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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Debit Card

A debit card (also known as a bank card or check card) is a plastic card that provides the cardholder electronic access to his or her bank account/s at a financial institution. Some cards have a stored value with which a payment is made, while most relay a message to the cardholder's bank to withdraw funds from a designated account in favor of the payee's designated bank account. The card can be used as an alternative payment method to cash when making purchases. In some cases, the cards are designed exclusively for use on the Internet, and so there is no physical card.
In many countries the use of debit cards has become so widespread that their volume of use has overtaken or entirely replaced the check and, in some instances, cash transactions. Like credit cards, debit cards are used widely for telephone and Internet purchases.
However, unlike credit cards, the funds paid using a debit card are transferred immediately from the bearer's bank account, instead of having the bearer pay back the money at a later date.
Debit cards usually also allow for instant withdrawal of cash, acting as the ATM card for withdrawing cash and as a check guarantee card. Merchants may also offer cashback facilities to customers, where a customer can withdraw cash along with their purchase.

Types of debit card systems

Debit card
An example of the front of a typical debit card:
  1. Issuing bank logo
  2. EMV chip
  3. Hologram
  4. Card number
  5. Card brand logo
  6. Expiration date
  7. Cardholder's name
An example of the reverse side of a typical debit card:
  1. Magnetic stripe
  2. Signature strip
  3. Card Security Code
There are currently three ways that debit card transactions are processed: online debit (also known as PIN debit), offline debit (also known as signature debit) and the Electronic Purse Card System.[3] One physical card can include the functions of an online debit card, an offline debit card and an electronic purse card.
Although many debit cards are of the Visa or MasterCard brand, there are many other types of debit card, each accepted only within a particular country or region, for example Switch (now: Maestro) and Solo in the United Kingdom, Interac in Canada, Carte Bleue in France, Laser in Ireland, "EC electronic cash" (formerly Eurocheque) in Germany, UnionPay in China and EFTPOS cards in Australia and New Zealand. The need for cross-border compatibility and the advent of the euro recently led to many of these card networks (such as Switzerland's "EC direkt", Austria's "Bankomatkasse" and Switch in the United Kingdom) being re-branded with the internationally recognised Maestro logo, which is part of the MasterCard brand. Some debit cards are dual branded with the logo of the (former) national card as well as Maestro (for example, EC cards in Germany, Laser cards in Ireland, Switch and Solo in the UK, Pinpas cards in the Netherlands, Bancontact cards in Belgium, etc.). The use of a debit card system allows operators to package their product more effectively while monitoring customer spending. An example of one of these systems is ECS by Embed International.

Online Debit System and Offline Debit System

Online Debit System

Online debit cards require electronic authorization of every transaction and the debits are reflected in the user’s account immediately. The transaction may be additionally secured with the personal identification number (PIN) authentication system and some online cards require such authentication for every transaction, essentially becoming enhanced automatic teller machine (ATM) cards. One difficulty in using online debit cards is the necessity of an electronic authorization device at the point of sale (POS) and sometimes also a separate PINpad to enter the PIN, although this is becoming commonplace for all card transactions in many countries. Overall, the online debit card is generally viewed as superior to the offline debit card because of its more secure authentication system and live status, which alleviates problems with processing lag on transactions that may only issue online debit cards. Some on-line debit systems are using the normal authentication processes of Internet banking to provide real-time on-line debit transactions. The most notable of these are Ideal and POLl.

Offline Debit System

Offline debit cards have the logos of major credit cards (for example, Visa or MasterCard) or major debit cards (for example, Maestro in the United Kingdom and other countries, but not the United States) and are used at the point of sale like a credit card (with payer's signature). This type of debit card may be subject to a daily limit, and/or a maximum limit equal to the current/checking account balance from which it draws funds. Transactions conducted with offline debit cards require 2–3 days to be reflected on users’ account balances. In some countries and with some banks and merchant service organizations, a "credit" or offline debit transaction is without cost to the purchaser beyond the face value of the transaction, while a small fee may be charged for a "debit" or online debit transaction (although it is often absorbed by the retailer). Other differences are that online debit purchasers may opt to withdraw cash in addition to the amount of the debit purchase (if the merchant supports that functionality); also, from the merchant's standpoint, the merchant pays lower fees on online debit transaction as compared to "credit" (offline) debit transaction.

Electronic Purse Card System

Smart-card-based electronic purse systems (in which value is stored on the card chip, not in an externally recorded account, so that machines accepting the card need no network connectivity) are in use throughout Europe since the mid-1990s, most notably in Germany (Geldkarte), Austria (Quick Wertkarte), the Netherlands (Chipknip), Belgium (Proton), Switzerland (CASH) and France (Mon€o, which is usually carried by a debit card). In Austria and Germany, all current bank cards now include electronic purses.

Prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards, also called reloadable debit cards, appeal to a variety of users. The primary market for prepaid cards are unbanked people, an umbrella term used to describe diverse groups of individuals who do not use banks or credit unions for their financial transactions.
The advantages of prepaid debit cards include being safer than carry cash, worldwide functionality due to Visa and MasterCard merchant acceptance, not having to worry about paying a credit card bill or going into debt, the ability for anyone over the age of 18 to apply and be accepted without regard to credit quality and the ability to direct deposit paychecks and government benefits onto the card for free.
Some of the first companies to enter this market were MiCash, RushCard and Netspend who gained high market share as a result of being first to market. However, in the past few years there have been several new providers that carry a number of other benefits, such as money remittance service, card-to-card transfers and the ability to apply without a social security number. An example of two of these providers are Goyow, a company based in New York who has grown substantially in the past 2 years as a result of their unique features and low fees. The other one is TransCash, a company based in California that came up with the only dual Visa prepaid debit card product with the 2 cards inside the pack. The unique feature of the product is the fact that it comes with 2 separate accounts and not a shared balance. The company has been around for a couple of years now and their low fees and excellent customer service have made them as attractive as other products on the market.

Advantages of debit cards

  • A consumer who is not credit worthy and may find it difficult or impossible to obtain a credit card can more easily obtain a debit card, allowing him/her to make plastic transactions. For example, legislation often prevents minors from taking out debt, which includes the use of a credit card, but not online debit card transactions.
  • For most transactions, a check card can be used to avoid check writing altogether. Check cards debit funds from the user's account on the spot, thereby finalizing the transaction at the time of purchase, and bypassing the requirement to pay a credit card bill at a later date, or to write an insecure check containing the account holder's personal information.
  • Like credit cards, debit cards are accepted by merchants with less identification and scrutiny than personal checks, thereby making transactions quicker and less intrusive. Unlike personal checks, merchants generally do not believe that a payment via a debit card may be later dishonored.
  • Unlike a credit card, which charges higher fees and interest rates when a cash advance is obtained, a debit card may be used to obtain cash from an ATM or a PIN-based transaction at no extra charge, other than a foreign ATM fee.

Disadvantages of debit cards

  • Use of a debit card is not usually limited to the existing funds in the account to which it is linked, most banks allow a certain threshold over the available bank balance which can cause overdraft fees if the users transaction does not reflect available balance.
  • Many banks are now charging over-limit fees or non-sufficient funds fees based upon pre-authorizations, and even attempted but refused transactions by the merchant (some of which may be unknown until later discovery by account holder).
  • Many merchants mistakenly believe that amounts owed can be "taken" from a customer's account after a debit card (or number) has been presented, without agreement as to date, payee name, amount and currency, thus causing penalty fees for overdrafts, over-the-limit, amounts not available causing further rejections or overdrafts, and rejected transactions by some banks.
  • In some countries debit cards offer lower levels of security protection than credit cards. Theft of the users PIN using skimming devices can be accomplished much easier with a PIN input than with a signature-based credit transaction. However, theft of users' PIN codes using skimming devices can be equally easily accomplished with a debit transaction PIN input, as with a credit transaction PIN input, and theft using a signature-based credit transaction is equally easy as theft using a signature-based debit transaction.
  • In many places, laws protect the consumer from fraud much less than with a credit card. While the holder of a credit card is legally responsible for only a minimal amount of a fraudulent transaction made with a credit card, which is often waived by the bank, the consumer may be held liable for hundreds of dollars, or even the entire value of fraudulent debit transactions. The consumer also has a shorter time (usually just two days) to report such fraud to the bank in order to be eligible for such a waiver with a debit card, whereas with a credit card, this time may be up to 60 days. A thief who obtains or clones a debit card along with its PIN may be able to clean out the consumer's bank account, and the consumer will have no recourse.
Federally Imposed Maximum Liability for Unauthorized Card Use (United States)
Reported Maximum Card Holder Liability
Credit Card Debit Card
Before Use $0 $0
Within 2 business days $50 $50
After 2 but before 60 business days $50 $500
After 60 business days Unlimited Unlimited

  • In the UK and Ireland, among other countries, a consumer who purchases goods or services with a credit card can pursue the credit card issuer if the goods or services are not delivered or are unmerchantable. While they must generally exhaust the process provided by the retailer first, this is not necessary if the retailer has gone out of business. This protection is not provided by legislation when using a debit card but may be offered to a limited extent as a benefit provided by the card network, for example, Visa debit cards.
  • When a transaction is made using a credit card, the bank's money is being spent, and therefore, the bank has a vested interest in claiming its money where there is fraud or a dispute. The bank may fight to void the charges of a consumer who is dissatisfied with a purchase, or who has otherwise been treated unfairly by the merchant. But when a debit purchase is made, the consumer has spent his/her own money, and the bank has little if any motivation to collect the funds.
  • In some countries, and for certain types of purchases, such as gasoline (via a pay at the pump system), lodging, or car rental, the bank may place a hold on funds much greater than the actual purchase for a fixed period of time. However, this isn't the case in other countries, such as Sweden. Until the hold is released, any other transactions presented to the account, including checks, may be dishonoured, or may be paid at the expense of an overdraft fee if the account lacks any additional funds to pay those items.
  • While debit cards bearing the logo of a major credit card are accepted for virtually all transactions where an equivalent credit card is taken, a major exception in some countries is at car rental facilities. In some countries, such as Canada & Australia, car rental agencies require an actual credit card to be used, or at the very least, will verify the creditworthiness of the renter using a debit card. In Canada and additional unspecified countries, car rental companies will deny a rental to anyone who does not fit the requirements, and such a credit check may actually hurt one's credit score, as long as there is such a thing as a credit score in the country of purchase and/or the country of residence of the customer.


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