Universe Silver’s Complete Guide to Debit Cards

The ability to pay cash for products or services may be ideal for a number of reasons. Paying cash may get you discounts that you might not otherwise receive, and you avoid potential interest and other fees that may be added to a purchase if you pay over time. However, there are times when paying with cash isn’t possible. When making online purchases, for instance, consumers need a non-cash payment option. You might also just not want to carry a lot of cash around with you. In these cases, a debit card can be a great solution, drawing on the money in your bank account while using a convenient card.

What Is a Debit Card?

A debit card looks very similar to a credit card, but it’s linked to your bank account.  When you use a debit card to make a purchase, the money is debited directly out of a bank account. If you try to make a debit card purchase when the account doesn’t contain a sufficient balance, the purchase won’t be successful.

How Does a Debit Card Work?

Some people call a debit card a check card because it’s similar to writing a check. When you use a debit card, you pay a retailer money directly from your bank account as if you wrote a check. However, a check may take time to cash and clear your account, while a debit card transaction happens immediately.

Using Your PIN

After inserting or swiping a debit card, you can make a PIN transaction by entering your Personal Identification Number, or PIN, to complete the debit transaction. The PIN is a four-digit code that authorizes the electronic transaction. There may be a fee for PIN purchases.

Running Your Purchase as a Signature Transaction

You might also choose to make what’s called a signature transaction by selecting “credit” after you insert or swipe your card. The purchases is routed through the Visa network which may create a slight delay in when the transaction settles to your account. When you run the purchase as credit, you may receive some consumer protections for the purchase. However, the funds will still be debited from your account.

Parts of a Debit Card

The Front of the Card

The front of a debit card shows the network logo, such as Visa® and Mastercard®, the debit card number, and the expiration date. The debit card number is 16 digits long, and the expiration date is the last date when you can use the debit card.

The Back of the Card

The back of a debit card shows the card program’s website, customer service number, the name of the bank that issued the card, and the card verification value, otherwise known as the CVV. This unique number is an extra layer of security when you conduct a card-not-present transaction like shopping online and helps merchants confirm that you have the card in your possession. The signature bar is also on the back of the debit card, and this is where you sign the card.

Do Debit Cards Charge Fees?

Different banks offer different account options, some of which may involve fees for debit card transaction. When opening a bank account, a consumer should review the account agreement and fee schedule.

Account Maintenance Fees

Some banks may have monthly maintenance fees or may require a minimum balance.  Some banks may also have limits on the number of transactions you can make each month.

ATM Fees

Using an ATM to get cash is convenient, but there may be withdrawal fees involved. Most debit cards have a no-fee ATM network.

Transaction Fees

Check your account agreement and fee schedule to fully understand the fees associated with your debit card.

What to Do if Your Debit Card Is Stolen

Losing your debit card or having it stolen is a serious matter. Take these steps quickly if you lose your debit card.

Don’t Panic

Stay calm, but act quickly. If you have an app on your phone connected to your debit card, use it to lock your card.

Tell Your Bank as Soon as Possible

Call your card’s customer service number immediately to report the lost or stolen card. Report the lost card, have it canceled, and ask for a new card to be issued to you. Telephoning right away is the best way of keeping your possible losses down.

Monitor Your Account Activity

Watch all accounts for any unusual activity, even very small purchases. Your bank might also send you alerts if unusual activity is detected.

Debit vs. Other Payment Options

Using a debit card provides people of all ages with a convenient way to pay for purchases.

Debit Card vs. Credit Card

Using a debit card gives you a means to spend money responsibly without incurring debt. When you have money in your bank account, you can use it. When you don’t have money, you can’t spend it. With a credit card, you may be tempted to spend money that you don’t have or can’t afford to spend.

Prepaid vs. Traditional Debit Card

A prepaid debit card works just like a traditional debit card for making transactions, except that the funds are “pre-loaded” to the prepaid card.

ATM Card vs. Debit Card

An ATM card works with ATM machines in your bank’s network, enabling you to withdraw money from your bank account. ATM cards cannot be used for purchases like debit cards can.

The Benefits of Using a Debit Card

A debit card is similar to paying for items with cash, except it’s electronic in nature. Using a debit card may keep you in control of your budget, may help you track your spending, and may be easier than carrying cash.

How to Get a Debit Card

To get a debit card, contact your bank to find out about connecting a debit card to an existing checking account. You can also open a new checking account with a debit card attached to it. Some banks offer different debit card features, even enabling consumers to choose designs for the cards themselves.   Aside from using traditional banking options and checking accounts to get a debit card, consumers have the opportunity to use a Visa debit card linked to a deposit account, like that offered by Universe Silver. These debit cards offer a variety of different features, including fee-free ATM use, convenient deposit locations, direct deposit options, and overdraft protection. These cards make is easy to access your account, pay bills, and track spending.    

Additional Resources

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About the Author

Carly Hallman

Carly has been a thought leader, and executive within a large financial brand since 2011. As the Director of Marketing, she enjoys working alongside her brilliantly creative team to expand the their digital footprint and bring their marketing and business objectives to the next level of awesome. Outside of work, Carly donates her design skills to Savannah Children's Theatre and volunteers with Coastal Pet Rescue saving and finding homes for homeless animals. She also enjoys sports, boating, painting, and all outdoor adventures. Her favorite color is any hue that looks like the ocean and she loves boiled peanuts.