Prepaid debit cards have advantages over credit cards, as well as some limitations. Both kinds of “plastic” let you make purchases safely and conveniently without having to carry cash. Both are widely accepted by stores, restaurants, and other bricks-and-mortar and online merchants. The main difference between the two is that spending using a credit card is a form borrowing while with a debit card you are spending your own cash that you have already deposited to your card’s account. Thus you have “prepaid” for your purchase.
What Debit Cards Can Do that Credit Cards Can’t
Debit cards let you deposit your money into an account and spend it as you see fit. In contrast, you can’t deposit money on a credit card; you can only use credit that you then have to pay back. Even a “secured credit card”-for instance where you have to put $500 down as collateral to cover your charges-does not allow you to add your own money and withdraw it interest free. Rather, your deposit is only securing your line of credit and is not accessible to you until you close the credit card. Your line of credit could be increased beyond your initial collateral deposit as you develop a good payment history.
You have many ways to add money to a prepaid card, such as using a money transfer agent or purchasing a Greendot MoneyPak at a broad swath of participating retailers nationwide. You can even set up a direct deposit to your debit card for all or part of your payroll or benefits payments.
Debit cards can curb your impulse spending. The reason for this is simple psychology. It’s your money, and you can only make purchases on the card if you have enough funds in your card account to cover your purchases. Unlike writing a check which might bounce, you can’t get overdrawn. And unlike paying with a credit card that only limits your spending, based on the spending limit of the card, you can’t borrow money that you don’t have. You don’t have to worry about going further into debt and having to make monthly installment payments to pay back the charges. Odds are you will think twice about every purchase and will be more mindful of your budget.
Some debit cards let you check your purchase history and balance online, by calling a customer service number, by using an ATM machine, or even using text messaging on your mobile phone. In today’s economy, more and more people are finding it harder to get a credit card. But it is easy to get a prepaid debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. All you have to do is pass an identity check which helps prevent fraud. An identity check basically establishes your name, birth date, and address matches your official identity usually matched against your social security number. With a debit card, you’ll have the flexibility of a credit card yet peace of mind that you will not be going into debt.
What Debit Cards Can Do that Checks Can’t
If a retailer does not accept personal checks, it likely will accept a debit card as a form of payment for products or services. Just ask or look for a sign that reads that MasterCard or Visa cards are accepted. While debit card purchases technically run on a different network than credit cards, these networks are still run by MasterCard or Visa. If you write a check and don’t have enough funds in your bank account to cover the amount of the check, you can get overdrawn. This can mean hefty overdraft fees for every bounced check, sometimes as much as $30 per check. A check card (a debit card that is tied to your checking account) can still put you at overdraft risk depending on the bank. Most reloadable prepaid cards, however, will not allow you to become overdrawn and thus can’t hit you with an overdraft fee.
Writing checks, or even using a check card, does not help brainsclub login you build credit. That is also the case with prepaid cards, unless they are tied to credit building program like the iAdvance(R) Line of Credit from MetaBank. This program lets you take out small loans on your card, for example $20, and every time you pay them back that fact gets reported to one or more of the major credit bureaus.
Debit Card Limitations
Credit card consumers generally speaking have more leverage against merchants than debit card consumers in disputes over charges, given current Federal regulations. MasterCard offers a zero liability coverage for unauthorized use of a Prepaid MasterCard, which do not apply for PIN transactions (which is why it is important to protect your PIN number).
Perhaps one of the biggest limitations is the consequences of not reporting a lost or stolen card to the bank issuing your card within 48 hours. The level of protection differs from state to state. If the lost card is never found, or the cardholder reports the theft within 48 hours, the FDIC-backed funds will remain safe, and can be moved to a new account when the original account is closed. But a cardholder who fails to report the lost or stolen card in a timely fashion could wave goodbye to his or her money that was once on the card but spent by the thief. The amount of liability will depend upon the policies of the bank issuing the card as well as the state laws governing any such limits.