Smart Tips for Using Your Debit Card

by Gregory Hamel ; Updated July 27, 2017
Debit card

Debit cards function similarly to credit cards except that debit cards allow you to withdraw funds directly from a checking account. In other words, when you use a debit card you are spending money you have already earned. Responsible debit card use can help you avoid fees and dangers that may end up costing you money.

Check Your Account Balance Regularly

Since debit cards draw money from a checking account, you can only draw as much money as you have in your account. Overdrawing your checking account may result in fees from your bank. Many banks allow users to check account balances online, which can make it easy to keep tabs on how much money you have to spend. Some accounts also offer overdraft protection to protect you from fees if you happen to draw more than your balance.

Cancel Lost Cards Immediately

Debit cards and credit cards are easy to misplace. If you lose your debit card, call your bank and cancel the card as soon as possible. Unlike credit cards, it may be difficult to recoup fraudulent debit card charges because money is withdrawn directly from your checking account. For this reason, consider using a credit card instead of a debit card for normal use and online purchases and then use your debit card to pay off the credit card.

Destroy Old Cards

If you never use a certain card or receive new cards in the mail, destroy your old cards. New debit cards may have new expiration dates and security codes, but the card number will usually be the same.

Memorize Your PIN

Debit cards allow users to set up a personal identification number (PIN) that must be entered when withdrawing funds from an ATM. Set up a PIN as soon as you receive your debit card and commit the number to memory. Bankrate recommends that debit card users never write their PIN on their card.

Keep Your Card in a Safe Place

You should treat your debit card as if it were cash. You probably wouldn't leave $3,000 in cash sitting on the kitchen counter, but that's essentially what you are doing if you leave your debit card on the counter with a checking balance of $3,000. Keep your card with you in your wallet or purse when you are out and put it in a safe, drawer or other hidden location when you are not using it. Never leave the card sitting out where others can see it.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.

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