Is Using a Debit Card Safe?

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The federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) requires banks to offer protection for debit card users. The EFTA protects you from the loss or theft of your debt card. Also, most banks issuing debit cards offer additional protection beyond the EFTA guidelines, including protection against unauthorized use of your card. It all means that debit cards are safe to use, but you should guard your card carefully and notify your bank immediately of any suspected fraud.

Booming Business

The banking industry has a vested interest in making sure debit cards are safe to use. Debit cards, which don't require a credit check, are booming in popularity with no slowdown in sight. Many people who cannot qualify for full-featured credit cards are turning to debit cards instead. The debit card offers many of the same conveniences of credit cards and have become a staple of the banking industry. The banks make money off debit card transactions, and that's why they are willing to invest in the safety and security of the cards.

Getting A Debit Card

Virtually all banks and credit unions offer debit cards. All you need to do is open a checking or savings account. Charges made to your debit card are paid for by funds from your account. You can also open prepaid debit card accounts. These accounts require you to pay a cash amount to open the card. That then becomes your debit card balance, which you draw upon as you use the card.

Read The Fine Print

Be sure to learn how your bank protects you against the loss or fraudulent use of your debit card. This information should be made available to you in writing. Understanding what your responsibilities are is important as well. For example, your bank may require that you report any fraudulent activity within a certain period of time.

Immediate Credit

If you are victimized by fraud, your bank may reimburse you immediately--even before its investigation is complete. For example, Visa requires banks issuing debit cards with the Visa logo to extend credit for losses from unauthorized card use within five business days.

Safety Tips

Memorize your PIN number and never store it in written form on or near your card.

Don't share your PIN number with others unless they are co-owners of the account.

Although it doesn't happen very often, watch for store clerks who scan your card through two separate machines. The second scanner could be used to copy information from your debit card so that a counterfeit card matching your account can later be made. You can avoid this by shopping at stores that allow the consumer to scan his own card.

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