Oh the debit card. A way to buy all the stuff you need — food, rent, guitar strings, and random things. For many of us, our first debit card is a sign of financial maturity — beginning our relationship with a bank — whether traditional or mobile.
Debit cards allow you to make purchases using money from your checking account. They allow a safe way to hold cash, and they are usually FDIC protected, so you can also get your money back if your account is hacked or there are fraudulent charges.
On the flip side, many of these checking accounts have different fees associated with them including overdraft fees, minimum balances, and maintenance fees. Also, many businesses charge you more if you use your debit card to compensate for the point of sale charge they get from their payment platforms.
So before you commit to opening a checking account with a debit card, be sure to do diligent research on the fees, charges, basic requirements, and overall customer reviews.
For example, I currently have a checking account where I am charged a $35 fee every month if I do not have at least $1500 in my account, OR I do not have a recurring direct deposit of $250 every month. As you can see, different accounts can be confusing.
How Do You Get a Debit Card?
Before you get a debit card, you need to open a checking account. To start the application process, you have to provide different documentation. All financial institutions have different requirements, so it’s best to go to their website or call them to have their list. Here is a list of documents you might have to provide.
- Government-issued photo ID or driver’s license
- Social security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
- Birth Certificate
- Proof of Address — showing your name and address
After you get your debit card, you will have to set up a personal identification number (PIN) and activate your card by going to an ATM, going on the bank’s website or app, or by calling the number on the back of the debit card.
What to Try and Avoid When Using Your Debit Card
Let’s say you have a new debit card linked to a checking account, and you are ready to go out into the world and treat yourself. Here are some things you should try to avoid, so you are not charged too many fees or have your information/card stolen.
Don’t Buy Things Online With Your Debit Card.
Regardless if it’s Cyber Monday, you finally found a PS5, or there’s a deal on a designer purse that you just gotta have, try not to use your debit card while you scroll the net. The reason is that if your card info is compromised, it is much harder to get your funds back faster.
Savings expert at CouponSherpa.com, Kendal Perez says, “Avoid using their debit card when shopping online since these cards don’t have as much fraud protection compared to credit cards,” she says. “If your debit card information is compromised, you could see your checking account wiped out by thieves. You can dispute these charges with your bank, but the process can take a while, and having your funds tied up in the meantime can have huge consequences. When your credit card information is compromised, you simply see a pending charge which you can quickly dispute prior to any money leaving your checking account.”
Never Write Down Your PIN
Treat your PIN like you would treat a murder you committed — a secret! Joking aside, never ever write down this four-digit number. It may be tempting to keep it in your wallet, but if anything happens to your wallet, you could be in big trouble.
I told you earlier about those pesky fees that many banks have. It is smart to always know your balance before you go out. You can easily check it on your phone from their app. Next, always know the minimum you need to have so you will not be charged, and make sure you do not overdraft! A negative balance is never fun.
Try Not to Use Random ATMs
Banks also get a lot of money when you use ATMs that are not related to your bank. Back in the day, they were free. Can you imagine? To make things worse, many shady ATMs are located everywhere, from clubs, bars, casinos, delis, and outside on the street. These ATMs not only charge you a higher fee but might also steal your information and sell it Frankie Five Fingers down the block.
Do Not Use Your Debit Card On Big Purchases
Unlike credit cards, your debit card will not give you cashback rewards, frequent flyer miles, or other incentives. They also do not help you build credit so you can improve your credit score. In fact, 35% of your credit score is determined by your credit payment history. So be sure to use your credit card on big purchases, and they pay them off with your debit card as soon as you can.
So there you have it. Hopefully, this article taught you the ins and outs of debit cards, and you are now ready to debit like a dynamo, or at least confidently.