One of the many complaints I hear about using a Visa debit card for transactions is that they are not as safe as a credit card. Credit card transactions give consumers protection to dispute charges, thereby ensuring a thief does not wipe out their entire bank account. Since debit cards pull the money from the bank account at the time of purchase they are more open to fraud, or so the thinking goes.
Mostly the safety issue with a Visa debit card results from the use of a PIN – a personal identification number. In theory the PIN serves as an extra barrier of security in that you must enter it before completing a transaction. However, the problem comes when someone unknowingly steals your PIN. If someone had your debit card number and your PIN they could use your debit card for transactions and empty your account.
Stealing your PIN is easier than you think too. The transaction terminals at most businesses and ATMs are wide open. That person standing behind you or even the cashier could easily sneak a peak at the code you are punching in. If those wandering eyes are also able to see/get your debit card number they’d have all the information they need.
So you really need to keep your PIN a secret. Memorize it and never keep it with you.
Don’t let the cashier enter in your PIN. Don’t give it out over the phone. Never share it with anyone over the phone, online…not even at your bank or financial institution!
But there is even a better option than just keeping it secret. This practice will make sure you have all the protection you need.
The #1 Safety Tip For Using a Visa Debit Card
The ultimate safety tip for using your debit card is this…
NEVER use your PIN.
“What? Wait a minute. I thought you just said a PIN was necessary to complete a transaction. How can I use a debit card without a PIN?”
That’s the $64,000 question and here is the $64,000 answer…you don’t need a PIN to complete a transaction with a Visa debit card.
I’ve never used my PIN for any purchase. In fact, I’m not even sure what it is.
The more effective and safer way to do it is to sign for your transaction. Here is how that works and why it’s beneficial.
Instead of pressing the “debit” button on the keypad when you swipe your card press the “credit” button. When this happens your transaction is routed through the Visa network. Your Visa debit card still works like a debit card in that the transaction is deducted from your checking account immediately.
This process forces the printing of a receipt that you must sign to complete the transaction. Once you sign you’ve just been granted all the security protections afforded by Visa that a credit card holder would receive.
Even if the business does not require you to sign (like for smaller purchases or at gas pumps) you are still protected because you selected credit instead of debit.
Per Visa’s website, those security protections include:
- Visa’s Zero Liability Policy, which protects the consumer against unauthorized charges. Funds that may be fraudulently taken from your account will be returned.
- Continuous fraud monitoring on your account to detect suspicious activity
- Access to identity theft assistance
But you will only be guaranteed these protections if you choose “credit” to complete the transaction.
If you choose the debit option which requires the PIN, then you open yourself up to lose funds from your bank account if your information is stolen. These are the ramifications for that type of scenario according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you…
- Call your bank before any unauthorized charges take place and your maximum loss is zero dollars.
- Call your bank within two business days after you realize a theft has taken place and your maximum loss is $50.
- Call your bank more than two business days after a theft but less than 60 calendar days from when your statement is sent to you and your maximum loss is $500.
- Call your bank after 60 calendar days from when your statement is sent and your losses could be unlimited.
Practice Debit Card Safety
I’m not sure why more consumers don’t know this. It makes no sense to use a PIN and void the protections Visa offers. Yet I know I’ve seen people using their PIN in the checkout line instead of signing a receipt.
Maybe they don’t want to wait the few extra seconds for the receipt to print and then sign it. That seems really silly considering the protections they are voiding. But in our hurry up, get moving society it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if people thought this way.
Perhaps they are debit card enthusiasts who are embarrassed to press the credit option.
Or it might just be ignorance of the process available to them. If so, I hope this article helps straighten someone out.
If you know of anyone using their PIN with a debit card forward them this article. If they have any further questions about this, they can visit Visa’s debit card FAQ page. And for other information on how to use a debit card safely see “Protecting Your Plastic From High Tech Criminals” at the FDIC.
Questions: Do you use your PIN for Visa debit card purchases? Did you know you could call a debit card purchase a “credit?” Have you ever lost money from your account because someone stole your PIN? How was that resolved?