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Yes, you can use your debit card online

Undoubtedly there are those of you who are thinking, "Well, of course I can," without a second thought. Everything from the coffee that wakes you up in the morning to the cozy blanket you buy just before you nod off at night (it will ship tomorrow and be here before the weekend, right?) hits your debit card. Clearly you cozied up to debit card purchases in app or online a while back and it is second nature to you. Outstanding! We'll let you get back to your shopping for a few moments, but don't wander off just yet. 

The next group of debit card holders are cautious — not quite so fast and loose with your plastic. You want to be mindful of a potential unauthorized purchase, and by limiting when and where you use your card (especially online), you are keeping tabs on both your card and your spending. There's nothing wrong with either practice. But if you’re using a credit card for online purchases as an alternative, you're putting yourself at higher risk for spending outside your budget, and you still run the risk of the dreaded concern of unauthorized activity on your card. 

Then there's those whose debit card never sees the light of day. You rely on checks and cash to manage your flow and that debit card makes a better straight-edge for tearing paper than a money tool from your financial institution. Maybe it's seen a few ATM transactions, but that's about the extent of its outings. This absolutely keeps it safe, but you can still find safe ways to use your debit card and keep your risk low. 

For all of you, we'd like to introduce you to best practices for online debit card use (and reintroduce you for those who consider yourselves experts in this arena) to shop online – and in person – with your debit card while keeping your account, your budget, and your personal information safe and secure.

 

Cash contented and credit card convenient

Many people feel most secure using either cash for in-person or a credit card for online or in-app purchases. Both make sense, for different reasons. 

Cash transactions are straightforward, with zero risk of being ripped off by "skimmers," devices added on top of card readers that steal your personal data. You can't get swindled out of your cash through phishing emails or other online scamming tactics. 

A credit card has a different set of risks and benefits: If you lose your cash you're out of luck, but if your card gets swiped you call your bank and get a new one. Of course, your credit card account is far more susceptible to skimming and online scams than cash. 

True and true, but don't discount the upside of using your debit card similarly. It provides you the perks of instant access to your cash without carrying cash and functions like a credit card without racking up the interest charges. It's like a super hybrid of the best of both. Let's consider how else you can use your debit card and make each transaction safe and easy.

 

Cash isn't always perfect

If you've ever found money on the ground, that's a nice surprise, but it means someone somewhere else is missing it. That someone could be you. If you are dependent on always having cash for your everyday purchases, you might also be dependent on ATMs and the fee that always accompanies a withdrawal, or getting to the bank during open hours. 

If you like the convenience of cash, that means going into the store before you fuel up and getting back a handful of potentially moist bills. (Where have those been exactly?) If you've ever dropped loose change in your car at a drive through restaurant, you know those pennies are likely going to be down under the seat forever. 

Thievery abounds, too. If you lose your wallet, or fall prey to a pickpocket, you'll probably never see that cash again. But one call to your bank will protect the funds in the checking account tied to your debit card. The physical card itself is cancelled and can be replaced swiftly and remotely, while your cash sits tight in your bank or credit union.

 

Forgiving and forgetting

While a debit or credit card is more secure in this sense, you should still move quickly as soon as you realize your card is gone. According to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines , if you report the loss or theft of your debit card before any unauthorized charges are made, you pay nothing, and if you report it within two business days, you're on the hook for $50 max. It's far more forgiving than the prospect of losing your entire billfold in one swoop. (If you want to know what your options may be for a lost card, you can review the Federal Trade Commission overview for detailed explanations of your liability with a lost or stolen credit or debit card.) 

Many mobile banking apps offer the ability to turn your card on and off, so if you know you left it at restaurant last night, you can turn the card off prohibiting any further charges and turn it back on the next morning when you retrieve your card.

 

MFAs are still on the job

If you are still writing checks, you're not alone. According to the Federal Reserve, checks are still used every day and they remain a common means of sending money to an individual through bill pay in some online banking platforms. Keep in mind debit cards are just a modern version of checks. It's an agreement between you, your bank, and the merchant that the money will move from point A to point B to point C, exchanging payment for goods and services. 

As you debit card expires, you might discover its replacement includes a small, copper-colored chip. That's called an EMV chip (which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa, in case you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia), and it reduces the possibility of your debit card information getting skimmed where devices tend to be less supervised, such as gas station pumps and third-party ATMs. 

Much like the magnetic stripe on the back of your card, the chip contains information about your account, but also adds a layer of security to every transaction that the strip alone does not provide. You've probably noticed your credit card also has a chip, and yes, it does the same thing, but your debit card still can one-up your credit card when it comes to security: MFA. 

When you are shopping IRL, whether at the gas station or the grocery store, your debit card comes with an added layer of security that you probably take for granted: your trusty PIN. The personal identification number is an ancient technology (in debit card terms) for which there is no substitute. You might think MFA (multi-factor authentication) is a new process. There are new ways to validate your identity — to be sure the card really belongs to you — but one of the best, tried-and-true ways is to ask you for a piece of information that only you know: your PIN. 

Where a credit card is swipe-and-go, a PIN lives in your brain and requires your fingers touching real-world buttons. This additional verification step adds a layer of security to IRL purchases that credit cards lack in most scenarios. There may be times when your PIN can be by-passed by choice or by default, such as the pay-to-park machine at large venues or maybe even the local car wash, so when you have the option, use EMV-enabled payment devices and make PIN transactions.

 

Debit cards come with budgeting tools

Security isn't the only upside of debit cards over credit cards. Think about your online shopping activity. Have you ever added to your cart to reach the free-shipping minimum? Yes, you've saved the shipping costs, but you've also exceeded your self-imposed clothing budget for the month. When you shop with your debit card, you tend to be more aware of your balance and your spending than you are with your credit limit. 

A debit card is tied to your checking account, which has a hard limit of money you can spend. Some debit cards come with a daily spending limit set by the issuing bank or credit union, as an extra layer of control. Your mobile banking or online banking platform might also give you additional spending limits, sometimes even by store type or geographic location. You can also move money from your savings account to your checking account when you are ready to make that big purchase for which you've been saving over the past six months. 

If you're struggling to break out of the overspending cycle, you should proactively choose to do the bulk of your online shopping with your debit card. Not only is it as secure as a credit card, but you're far more likely to spend within your means when using debit, instead of racking up debt and paying interest on a credit card..

 

Mobile and online awareness matters

In reality, we've all gotten used to being a little more breezy with online shopping, our comfort levels with doing "normal" things has ebbed and flowed in unpredictable ways, and all this flux sometimes causes a brain fog that we're tempted to blow away with retail therapy. 

When shopping online look for obvious indicators that you are shopping on a secure site. If you're unsure, your best option is utilizing a previously secured payment site, such as Apple Pay, PayPal, or Google Wallet where your debit card information is already stored and protected. 

When shopping in your favorite mobile app, using these pre-programmed payment methods makes your debit card transaction easier, and more importantly, safer choices. without your needing to even pull out your debit card. Those of you who are already using your debit card for these purchase experiences, raise your hand. We see you and we love that you are making safe, budget-wise choices with your money. 

You can certainly take advantage of tap-to-pay and contactless card options, as long as you set up your transactions through secure sites in advance of making these purchases. Remember, avoid using public wi-fi connections when making online and mobile purchases to keep your private information, well, private.

 

Cool rewards, debit style

You probably already associate credit cards with rewards, but did you know that choosing the right checking account can net you some sweet deals you might be missing out on now? 

Thanks to community banks and credit unions who offer reward checking accounts and savings accounts, there are many great benefits to be had from using your debit card: much higher-than-average interest, cash back, and tools to help you save smarter, to name a few. Kasasa® works with local banks nationwide to offer these services — check out our Kasasa Cash® and Kasasa Cash Back® offerings to learn more! 

Doesn't it make sense to earn rewards on your everyday purchases that you make with your debit card anyway?

 

Check it out as you're checking out

Always remember that your debit card purchases are tied to your checking account, so whether you write down all your purchases, or make time to review your online banking account regularly, keep tabs of when and where you use your card, and double-check yourself as you shop with these tips. 

Shop secure. Make sure you're shopping on a secure website, especially when it's time to enter your card number. Look for the locked padlock icon in your browser and pay attention to any security warnings that pop up. While it's convenient, it's best not to save your debit card number in your computer unless your 100% sure no one has access to your device. 

Keep tabs on your account. Check your accounts regularly. It's always a good idea to monitor your money, especially if you're sharing account information online. Once a week may feel too often, but it may depend on how frequently you make purchases. Keep in mind, if anything appears off, it's better to recognize it sooner rather than later, and be sure to report those discrepancies to your card issuer immediately. 

Pro tip: Many online and mobile banking accounts allow you to program transaction alerts, in addition to establishing your own spending controls. Take advantage of these when possible so you get confirmation of your purchases and any possible unauthorized transactions. 

Shop from home. Pandemic or not, you should always make online purchases from the security of your home WiFi. Public hotspots aren't the most secure, and some nationwide stores use the same logon, even in different states, so you may be connected just entering the premises. If you're itching to make an online purchase on the go, hit pause and wait until you're back home. Your account will thank you, and you may even choose to forego the purchase altogether and save your budget the hit. 

Only use ATMs you can trust. Bank or credit union ATMs are monitored regularly than ATMs inside convenient stores and laundromats. Public places are more vulnerable to skimming devices (which is another good reason to use only chip-enabled devices).  

Never, never, never share your debit card information. It sounds obvious, but whether in email or snail mail or text or verbally, your debit card information should never be shared and always be protected. No company worth doing business will ever request your debit card information via email or over the phone, but scammers often do. Your financial institution will never ask for your account number when inquiring about your debit card. Don't carry your PIN in your wallet, purse, or pocket. Don't write it on your card, a deposit slip, envelope, or any other piece of paper that could be lost or looked at. You have oodles of password and codes — this one is worth committing to memory. Remember, it's your MFA! 

If you still aren't convinced of all the goodness wrapped up inside your debit card, ask the teller at your credit union or bank how they manage their everyday purchases. Chances are they are saying, "Yes," when it comes to using their debit card online, too.

Tags: My Finances, Debt Management, Rewards Banking, Spending