submitted by Michael Bannon, Director, Bucks County Consumer Protection/Weights & Measures
Q: I have read many articles recently concerning credit card “skimmers” and email scams involving the use of debit cards. Is it safe for me to use my debit card for most of my small purchases? I prefer using my debit card since there is no surcharge for using a debit/credit card.
A: While using a debit card gives consumers direct access to the money in their banking account, we at Bucks County Consumer Protection advise that debit cards should not be the primary vehicle for the average person’s spending.
Security features on both debit and credit cards have certainly improved in the past few years but, clever scammers are still able to figure out new ways to trick us out of our money.
If somebody gains access to your debit card information, they will have access to the money that you deposited to your bank account as opposed to when you use a charge card.
Most banks now let you dispute criminal/unauthorized withdrawal from your account. You may not be held financially responsible; however, it can be a long and troublesome process that can tie up money until it is resolved.
If you have bills that come due before you are able to get that money back, you can be in a really tough spot. When fraudulent charges are made on your credit card, that money isn’t being directly taken out of your account.
Instead, it appears as a charge on your account, which your credit card issuer can investigate and waive when they find it did not come from you. Best of all, these rip-off artists did not get to your cash out of your account but only credit card info, making resolution much easier.
Debit cards and credit cards have different benefits and risks; each individual needs to make their own informed decision that they are comfortable making.