How Overdraft Protection Works With a Debit Card

Why Does Overdraft Protection Work a Little Bit Differently for Checks and Debit Cards?

It’s important to understand that there are important differences in paying for something with a check vs. a debit card as far as overdraft protection is concerned.  Think about it.  As a purchaser, when you pay with a check you get what you want right away, but the seller has to wait for a period of time in order for your check to clear.  On the other hand, when you pay for something with a debit card the transaction goes differently.  First your debit card is run through a payment processor and then, after a little bit of a wait, your purchase is either approved or denied.  And it’s that difference –the speed at which checks (slower) and a debit cards (faster) can be validated – which is the reason overdraft protection is just a little bit different for check and debit card transactions.

Savings Account and Credit Card Overdraft Protection Works the Same for Check and Debit Cards

Before explaining the differences in how overdraft protection works for checks and debit cards let me first explain how they are the same.  If you overdraw your account on a debit card purchase and you DO have savings or checking account overdraft protection then you should generally be able to make your purchase without too much hassle; the necessary money will be transferred to your checking account to cover the shortfall in the same manner as if you had overdrawn the account by writing a check.  Read about How to Use a Credit Card Effectively.

Something Different: Automatic Debit Card Overdraft Protection

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Prior to August 15, 2010 if you overdrew your account as a result of a debit card transaction then your bank could automatically charge you a substantial overdraft fee of approximately $27 per transaction.[1]  For example, if for whatever reason you didn’t realize that you had no money left in your checking account and you made 3 separate purchases of $5 apiece using a debit card then your errands could end up costing you a whopping $96 (3 purchases at $5 apiece plus 3 bank fees at $27 apiece)!  But now, based on the new regulations, your bank can no longer automatically hit you for overdraft charges related to debit card purchases unless you affirmatively sign up for the program.

To illustrate how this works, let’s say that you did NOT have savings account, credit card, OR the automatic debit card overdraft protection.  What would happen if you attempted to buy something with a debit card for more money that you had in your account?  The seller would run your card through a payment processor and, after a brief wait, your card would be denied.  Perhaps you might find that a little embarrassing if you were making the purchase in person rather than online, but at least you would be spared a far more expensive alternative.

And what is that expensive alternative?  If you had signed up for automatic debit card overdraft protection (or whatever your bank might call it) and you had made the purchase described above then the good news is that it would be approved even though you didn’t have enough money in your account to cover it, but the bad news is that you would be subject to the $27 overdraft fee.  That’s enough money to hurt any regular person!  As a result, I recommend that you cancel, resist, turn down, or otherwise opt out of automatic overdraft protection and instead utilize the much less expensive alternatives of saving account or credit card overdraft protection.

How Do You Cancel Automatic Debit Card Overdraft Protection if You Already Have it?

If you have any question in your mind about whether or not you have automatic debit card overdraft protection (as opposed to savings account or credit card overdraft protection) then contact a customer service representative from your bank to find out for sure.  Now if you do indeed have automatic debit card overdraft protection then, again, I recommend that you opt out of it.  If the bank’s customer service representative cannot help you do that, or they are not giving you information that’s sufficiently clear enough to enable you to make informed financial decisions, then consider taking your business to a competing bank that will.

A Reminder on How all of This Relates to Overdrawing an Account by Bouncing a Check?

I want to again emphasize that the August 15thregulations relate to automatic debit card overdraft protection.  In other words, while banks can no longer automatically charge you fees for overdrawing your account as a result of debit card transactions, they can still automatically charge you for bouncing checks.  As a result, regardless of whether you generally use a debit card or checks to make purchases and pay bills, I highly encourage you to get savings or credit card overdraft protection.

 


[1]  http://www.bankrate.com/finance/investing/fdic-study-outrageous-overdraft-fees-1.aspx

How Do Credit Cards Work

How Do Credit Cards Work?

A Credit Card is a Means to Borrow Money

How do credit cards work?  When you boil it all down a credit card is simply a convenient means to borrow money.  In other words, when you use a credit card to pay for something it’s not really you that’s paying for it; the credit card issuer (the bank or financial institution that issued you the credit card) is paying for it.  That means when you use a credit card to make a make a purchase the seller is happy, because they get their money.  However, the transaction isn’t over as far as you’re concerned because now you owe the credit card issuer.  In summary, when you use a credit card you’re borrowing money from the credit card issuer pay for things, and then you’re obligated to pay off your credit card balance.

Payment Options

When answering “How do credit cards work?” keep in mind your credit card issuer obsesses over how much money you owe them.  Without fail every month they’ll send you a credit card statement listing each of your charges as well as any unpaid balance that carried over from the previous month, and then they’ll then offer you payment options.  On the high end you can opt to settle all of your outstanding charges by paying your credit card balance in full.  On the low end you can make the “minimum payment,” the lowest amount the credit card issuer will accept without penalizing you according to the terms of your credit agreement.  Finally, if you can’t pay off your credit card in full but you can make more than the minimum payment then you are free to do so.

Some credit cards will charge you interest starting from the time you make a purchase (I’m not a big fan of these credit cards).  Fortunately, however, most credit cards won’t charge you interest (or “finance charges”) on your purchases as long as you pay your monthly balance in full and on time and you don’t have any carryover charges from the previous month.  Said another way, credit card charges are generally interest free as long as you pay your balance in full and on time. Related Article: Improve Your Credit In 5 Easy Steps.

Credit Limits

How Do Credit Cards Work Credit LimitYour credit limit is the maximum amount of debt that you can charge to your credit card.  For example, if you have a credit limit of $5,000 then you can either make a one-time purchase of $5,000 or you can make a combination of smaller purchases equal to the same amount.  You’re said to have “maxed out” a credit card when you reach your credit limit, meaning that you can no longer make any purchases with it until you’ve paid down your balance.  In other words, if you charge $5,000 one month and then pay your balance down to $4,000 then you charge another $1,000 until you reached your $5,000 credit limit.

Sometimes your credit limit is automatically set by the credit card issuer.  For example, they might say, “Here’s a credit card and, based on your salary, credit history, etc., you can charge up to $5,000.”  Alternatively, you can ask for a certain credit limit when you apply for your credit card (or you can ask for the credit limit to be increased for a card you already have).  Either way, you should not make purchases that would exceed your credit limit.

What happens if you do exceed your credit limit?  First of all, you may not be allowed to in the first place.  Remember, whenever you buy something with a credit card it’s run through a payment processor (or it will be verified online if you’re making an Internet purchase).  Thus if you attempt to exceed your credit limit your purchase may be denied.  However, if you do happen to make charges that exceed your credit limit then your credit card issuer will likely charge you penalties for doing so.

Cash Advances

In a typical credit card transaction you’re paying for things, but you never actually take possession of any cash.  For example, if you use a credit card to buy a computer for $1,000 you never take physical possession of the $1,000; that money is paid directly by the credit card issuer to the computer vendor.  However, in addition to using a credit card to charge purchases, you can use it to get a cash advance.  This can be accomplished in one of three ways.How Do Credit Cards Work Cash Advance

  1. You can use your credit card to get cash from an ATM (contact your credit card company if you don’t know your card’s PIN).
  2. If your credit card was issued by a nearby bank you then you can go to one of their branches in person and get cash directly from a bank teller who will charge it to your credit card.
  3. Finally, you can get a cash advance from your bank in the form of a cashier’s check (but again, it has to be the bank that issued the credit card).

Benefits – How Do Credit Cards Work With Cash Advances?

The benefits of the first two options are obvious; you can use your credit card to actually get cash.  But why would you want to use your credit card to get a cashier’s check?  To illustrate, my wife and I once had a car suddenly die on us.  After some searching I found a used car that we had enough money set aside to pay for.  The problem was that I couldn’t access the money immediately because it was in an investment account, and if I didn’t move quickly I was afraid we might lose the opportunity to buy the car.  To solve the problem I went to the bank and got a cashier’s check and charged it against our credit card.  I then used the cashier’s check to pay for the car.  Finally, after the money from our investments became available a few days later I used it to immediately pay off our credit card.  Thus, by using a credit card to obtain a cashier’s check we were able to move quickly on purchasing the car we wanted (which ironically turned out to be a terrible car…but that’s another story).

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Annual Fees

How do credit cards work with annual fees?  Well, some credit cards charge an annual fee and some don’t.  If that’s the case then why would you ever get a credit card that has an annual fee?  Generally you wouldn’t.  However, some credit cards provide special benefits and incentives, and if the value of those benefits and incentives exceed the cost of the annual fee then it’s worth considering.

What’s In It For The Credit Card Issuer?

How do credit cards work for the credit card issuer?  To have a balanced understanding of credit cards it’s important to know what’s in all of this for the credit card issuer.  Well, if you carry a balance on your credit card then it’s pretty obvious: they’re going to make a financial return of 18%-22% on the money they loaned to you.  Ouch!  But what if you pay your balance in full and on time every month and you never owe any interest?  Does that seem too good to be true?  Are you ripping off your credit card issuer, or is it just that they’re lulling you to sleep, waiting to hit you with some hidden fee or penalty?

Well rest easy, because your credit card issuer is making money when you use your credit card whether you carry a balance or not.  How?  For every purchase you make the merchant has to pay about 1%-3% in credit card fees (and sometimes even more on top of that).  As a result, as long as you use your credit card responsibly and pay your balance in full and on time then both you and your credit card issuer are getting something out of the deal: you get a safe, convenient means to borrow money in the short term and they get steady fees from merchants when you make purchases.  It’s when you carry a balance that things get out of whack, because then you’ll pay exceptionally high interest rates, and if you fall behind then a whole train of penalties and interest will follow as well.

Pay In Cash

Pay in Cash, Checks and Debit Cards Comparisons

Pay in cash, writing a check and using a debit card are three different ways to do the same thing: to transfer some of your money to someone else.  Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each method of payment.

Pay In Cash

Stores (and people) are almost always happy if you pay them in cash.  Here are some disadvantages if you pay in cash.

  • Security – If you have a significant amount of cash on you there’s always a risk that it can be lost or stolen, and if that happens then it’s gone forever.  Businesses like when custom pay in cash, at a certain point even they can have security concerns as well.  For example, you generally can’t bring a suitcase full of $100 bills to a reputable car dealer to pay for a vehicle in cash.  Why?  Because that much cash is a pain for a business: they’ve got to count it, store it, guard it, transport it to the bank, etc.  In summary, while cash is good, too much cash is a problem.
  • Trans-portability – When you pay in cash you generally need to do so in person, because there are risks obvious involved in sending cash in the mail or in providing someone else with cash so that they can pay a financial obligation on your behalf.  In other words, while there’s no harm in putting a $5 bill in your nephew’s birthday card, it wouldn’t be wise to send your daughter to school with a sack full of cash so that she could pay her out-of-state college tuition.  No, in that case you would have to make the long, inconvenient trip to the tuition office.

“If You Pay In Cash While Traveling Be Extra Careful To Hold On Tightly To Your Cash!”

  • Record-keeping – When you pay in cash it can be very difficult to remember where it all went.  For example, let’s say that you recently got $100 in cash from an ATM, but now you have just $30.  Where did the other $70 go?  Hmmmm, let’s see.  You got some gas and you grabbed a bite to eat…but it seems like there was something else.  Was there?  Again, with cash it can be hard to remember.
  • Supply – If you underestimate how much cash you need then your purchasing options will be limited (unless you can easily obtain more cash).  On the other hand, if you overestimate how much you need then you’ll end up with too much, and that could create security and/or record-keeping issues discussed above (not to mention the temptation to just spend it).

Note that I’m not suggesting that you should never pay in cash.  In fact, I think it’s a good idea to have a certain amount of cash with you at all times, because sometimes there really is no substitute for it.  However, for the reasons listed above, I don’t believe that using cash is a safe, efficient or effective means for paying most of your financial obligations.

Paying With A Debit Card Versus Writing A Check

You should be aware that if you pay in cash you know this isn’t the best way to pay for most things.  Now let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a debit card versus a check.

Convenience

A debit card is a more convenient means of paying for things than a check for several reasons.

  • A debit card is more compact than a checkbook, which makes it easier to carry around with you.
  • When you pay with a check you have to take the time to write out who it’s to, the date, the amount, etc.  When you pay with a debit card all you have to do is swipe it though the payment processor and enter your PIN and, voila, the transactions is done (although waiting on the payment processor can sometimes take awhile).
  • You can run out of checks, but if you have a debit card then you can make as many purchases as you want as long as you still have money in your account.

Despite the convenience of debit cards, there are simply times when using one won’t work.  For example, try paying the babysitter with a debit card and see what kind of look you get.  No, if you’re out of cash in a situation like that then only a check will do.  Also, while practically all major stores have payment processors, some small businesses still don’t.  In any case, despite these examples to the contrary, more often than not debit cards are a more convenient means of payment than checks.

Related Article On Budgeting Methods Using Debit Cards

Store Returns

A store return goes more smoothly if you made the purchase with a debit card rather than a check.  For example, let’s say that you bought something at a store and the next day you realize it’s defective.  Assuming that you choose to return it (as opposed to simply exchanging it for the same item), if you made the purchases with a debit card then you can immediately get a refund in 1 of 2 ways.

  1. The store will put a credit back on your debit card equal to the amount they charged you for the item or
  2. The store will give you a cash refund.

By contrast, if you paid for same item with a check then your experience would likely be much different.  That’s because many stores have a policy that they won’t issue refunds for check-related returns until 10-14 days after the purchase, primarily because they want to make sure that your.

Record-Keeping

Pay In Cash Record-Keeping

Are you now sold on using a debit card?  Well, don’t toss away your checkbook just yet.  Knowing how much money you have to spend at any given time is a critical element of effective money management, and keeping complete and accurate records of your financial transactions is an important part of that.  For example, if you start out with $1,000 in your checking account then it’s pretty obvious that you have $1,000 to spend.  But how much money do you have left after a few days?  What about after a few weeks, or even a whole month?  The only way you can know for sure is to accurately update your checking account balance based on your records of deposits and withdrawals.

Now keeping your checkbook updated may sound pretty easy.  After all, it’s just a little addition and subtraction, right?  Yes, that’s true in theory, but in practice it can be very challenging to stay on top of how much money you have (or don’t have!), because financial transactions tend to generate piles of paper that you have to sort through: store receipts, ATM slips, billing statements, contracts, warranties, disclosures, bank statements, etc.  Thus, the more you can do to simplify your financial records, the easier it will be to maintain a handle on how much money you have at any given time.

Record-Keeping Benefits From Checks

Now, assuming that you have carbon checks, writing checks is one of the ways that you can improve your record-keeping.  What are carbon checks and how do they help? A carbon check consists of an actual check (meaning the check you give to someone for payment) that is affixed to a carbon copy of the check that you keep for your records.  Thus, whenever you write a check that has an associated carbon you end up with two records of a transaction.  The first is the store receipt, and the second is the carbon copy of the check. By contrast, if you pay for something with a debit card, the only record you have of the transaction is the store receipt.

Another thing that makes checks better than debit cards for record-keeping purposes is that they’re sequentially numbered.  This is useful because it makes it very easy to tell if you’ve missed accounting for a transaction.  For example, let’s say that you have carbons for checks 1000-1010 in front of you, but upon closer inspection you realize that the carbon for check 1006 is missing.  What does that tell you?  It means that you need to figure out what happened to that check, because until you account for it then you won’t know for sure how much money you actually have.  But what if you still can’t find the carbon for check 1006 after searching through your financial records?  How are you going to figure out who yo`u made it out to and how much it was for?  By accessing your bank account online you should be able to view a photographic image of any check that you’ve written.

Related Article On Cash Budgeting Method Explained

Summary Of Record-Keeping

In summary, if you’re able to keep perfect records of all of your financial transactions then, theoretically, it shouldn’t matter whether you pay for something by writing a check or using a debit card.  However, life is real, not theoretical, and it’s not uncommon to periodically (or even frequently!) lose track of some of your ATM or debit receipts over the course of a month.  As a result, paying for things with a check is a safer bet from a record-keeping point of view.

Security (Identity Theft)

Identity theft is when someone illegally uses the personal information of someone else to fraudulently obtain money, goods, or something else in the victim’s name.  For example, you would be a victim of identity theft if someone ordered a credit card in your name and then used it to make purchases.  While both checks and debit cards carry risks as far as identity theft is concerned, thousands of people use them every day without any problems.  If that’s true, to what extent should you use (or not use) checks and debit cards as a method of payment?

A full discussion of identity theft is beyond the scope of this article, but for now I will say that determining the degree of security you need for identity theft isn’t much different than determining how much security you need for your car.  For example, is it enough to lock your car doors when you go into the store, or do you need a full-blown security system?  The answer depends on many factors: how much your car is worth, its make and model (some cars are more prone to theft than others), the incidence of theft in your neighborhood, as well as (and probably most importantly) the degree of protection you feel that you need in order to have a reasonable degree of comfort/peace of mind.

So when it comes to identity theft, my recommendation is to educate yourself on how it can happen as well as the various strategies you can employ to minimize your risks.  That will enable you to make an informed decision on how to handle your finances in terms of security.

Summary of Pay in Cash, Checks and Debit Cards

While it can feel really good from a psychological point of view to “pay in cash” for everything using cash, checks or a debit card, there are significant advantages to making purchases with a credit card if you can pay off your balance in full and on time each month.

The important thing is to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the each payment method and to adopt the one that best suits your needs for a particular transaction.

Help With Debt Problems

Using a Plan To Help With Debt Problems

Getting help with debt problems is the first step on the road to becoming debt free. Regardless of your financial situation you can get out of debt if you are prepared to take the necessary and in some cases painful steps required. For many people being in debt is a way of life and most people would struggle to make ends meet without their credit cards or in-store charge accounts. Mortgages and car payments are among some of the debts people consider necessary. However, planning for the future may require help with debt problems in the form of a debt reduction plan to have needless debt eliminated or greatly reduced to help through retirement. Additionally, as a family grows their spending increases until it reaches a peak and as the family begins to shrink with children leaving the nest, some of the spending habits do not shrink proportionately.

A good debt reduction plan can help bring spending back into alignment with the family size. For example, cell phones are one of the expenses that can be reduced as children leave the house and strike out on their own. They have had an extra line charged to you, but once gone have their own service and you may still be paying for a line not in use.

Credit Card Debt Problems

Get Help With Debt Problems When credit card bills come due, the minimum payment is typically low enough for people to afford, while allowing them to maintain a high balance. The company makes its income from the interest charged and with many cards the interest rate is so high that by making minimum payments, it can take years to pay off, even if no additional charges are made.

For a debt reduction plan to work, making higher than minimum payments will pay the balance down much faster. For those with little or no experience with budgets, there are many service organizations that can help with debt problems, often for no charge to help put together a debt reduction plan. Others, for minimal fees will also contact creditors and negotiate lower interest or settlements to reduce the overall amount of the debt to help make your debt reduction plan a reality. Understand, when card companies agree to lower accept lower balances the cards will need to returned and the card will be unusable. You will find many resources to help with debt problems on this site. Have a look around to find one that best suits you situation.

Debt Reduction Information

Debt Reduction Information Using Debts Help

Worried about your debts help is at hand? It was easy to get into financial difficulty when the economy was good and credit was easy. If you have a home loan, auto loans, credit cards and personal loan payments then it can be difficult to get by especially if you loose your job.

You will find that there are a number of debt reduction services available, and if you are a homeowner or person that has good credit, you will get some extra options. And, it is also possible to get assistance even if you are struggling with a lot of debt. You may choose to get relief from a debt consolidation service and thus you will need to get certain debt reduction information to obtain such relief.

Debts help information is meant mainly for people that have identified potential financial problems that are ongoing, or which are likely to occur in the near future and you are thus desirous of putting an end to the cycle of debt. It is ideally suited for anyone having a constantly increasing number of monthly bills to pay and is also useful for those who buy more than they can pay for.

If you want to avoid bankruptcy, you should take some time and search out information from a financial consultant in order to reduce your monthly debts, rebuild your credit standing as well as move in the direction of becoming free of debt and financially responsible once more. You can find debt reduction information from many sources such as reading books, using the Internet, meeting financial planners as well as using financial software programs as also by checking out financial institutions as well as debt consolidation agencies.

Tools That Provide Debt Reduction Informational

You can check out debts help reduction information from software programs as well as books which are generally designed by professionals that plan finances and these sources are wonderful tools to be used to learn how to become debt-free. They also provide the user privacy as all that they need to do is enter their financial information just as you would give to a financial counselor and get back a report on your current situation as well as the options available to get out of debt as soon as possible.

If however, you need more assistance than these tools provide you, you should check out a consumer debt counselor who will provide you with debt reduction information though at a greater cost than software programs. Nevertheless, you will get more assistance as your current financial situation would be evaluated and you would also get many more debt-reduction strategies to choose from. In addition, they may also represent you with creditors and thus put an end to the troubling phone calls that you would otherwise need to answer.