Advantages and Disadvantages of Debit Cards


Debit and check cards, as they have become widespread, have revealed numerous advantages and disadvantages to the consumer and retailer alike. Advantages are as follows. A consumer who is not credit worthy and may find it difficult or impossible to obtain a credit card can more easily obtain a debit card, allowing him/her to make plastic transactions. Use of a debit card is limited to the existing funds in the account to which it is linked, thereby preventing the consumer from racking up debt as a result of its use, or being charged interest, late fees, or fees exclusive to credit cards.

For most transactions, a check card can be used to avoid check writing altogether. Check cards debit funds from the user's account on the spot, thereby finalizing the transaction at the time of purchase, and bypassing the requirement to pay a credit card bill at a later date, or to write an insecure check containing the account holder's personal information. Like credit cards, debit cards are accepted by merchants with less identification and scrutiny than personal checks, thereby making transactions quicker and less intrusive. Unlike personal checks, merchants generally do not believe that a payment via a debit card may be later dishonored.

Unlike a credit card, which charges higher fees and interest rates when a cash advance is obtained, a debit card may be used to obtain cash from an ATM or a PIN-based transaction at no extra charge, other than a foreign ATM fee.

The Debit card has many disadvantages as opposed to cash or credit. Some banks are now charging over-limit fees or non-sufficient funds fees based upon pre-authorizations, and even attempted but refused transactions by the merchant (some of which may not even be known by the client).

Many merchants mistakenly believe that amounts owed can be "taken" from a customer's account after a debit card (or number) has been presented, without agreement as to date, payee name, amount and currency, thus causing penalty fees for overdrafts, over-the-limit, amounts not available causing further rejections or overdrafts, and rejected transactions by some banks.

In some countries debit cards offer lower levels of security protection than credit cards. Theft of the users PIN using skimming devices can be accomplished much easier with a PIN input than with a signature-based credit transaction. However, theft of users' PIN codes using skimming devices can be equally easily accomplished with a debit transaction PIN input, as with a credit transaction PIN input, and theft using a signature-based credit transaction is equally easy as theft using a signature-based debit transaction.

In many places, laws protect the consumer from fraud a lot less than with a credit card. While the holder of a credit card is legally responsible for only a minimal amount of a fraudulent transaction made with a credit card, which is often waived by the bank, the consumer may be held liable for hundreds of dollars, or even the entire value of fraudulent debit transactions. The consumer also has a much shorter time (usually just two days) to report such fraud to the bank in order to be eligible for such a waiver with a debit card whereas with a credit card, this time may be up to 60 days. A thief who obtains or clones a debit card along with its PIN may be able to clean out the consumer's bank account, and the consumer will have no recourse.

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