Debit card payments allow for convenience. You don’t have to fumble through your purse or pockets looking for loose change. You don’t have to go through all the trouble of writing a check. Instead, all you have to do is swipe your card, punch in your PIN, and boom, you’re all done.
But, there are times when you need to leave the debit card in your wallet and whip out the cash or credit card instead. That’s because debit card transactions can put your financial information at risk. Keep reading to discover the 10 times you should never use your debit card.
10. When Making Online Purchases
If you use your debit card to make purchases online, stop! Use a credit card instead. Why? Because credit cards offer way more protection than debit cards.
One reason being that cybercriminals can drain your bank account in minutes, putting you in a tight spot when needing to pay your bills. Second, it can be harder to dispute charges made with a debit card versus charges made with a credit card.
Yes, banks have certain protections in place for their customers, but the cybercriminal could make off with all your money before you even realize it.
On the other hand, federal law gives credit cardholders the ability to dispute billing errors and withhold payment. At the same time, the creditor investigates the charges and places a limit on how much of the unauthorized charge you’d be responsible for.
9. When Dining Out
There are two reasons why you should never use your debit card when dining out. First, your card could end up in the wrong hands. In other words, you don’t know if you can trust the restaurant staff. Unfortunately, some of the workers (or even the owner) could be thieves.
The last thing you want is to hand over your financial information to a criminal. Even if they’re not criminals, they could accidentally mix up your card with someone else’s and, before you know it, the other diner has left with your card. Second, skimmers can be found in restaurants just like are sometimes found at ATMs.
That being said, it’s best to pay for your meal with cash or credit. The only time it would be acceptable to pay using a debit card is when your server brings a handheld payment system to the table. This allows you to see everything that’s happening with your card.
8. When Making ATM Withdrawals
As crazy as it might sound, using your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM can be a big no-no. This is especially true for independent ATMs, which typically have skimmers installed on them.
Yes, skimmers can also be installed on bank ATMs, but this is less likely to happen because the machines at the bank are more likely to be monitored by security cameras. Because this isn’t the case for independent ATMs, they can be more easily compromised by crooks.
7. When Paying for Gas at the Pump
Did you know that when you swipe your debit card at the gas pump, the gas station will sometimes put a hold on your account to validate it? That hold can equal $1 or more and can last for a few hours. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to this problem: go inside and make a payment with the cashier.
But, there’s another issue when paying for gas at the pump: fraudsters sometimes install skimmers on them.
“These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge.
Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice,” the FTC explained, according to an article published by Money Talks News.
There are, however, some steps you can take to protect yourself:
- If you have no choice but to use a debit card, choose the “credit” option. You won’t need to enter your PIN, and the funds won’t be immediately deducted from your bank account.
- Choose a pump near the door. Fraudsters are less likely to install skimmers on the pumps closest to the store to avoid being seen by the store’s security cameras.
- Look for signs of tampering. For example, if the numbers on the PIN pad look raised, newer or bigger than the rest of the machine, those are signs that a skimmer has been installed. Other signs include a loose card reader, a broken fuel pump seal or anything that looks out of place.
- Use a free anti-skimming app to scan a card reader for a skimming device and receive an alert if one is detected.
- Use your phone’s Bluetooth to see if any strange letters or numbers appear under “other devices.”
6. When Purchasing Airline Tickets
WOW Air was a low-cost carrier based in Iceland. It operated from 2012 until it went belly up in 2019. Unfortunately, that not only left travelers scrambling to find “rescue fares” but also with no way of getting their money back.
While this might be the worst-case scenario, it can and did happen. And, with COVID cases on the rise again, it’s something that could be very likely in the foreseeable future.
By the way, you might want to be careful using your debit card to make hotel reservations as well. That’s because hotels will put a hold on your payment card for the amount of the room, plus extra for any other charges you might incur.
“That could definitely impact your ability to use the account for other expenses,” Leslie Tayne, a financial attorney and author of “Life and Debt: A Fresh Approach Toward Achieving Financial Wellness,” told Reader’s Digest. You can avoid all of this by simply booking with a credit card instead.
5. When Traveling Abroad
Traveling abroad can be scary enough — especially if it’s your first time — without having to worry about someone hacking into your bank account and funneling out all your hard-earned money. That being said, leave your debit card at home and use your credit card to make purchases while outside of the country.
You could also get a separate debit card that’s tied to a bank account that has only a limited amount of cash in it. That way, if someone does happen to get hold of your banking information, they won’t be able to steal money out of your primary account.
4. When Renting a Car
Car rental services will place a hold on money in your bank account when using your debit card. This means that you won’t have access to those specific funds until after the rental period has ended.
That being said, if you’re going to go ahead and rent a car using your debit card, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of cash in your account so that you don’t overdraw it and end up with bounced checks and overdraft fees. Or, more importantly, so you don’t end up behind bars.
3. In Self-Checkout Lines
You probably enjoy going through the self-checkout line in the store. But, after reading this, you might think twice about it — especially if you’ve been using a debit card to pay for your purchases. That’s because crooks can easily install skimmers on them and steal your financial information.
And, while there’s usually an attendant there to make sure no one is walking out of the store with unpaid items, the attendant can easily miss someone installing a skimmer on one of the card readers. After all, they can’t keep their eyes on all of them at the same time.
That said, it’s best to pay with cash in the self-checkout line or just head to a regular checkout lane to pay for your stuff. “A criminal won’t try to install a skimmer a foot away from a person,” Mason Wilder, research specialist at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, told Business Insider.
2. When Purchasing Big-Ticket Items
Imagine this scenario laid out by Money Talks News: You order new furniture only to see knicks and/or stains on it when it arrives. What can you do in a situation like this?
Well, if you used a credit card to place your order, you could dispute the charges, withhold payment while the creditor investigates the situation, and eventually get your money back.
Not only that but many credit card companies will double the manufacturer’s warranty on products you purchase with your card. That, unfortunately, is not the case with debit cards. Once they take that money from your bank account, it’s likely gone for good.
1. When Setting Up Automatic Payments
Do you ever notice how companies are always trying to get you to enroll in automatic payments? They tell you doing so will help the environment and cut down on clutter.
That’s certainly true. They also tell you that opting for paperless statements can help ensure that none of your bills are ever late again. That’s true as well.
However, what they don’t tell you is that while you’ll never be late on your bills again, you may have to deal with overdraft fees if you don’t keep track of these recurring payments.
Now, that’s not their responsibility to tell you that, and it certainly wouldn’t be their fault if you didn’t keep up with what’s going in and out of your bank account.
The truth of the matter is, these companies push this because it’s convenient for them. That being said, do yourself and favor and stick with paper statements. You’ll be glad you did.