How Do ATM Cards Work?

Requesting an ATM Card

ATM cards are issued by banks and linked to an existing account. You can open an account at any time if you don't have one. It doesn't matter if the account is a savings or checking account, although ATM cards are usually issued with checking accounts. Every time the card is used, the amount requested is automatically deducted from the bank account with which it is linked.

Using an ATM Machine

The account holder may use any ATM machine, but some charge fees. The machine will tell you ahead of time what the fees are and ask you to accept those fees to continue. To use an ATM machine, insert your card into the machine and type the PIN that was established when the account was opened. Next, choose the type of account from which the money will be withdrawn. You can then enter the amount of money you want to withdrawal, usually in increments of $20. The ATM machine then dispenses the money and a receipt, and returns the card.

Using Your ATM to Make Store Purchases

An ATM card can be used at just about any store. When you get to the counter, hand the cashier your card and tell her it is a debit card. She will instruct you on how to swipe your card through the machine and enter your PIN number. If you want cash back (in place of going to an ATM machine), this amount will be added to the total of your purchase and will be deducted from the account that matches the ATM card.

Using Your ATM Card Online

Before ATM cards, you could only make purchases online if you had a credit card. If your ATM card is associated with Mastercard or Visa, then you can use it online as well to make purchases. There will be a field at checkout that you need to fill in. The website will ask for your card number, whether it is Visa or Mastercard, the expiration date and the security code. The three-digit security code can be found on the back of the ATM card. The online store will automatically check that your information is correct and then debit your linking account.