Debit or Credit?

Which should I use? Which one is safer? Here are some tips for this Christmas season and in general…

1. What is a debit card?

A debit card is similar to a credit card. The only difference is that it is tied directly to your checking account instead of a credit line. That means if you make a purchase using your debit card, it would be similar to writing a check. The funds come out of your checking account, but you don’t have to wait 2-5 days for the purchase to show up in your records. Purchases made with debit cards show up on your bank statement typically within one hour to a day at maximum. Protection against unauthorized purchases made with a debit card is the same you would receive with a credit card.

2. What is a credit card?

A credit card is a line of credit available to you for purchases, similar to a home equity on a house. The credit card company/issuing bank will offer you a set limit when you first open up a credit card. They will also offer you a set interest rate on your card. But that is another post entirely…

Typically when you make a purchase with a credit card, it is to make sure the company you buy from doesn’t rip you off. If they do, you can have the funds sent back to you. It is also used for larger purchases that your checking/savings account might not have at the time of purchase.

3. Which should I use? Which is safer?

Good question. The final decision is up to you, but here are a couple tips to think about when making your next purchase.

  • Use your credit card if you are unsure of the company you are purchasing from. If they run away, you can get your funds back. If you used your debit card, those funds are taken from your checking account, which may not leave you enough cash for other expenses.
  • Use your debit card when making regular everyday purchases such as food, gas, clothes, etc. Stay away from using your credit card for these purchases if at all possible, unless it is an emergency.
  • Use your debit card in place of writing checks. It it much safer, not to mention faster, to use your debit card. Remember, when writing checks, all a thief needs is your account and bank number, which is on the bottom of every check.
  • Use your credit card when making large purchases. It is safer that way, but be sure to payoff that amount immediately.

A final thought. Think of your credit card as a large fluctuating checking account behind walls and armed guards. If anything happens to those funds, you will be able to get them back. Think of a debit card as your checking account. Whatever is in your checking account, that is the limit. Purchases are final, although granted you have the guards and the walls like the credit card, just don’t tempt fate to eat your checking account alive.

Disclaimer: This knowledge comes from being a teller at an international bank, and listening to other’s experiences. If you have any tips, I would be glad to include them. Comments are open.