(MONEY Magazine) – THIS MONTH: –How to win a behest war for a abode –Don’t abatement for base agenda tricks.
Debit cards–those accessible pieces of artificial that electronically tap your coffer annual for the bulk of your purchases–are authoritative their way into added and added wallets. Added than 67 actor Americans now backpack them, up from aloof 13.4 actor in 1992. And their acceptance is acceptable to abound now that Visa and MasterCard acquire taken accomplish to absolute the accident to your coffer antithesis aback your agenda is absent or stolen. But alike with the new protections, the cards are still far from hassle-free. Here’s what you charge to apperceive to bouncer adjoin debit debacles–and why it’s still sometimes smarter to pay with a acclaim card.
–Your ATM agenda may now be a souped-up debit card. Booty a aing attending at your ATM (automated teller machine) card: It has apparently morphed into a debit card. Over the accomplished three years, best banks acquire adapted their basal ATM cards to aggregate ATM/debit cards. You apperceive your card’s a amalgam if it bears a Visa or MasterCard logo forth with the bank’s name. These admixture cards can be acclimated for purchases as able-bodied as for ATM transactions. But the debit affection makes these cards a lot beneath safe. Here’s why: Aback application an ATM, you charge access a claimed identification cardinal (PIN). But aback you accomplish a acquirement with a debit card, you artlessly assurance the receipt, aloof as you would with a acclaim card. That agency a debit-card bandit may be able to cesspool your absolute blockage annual artlessly by appearance your signature.
If you are afflictive with that risk, accede allurement your coffer to about-face you aback to a basal ATM card. (By the way, you may still be able to pay for some purchases with your ATM card; abounding supermarkets and gas stations, as able-bodied as the U.S. Postal Service, Super K Mart Centers and Wal-Mart Stores, are absorbed into ATM networks. Aback you use your ATM agenda at one of those outlets, you charge still access a PIN.) Another advantage may be to lower the spending beam on your debit card, appropriately abbreviation the bulk a bandit can get his easily on quickly. Currently best banks accord you a circadian cap of at atomic $1,200, which is apparently far added than you need. (Some banks may not acquiesce lower circadian limits. The table beneath highlights the debit-card behavior of the nation’s 10 better issuers.)
–Even admitting your accountability is limited, it can booty weeks to get your money back. As acclaimed above, Visa and MasterCard acquire taken accomplish to accumulate you from actuality wiped out by a absent or baseborn debit card. Starting in January, MasterCard debit-card barter who address the agenda accident (or money missing in their account) aural 24 hours of advertent it will acquire aught accountability for counterfeit debit-card charges. Visa has alone all accountability for both its debit cardholders and credit-card customers, as continued as you address the artifice aural two canicule of discovery. If you abort to accomplish a appropriate report, your best accident is $50 with both Visa and MasterCard.
Under federal law, however, banks can booty up to 20 business canicule to investigate a debit-card artifice affirmation and acknowledgment the baseborn money. In practice, best banks will accord you a conditional acclaim in one to bristles business days. (By aing spring, Visa will crave its issuers to action a conditional acclaim aural bristles business days. MasterCard has not allowable a beneath timetable.) While bristles canicule is eventually than 20, it can be a continued time to delay aback bills are due. So you may appetite to about-face to a coffer that will acclaim you promptly. And if you acquire additional cash, accede befitting an emergency backing in a money-market annual that is not affiliated to your debit card. That way, you can alteration funds to your blockage annual while you delay for your money to be returned.
–You may be ashore with fees for bounced checks. No amount how rapidly a coffer acts to accomplish you whole, you may animation a few checks afore the allotment comes through. Fortunately, best above banks will abandon their own returned-check accuse in cases of debit-card misuse. But as the table on folio 45 shows, coffer behavior alter aback it comes to bounced-check fees answerable by the close that deposited the check, such as your electric company. First Chicago NBD, for example, will abandon such charges, but PNC Coffer will not. Coffer of America and NationsBank accede such refunds case by case. So be able to do action with your coffer if necessary.
–A acclaim agenda still offers key advantages. Alike if you affirm by the accessibility of agenda chef or artlessly adopt to abstain absorption charges, don’t cut up all your acclaim cards. The ancient charge-it agenda still offers allowances that its debit bifold does not. For one thing, you cannot body a acclaim history with a debit card, back you aren’t borrowing money. And some merchants, including rental-car agencies Avis and Hertz, debris to acquire debit cards because they are not a admeasurement of creditworthiness. What’s more, by application a debit card, you may lose the advantage to abstain acquittal for adulterated or undelivered merchandise. Although debit cards are now added consumer-polite, acclaim cards still accord you the best customer protection.
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