How Much Can You Spend on a Debit Card at a Time?

Digital payments are now the norm in coffee shops and lumber yards as well as on cruise ships and hayrides. The remaining “cash” debate is how much to spend when you spend.

The problem is, as time lapses between one paycheck and the next, tension grows between the desire to spend your money and the money that remains in your checking account. The latter is one determinant of the maximum amount you can purchase with your debit card. The other is the purchase limit that your bank sets for your debit card.

Rationale of Debit Card Limits

Some people resist the idea of limiting the total amount they can spend when using a debit card. They prefer to allow the items they want to buy dictate how much of their cash goes out, rather than what comes in and stays put.

But setting no limits on debit card spending makes sense only if there is no possible way that you may lose your card or that it might be stolen, or that there is never a time when you are subject to emotional spending, which can trigger overdraft fees. Otherwise, it’s wise to use the tool your bank provides – namely, debit card limits to limit the maximum amount you’ll spend. These limits allow you to spend a certain amount of cash when you need to, and not spend more because you want to.

Examples of Debit Card Limits

Financial institutions determine the purchase limit of debit cards, taking into consideration the card holder’s account. Examples of limits set by certain institutions include:

  • Bank of America® with a daily purchase limit of $1,000 of the account holder's available balance.
  • Discover® with a daily purchase limit of $2,500, or the account holder's available balance, whichever is less.
  • Capital One® with a daily purchase limit of $5,000, or the account holder's available balance, whichever is less.

Permanent Debit Card Limit Increases

Determine your daily limit. Your daily debit card limit is documented in your account’s agreement or disclosures. If you can’t spot it there, phone your bank.

A representative will tell you your daily limit on signature and PIN-based purchases, whether you can change it, the dollar limits placed on the limit and if you can make that change on a temporary or permanent basis. Also, ask if you can make the request by text message or phone call, or if you must make it in person. You might also ask about a change in you daily ATM withdrawal limit.

Identify the duration of your preferred daily limit. If you want a different daily limit, consider the amount of increase you need and what the related time frame should be. Do you want the increase to be in effect for one purchase? Would you prefer a permanent increase in the limit?

Request a permanent limit increase. Contact your bank and ask that your daily debit card limit be increased on signature and PIN-based purchases. Be aware, your financial institution will base the approval of your request on your history with that institution.

One-Time Debit Card Limit Increase

To request a temporary debit card purchase limit increase, visit your financial institution. Your request may or may not be approved.

In the event that you must use your debit card to make a purchase that exceeds your daily or one-time purchase limit, contact your bank. If there’s sufficient cash in your account and you have the means to authenticate yourself and authorize the purchase, the bank may increase the transaction limit for the amount of that purchase.

The debit card limits you need and the limits you can set will depend on your individual preferences, as well as your financial institution. But with these strategies, you can set limits that meet your practical needs, while maintaining the security of your financial resources.