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How to Get a Debit Card

Though today’s society is a plastic society, debit cards are on the decline. Debit card perks are fewer; you won’t get rewards, there’s no access to a line of credit and you can’t build up your credit score. 

There are drawbacks, for sure, but there’s one good reason to consider bringing back this old-school payment method — consumer debt. American credit card debt has reached the $1 trillion mark, according to Experian, and the average person now has a credit card balance of over $6,000. 

Debit cards, which don’t allow you to withdraw more than you have in your bank, might be a great reason to switch from a credit card to a debit card. We’ll walk you through how to get a debit card once you’re ready to abandon credit cards for good.

Main Takeaways: How to Get a Debit Card

  • Debit cards serve a different purpose than credit cards. If you have trouble paying back certain debt or need an easy way to review your purchases, a debit card could be for you.
  • Review your options before you apply. Not all debit cards are made the same; some even have rewards. Make sure you’re picking the right card for you.

Why You May Need a Debit Card

Debit cards are tied directly to your checking account and withdraw transactions immediately from your bank account. Debit cards allow you to have some of the same perks as a credit card but you can’t go into debt.

You might want to consider a debit card if you’ve had credit problems in the past. Here are a few reasons why you might need a debit card:

  • You can’t spend more than you have. There’s no ability or incentive to spend more than you have on a debit card. Banks even offer options for you to overdraw the account for purchases that are just over your balance.
  • Debit cards are safer to use than cash. You won’t see that money again if a thief steals cash out of your wallet. You can cancel your debit card if it’s stolen and the bank will reimburse you for your loss. 
  • Debit card purchases are easy to review. You can do this by logging into your online checking account. You can review your transaction history at any time and alert your bank to suspicious activity.
  • You can monitor your transactions online. Unlike when you have cash, all of your purchases are recorded within your online account and retained for years. This ensures an accurate record of where your money goes.
  • The transactions are secure. They utilize the same Visa or Mastercard payment processing systems. Banks offer you protection against stolen cards and unauthorized purchases and usually credit your funds back in a couple of days. 

What to Consider Before You Apply

Psychologically, it hurts most to part with cash and hurts the least to swipe a credit card, but debit cards fall right in the middle. 

You can use debit cards abroad with the same currency conversion ease offered by credit card companies. Most debit cards use secure EMV technology to create a unique token for each purchase, individually approving the transaction while limiting the amount of data shared with the retailer. Debit cards don’t have an annual fee and some even offer rewards programs.

The biggest drawback to using a debit card is that it’s tied directly to your bank account and it’s possible to overdraw your checking account.

Rewards debit cards

Did you know that you can get a rewards debit card very similar to a credit card?

You might consider opening up a checking account with a bank that offers one. For example, Discover offers 1% back on all debit card purchases up to $3,000 per month with no monthly account fees or minimum balance requirement. 

SunTrust Bank also offers a rewards debit card that allows you to earn Delta SkyMiles airline miles with every purchase, for example. Depending on the type of checking account you have, you can earn 1 or 2 miles for every $2 spent on purchases using your PIN and up to 4,000 miles each month. Plus, you earn 5,000 miles when you make your first purchase. 

How to Get a Debit Card

The easiest way to get a debit card is to contact your bank. Call your local branch where you already have an account or request a debit card online and one will be sent to you. The card will usually have either the VISA or Mastercard logo on it and can be used for purchases online, in person, for recurring transactions and at an ATM.

Bank branch debit card

The banker will have you fill out some simple forms if you’re opening a new checking account in a branch, review your identification documents, take your initial deposit in cash or a check and ask whether you need checks or a debit card. The bank will be able to provide you with your new account number and a temporary debit card and will mail your new debit card to you. 

Some banks will also take your photo in the branch and print it on the front of your personalized debit card, which offers an additional level of protection against theft.

Online debit card

You’ll have to provide the same information and prove your identity if you choose to open an online checking account as you would in a brick-and-mortar branch since federal requirements still apply.

You can usually open up an additional account online with your current bank, particularly because you already have a relationship with that bank. New customers must fill out an online form and upload photos of your identification documentation. The bank will mail you your debit card once your account is open.

Don’t have an existing bank account due to misuse of previous checking accounts? Don’t worry, there are plenty of banks that offer second chance checking accounts. You can open a second chance checking account in person or online and get a debit card, too.

Choose Debit Cards Over Alternative Options

Debit cards have many advantages over carrying cash or using credit cards. It’s easier to overspend with a credit card because plastic pays in seconds, but an immediate debit of your bank account makes you more aware of your purchase. There’s no risk of ending up in debt and it is easy to track purchases from your checking account using online banking. 

Applying for a debit card is simple and you’ll almost always be able to get a debit card once you apply for a checking account. Just make sure that you find the right card to suit your needs, whether that comes with a free checking account or rewards for using your debit card.

Looking for more resources on debit, credit, and banking? Check out Benzinga’s guide on whether a debit or credit card is right for you. Or, for money management, check out our top picks for the best budget apps.

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