As debit cards grow in popularity, knowing how to use them wisely and track spending is more important than ever.
Debit cards "debit," or subtract, money directly from your checking account, so users must make sure they have enough money left over to cover all transactions. Many consumers are attracted by the convenience of debit cards as they free them from having to carry bulky checkbooks and large amounts of cash. They are also a good way to avoid the high interest penalties that can come with buying on credit.
Here are some tips, courtesy of Visa, on how to use debit cards responsibly:
- Create a record-keeping system. Know your current account balance. Don't forget about checks that have not yet cleared your account.
- Always take sales receipts and carbons. They will help you keep track of your purchases and help you record transactions in your check register quickly.
- If your card is lost or stolen contact your card issuer immediately.
- Choose a PIN (personal identification number) that a smart thief couldn't figure out. Avoid obvious choices, such as your address, phone number or birth date.
- Keep your PIN private. Try to memorize your PIN instead of writing it down, and never tell it to anyone.
- Debit cards look similar to credit cards. Know what type of cards your financial institution has given you. You may already have a debit card without realizing it.
- There is no grace period for a debit card purchase. Since it´s directly deducted from your checking account, make sure you have the money available to cover the full transaction amount at the time of sale.
- Some debit cards have monthly or per-transaction fees. Carefully review your cardholder agreement, which should contain information about any fees you will be charged for card use. You may also be charged by the merchant to use your PIN for a purchase.