About Debit Cards

About Debit Cards

What is a debit card?

A debit card is by far the most popular choice for people who do not like to pay for things on credit. Whilst certain types of credit card have a number of advantages some people do not feel comfortable spending what they do not have.

A debit card provides an easy way to access money from your bank account, pay for goods online and in shops and purchase products over the telephone. It will do all the same things as a credit card but it will not give you any credit. Certain debit cards will allow you to go overdrawn so you need to ensure you have enough money in your account to cover all your bills.

How does a debit card work?

If you pay for something with a debit card, the cost of the goods or money will come directly out your bank account. It is pretty much the same as you going to a cash machine and withdrawing the cash from your bank. This is in contrast to a credit card which will store your purchases up and charge you in one go at the end of the month. Debit cards offer similar fraud protection as credit cards do and it is easy to cancel the card should it get lost or stolen. Here is a comparison table of the four types of debit card discussed in greater detail elsewhere on our site.

Type of Debit Card Overdraft Allowed? Accepted?
Visa Debit Yes (with charges) Everywhere
Mastercard Debit Yes (with charges) Everywhere
Maestro Debit Yes (with charges) Everywhere
Visa Electron No Selected shops

What are the pros to having a debit card?

Here are a few of the pros to you having a debit card, there are however a few cons as well which we have listed further down.

Universally accepted - Debit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the UK and many places around the world.
Safer than having cash - If your card is stolen you can cancel it quickly over the phone so it is a great way to carry cash.
Small & durable - They are small and easy to carry around rather than a big wad of cash.
Cashback - Debit cards (excluding Visa Electron) will allow you to get up to £50 cashback at supermarket checkouts or other places with similar services.
Cash available from cashpoints - Usually you can withdraw cash without any charge from large number of cashpoints. Some will charge you but they will prompt you about this on-screen before you withdraw the money.
No overdraft - Other than a Visa Electron you can only get an overdraft if agreed by the issuing bank.

What are the cons to having a debit card?

Overdrafts cost money - Unlike a credit card, your debit card is not designed to give you credit or an overdraft. If you do accidently go into your overdraft you will be charged by the bank.
Borrowing is now allowed - You will need to have money in your account otherwise you will need to speak to your bank about arranging an overdraft which some will allow.
Less card protection - Unfortunately you cannot be 100% sure about being covered if you buy faulty goods. Some providers / banks do offer a chargeback scheme where you will be able to recover some of if not all the money you have paid.
Electron is not accepted everywhere - Most online and offline retailers will accept Maestro, Visa Debit or MasterCard Debit cards but not Visa Electron.

Are there any fees at all on debit cards?

If you do accidently go overdrawn on a Maestro, Visa Debit or MasterCard Debit card then you are more than likely looking at receiving a daily fee, plus a one off fee for going overdrawn. Aside from that you should not expect to have any other fees on having a debit card.