your account until the issue is resolved.
  • Some financial institutions charge for debit transactions. While you won’t accrue interest or finance charges on debit card purchases, some institutions charge a monthly or per-transaction fee for debit cards. Shop around for the best deal, particularly if you plan to use your card often.
  • Debit cards can make balancing your chequebook a challenge. It is easy to use your debit card to pay for groceries and stuff the receipt in the bag without ever deducting the amount of your purchase from your chequebook balance. To avoid overdrawing your account, devise a system for recording your debit card transactions.

When used properly, debit cards provide convenience, enabling you to effectively track your cash flow. Just be sure to safeguard your card, PIN and receipts.

Credit: Punch

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