Debit cards are like magic money wands: they help you make purchases and withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs) without needing physical cash or checks. But before you cast any spells with your debit card, you'll need to become a cardholder.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting a new debit card and how they compare to credit cards.
What Is a Debit Card?
A debit card is issued by a bank, allowing you to transfer money from your bank account when making a purchase. If you go to a store and use your debit card, the money you’re spending comes directly from your bank account.
It’s like withdrawing cash to pay for something, except you don’t need to go to the ATM and take out paper money.
That said, ATM cards let you make cash withdrawals at an automatic teller machine.
Their main benefit is that you don’t need to carry cash, which is convenient and safer. This way, if you lose a wallet or purse that your debit card is inside of, no one will have access to your funds (unless they know your PIN — more on that in a bit).
How Do You Get a Debit Card?
Getting a debit card is easy, and that’s because you don’t need to have good credit to access one. Here’s what you do:
Step 1: Open a Checking Account
The first thing you'll need to do to get a debit card is to open a checking account. This is the type of bank account that is linked to your debit card.
Checking accounts are a great way to manage your money and keep track of your spending. They also have many handy features, such as online banking and direct deposit.
There are a few things to consider when you're looking for a checking or deposit account. First, you'll want to find an account with low fees.
Many banks and credit unions offer free checking accounts with no monthly service fees, transaction fees, or ATM fees. These are typically recommended compared to accounts that charge high overdraft fees each month or require you to have a minimum balance in your account.
Next, you'll want to find an account with a reasonable interest rate. The interest rate is the amount of money the bank pays you for keeping your money in the account. Interest rates on checking accounts are much lower than savings accounts, but you can still earn some interest from using them.
Or, you can have a little bit of fun. Users often describe Yotta as similar to a bank account. Yotta pays out rewards of up to $1 million every day to its members. It makes it easy to spend, save, and manage your money. It’s like playing the lottery while you manage your cash.
Finally, you'll want to find an account with the features and perks that are important to you. Some accounts come with free checks, while others offer rewards for using your debit card.
Step 2: Choose a Card Type
Once you've opened your checking account, you'll be able to choose the type of debit card you want. There are two main types of debit cards: Visa and MasterCard. Both types of cards are widely accepted at merchants and ATMs worldwide.
However, some financial institutions offer only one or the other, so you must check with the bank you open an account with.
Step 3: Apply for the Card
Once you've chosen the type of card you want, it's time to apply. Applying for a debit card is usually a quick and easy process.
You'll need to fill out an application form asking for basic information such as your name, address, and social security number. You may also have to provide proof of your identity, such as a driver's license or passport.
Step 4: Wait for the Card To Arrive
After you've applied for your debit card, you'll need to wait for it to arrive in the mail. This usually takes about 7-10 business days. Once you've received your card, you'll need to activate it before using it. Activation is generally done over the phone, online, or in person.
Step 5: Create a PIN
After you've activated your card, you'll need to create a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Your PIN is a four-digit code you'll use to make purchases and withdraw cash. Your debit card issuer will provide instructions on how to create a PIN.
You want to ensure you don’t share your PIN with anyone. PINs allow account holders to use physical cards or mobile devices in stores for debit card transactions and prevent unauthorized use of cards.
If someone gets a hold of your debit card and knows your PIN, they will have access to the funds in your bank. But without knowing the PIN, anyone who steals your card will not be able to use it.
Step 6: Start Using Your Card
Now you’re finished. You're now the proud owner of a debit card. You can start making purchases, putting the card in your digital wallet (using Apple Pay or Google Pay), and even making ATM withdrawals.
Remember to keep track of your spending and check your account balance regularly so you can stay on top of your finances. Debit cards are a great way to manage your money, stay on top of your spending, and have a little magic at your fingertips.
How Are Debit Cards and Credit Cards Different?
Debit cards give you access to the funds in your bank account to use whenever you want. But credit cards let you use someone else’s money to fund some of your expenses. If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it sort of is.
With a credit card, you get what’s called a line of credit. The credit card issuer lets you borrow money within this line of credit up to a certain maximum.
For instance, if you get a credit card from Discover, the company might give you upwards of $5,000 to borrow money against. This money comes from Discover — not your bank account.
With that said, you still need to pay the card issuer back for any purchases you make, usually by the end of a monthly period. If you do not make timely payments, you’ll accrue interest, a charge the issuer gives as a “price” for borrowing their money. Credit cards tend to have high-interest rates, so making timely payments is essential.
So why get a credit card? Credit cards can be great for emergency purchases. You might not have the money in your bank account immediately to pay for a $2,000 emergency medical bill, but your credit card will likely let you pay this much at once.
You then have the month to make payments on your credit card bill rather than needing to fork over the entire sum at one time.
It doesn’t come with zero liability, but if you’re able to make your monthly payments on time, it can be a great way to access some extra funds. Using a credit card (responsibly) can also boost your credit score.
Not to mention, credit cards often offer cashback rewards when you use them.
Some cards will give you a percentage of your money spent in the form of a credit on your bill, others let you accrue airline miles, and others have different rewards. Most debit cards have various perks; if they do, they are more enticing.
Having at least one debit card and one credit card is usually recommended.
What Should You Do If You Lose a Debit Card?
Losing your debit card can be scary because a stranger might gain access to the money in your bank. But the good news is that there are ways to keep your money safe in this event.
First thing first: you want to deactivate the card. You can do this by calling your bank and letting them know that you lost your card.
They can deactivate your card number so that even if someone tries to use it, they won’t be able to gain access to your account. The bank will supply you with a brand-new card number and a replacement card.
Remember that you’ll need to update your recurring auto payments with this new card number.
If you just forgot your card somewhere and will be able to retrieve it later, you can freeze your account temporarily. This maintains your card number but blocks any new purchases with the card until you unfreeze.
If your member-FDIC bank has a mobile app for mobile banking, you can do either of these from the app without ever needing to call your bank.
With that said, it can be a good idea to call your bank and notify them of a lost card so that they can make sure there are no unauthorized transactions on your account.
The Bottom Line
Having a debit card can make your life a whole lot easier. It gives you access to your bank account without ever needing to withdraw cash and getting one is as easy as applying and waiting for it to arrive.
Make your saving experience even more straightforward with Yotta, which pays out interest through rewards. Get started today to see why over 600,000 members choose Yotta to supercharge their finances.