Skip Nav
How Often Should You Clean Everything in Your House? Here's a Handy Guide
This Illegal Hike in Hawaii Is Nicknamed the "Stairway to Heaven" For Good Reason
44 Disney Cruise Hacks You Need to Know Before Sailing

Tips for Using a Debit Card

Tips for Using Your Debit Card

Everyone I know uses a debit card, and it's been that way for quite some time. I've heard tales of some people who are still holding out and using personal checks and cash only, but debit cards have definitely caught on for the most part.

Here are a few handy tips and things to consider that will make you feel more informed and confident at the cash register.

  • PIN-based transactions: As the name suggests, you have to enter your PIN to make a purchase. The amount of your purchase is immediately debited from your account.
  • Signature-based transactions: Again, the name gives this one away. Your signature is required to complete a purchase. It can take up to two or three, occasionally more, days for the amount of your purchase to be debited from your account.
  • Transactions requiring your PIN are generally more difficult for fraudsters to conduct than those asking for your signature since only you should know your PIN and anyone can sign your name.
  • Before you even activate your debit card, ask your bank if it charges any fees for using the card. Note that some merchants charge a fee when you make a purchase, be sure to check.
  • Choose a PIN that’s not obvious, so avoid using numbers like your date of birth or address.
  • Keep your PIN in a safe place and do not share it with anyone.

Total Deposits at Washington Mutual are FDIC insured. Thank you to WaMu for sponsoring this post.

Join The Conversation
eraci001 eraci001 9 years
I always use credit because at my bank (Wachovia) they give you points for using it as credit vs. debit! Its like using a rewards credit card but without a bill at the end of the month or the accrued interest!
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I am so grateful for debit cards for the sole benefit of not having to stand there for 10 minutes writing out a check every single time I want to buy something. That being said, I have a hard time keeping track of the mulitiple transactions I make with my debit card. At least when I wrote checks, I could mark it down in the ledger and balance it right away. With the debit card, I don't use a ledger ... I just sort of cross my fingers and hope I have enough in the bank. Not a good habit.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
Rock Sugar, just make it as simple as possible. Tell him it's just like using a credit card he just has to make sure he has that money already available in his checking account. It's that simple! He swipes and signs just like a CC. If he's still baffled test it out one day at a Rite Aid. Make sure you have money in your pocket in case things go awry.
i-am-elle i-am-elle 9 years
I never use my PIN number when purchasing something. I always use my debit card as a credit transaction. Much easier, esp. since I forgot my PIN number for a while haha.
Rock-Sugar Rock-Sugar 9 years
i wish someone would sit my boyfriend and my parents down and explain to them debit and credit. all three of them get so clueless when on the subject. its frightening. just the other night my boyfriend wanted to go out and I'm not working right now so i don't have any money, we had to go to some lame restaurant that accepted personal checks because that bird brain doesn't know how to use a debit card. during the whole dinner, i discussed the advantages and the who/what/when/where of it all and he was just baffled. amazing. anyone have any pointers for me to use in my next attempt
Liss1 Liss1 9 years
When ever i use my pin it does come out immediately, but if i use it as credit it does take a couple of days.
leeapeea leeapeea 9 years
Fashionhor - the store gets charged for the transaction, but they can't charge you. So, no worries on that one. I alwas used my PIN because I beleived, as the article states, that the money came out of my account right away, and being a lazy bank-book balancer, it was easier for me to see when I was broke. Well, it's not true. The money comes out of your account when the store processes it's electronic transmissions - same as with credit.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
did someone write this 10 years ago?
SugarCat SugarCat 9 years
I really try never to use my PIN when I use my card. I always say Credit so I can sign. Better safe than sorry. Besides, anyone who wants to steal mine would be disappointed, there's never enough in it. LOL ;)
fashionhore fashionhore 9 years
I was never given the option to make-up a PIN number; the bank issued me one, and I think it works best that way. This way I don't have to worry about coming up with a number that is too obvious, or so obtruse that I completely forget. I'm just used to the number because that is what I have only ever known. I usually sign when I am at a store like a grocery or retail because I heard somewhere that they can charge a fee for the transaction, not in anyway tied to your bank(?).
DreaAST DreaAST 9 years
I never carry cash and I never use my pin number. I always sign for everything.
facin8me facin8me 9 years
I agree with hotstuff- do NOT use your pin number. PIN based transactions are generally not covered in the protections you receive if you are the victim of identity theft or fraud. It's best not to be in a situation where somebody can see your pin number. Also, do not hand over your debit card to servers at restaurants. There have been problems with debit card numbers being stolen by people at restaurants. Only use your card if you swipe it yourself and it never leaves your sight.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I've been using my debit card for YEARS now it makes life so much easier! Some tip of mine: When you do use your card in a store don't choose the pin option chose the credit option so that you can just sign your name and no one can steal your pin. There have been some cases of store employees watching people put their pin in and stealing it! Also when using your debit card make sure you have your money already transferred over to your checking account because a lot of times that's where the money is subtracted from and some banks will charge you to transfer your money from your savings to checking...which is a total rip off!
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Thanks for this Savvy! I really needed it! :)
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I ♥ my debit!
From Our Partners
Latest Afforable DIY & Organization
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds