We like convenience. But with convenience can come problems. Case in point, the use of a debit card.
There are three kinds of debit cards. One type is the ATM debit card which is used in ATM machines to deposit or withdraw money. Another type of debit card is a check card. The check card debit card is a wonderful tool. You don’t have to write those pesky checks, holding people up in check out lines. You just have to be diligent about keeping your receipts and knowing just how much you have in your account. Nobody wants to pay any over the limit charges. Then there is the combined ATM debit and check card which you can use to transfer and deposit funds from your account via an ATM machine and also use it as a check card. Sounds easy enough to handle; right?
It would be easy, if you didn’t factor in a few problems that could turn your nice easy going debit account into a nightmare. Problems, you wonder in fear? Don’t worry; if you are aware of some of the pitfalls and watch your statements closely you can stop the errors before they become big problems to your account and to your credit.
The first mistake that could threaten your debit card account is basic human/computer error. First this reason, keep all your monthly transaction receipts. This means all the receipts from any stores you use your debit card and any time you add money to your account.
The second common mistake is when you sign up for a service and then discontinue it. Sometimes companies will offer you an incentive to try a service for a certain period of time for free, providing you sign up using a credit or debit card. Sounds good. It can be good. But what the company hopes for is that you will like the service and continue or at least are to lazy to cancel the service. Be sure to write a note and the date you must cancel before billing starts on your debit or credit card. If you don’t want the service cancel before that date. Then after canceling make sure the fee doesn’t show up on your account. If it does, call the company immediately.
Theft. We all know this is always a chance we take when it involves money or something that acts like money. In the case of a debit card you do have some protection, depending on how quickly you notice that your debit card is missing and how soon you report it. If you report it missing before any transactions is made from it, you are not responsible for any purchases or cash advances made toward the card. If you report it missing within 2 days of it being stolen and being used, you are responsible for $50 of the amount spent (less if the amount spent on it is lower than $50). If it takes you more than 2 days to report it missing, you are responsible for $500 of the amount spent (less if the amount spent is lower than $500). If you wait for 60 days to report it missing, you are completely responsible.
But also be warned, under Government guidelines set for financial institutions they have up 20 days to provide provisional credit to your account due to losses due to theft or unauthorized use. What does this mean? They have up to 20 days to issue you a new card and replace the money back onto your card, even if you report the card missing within a few hours of its disappearance.
What about errors? How long does Financial Institutions have to investigate errors? They have 10 days. But they can have up to 45 days. Yet, if it takes them that long they must add the money back to your account while they do their investigating.
What else can you do to protect your debit card accounts?
Know where all your cards are at all times
Never give out your account numbers via the phone or the internet unless it is to a trusted company.
When using your debit card via the internet use a secure browser
Don’t keep PIN numbers and the cards at the same place
Never sign a blank transaction slip
Tear up carbon copies of receipts and keep saved receipts in safe place
Review monthly statements for errors
Inform the issuer of your debit card the minute you realize it is lost or stolen
Keep a list of all debit cards account numbers, expiration dates and the telephone number of the issuer in a safe place in case of theft or if it is lost. This makes things easier if you ever have to report your card missing.
Should you stop using your debit card? No, not necessarily. Just keep one thing in mind, that plastic card represents money. Keep it safe.