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ATM and Debit Cards
In addition to your checkbook, most banks also give you either an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card that gives you 24 hour access to the money in your account through ATM’s, or a more sophisticated debit card that lets you both access ATM’s and use the card for purchases.
When you use either card, the money comes directly out of your bank account and the amount of money you can spend with it is limited to the amount of money you have in the bank. Each time you use the card, the money is deducted—almost immediately—from your account. All of your transactions will be listed on your monthly statement—which is a great to help you keep track of your spending
- ATM cards—ATM cards are fairly straightforward. Along with the card, you’ll either be given or you’ll be asked to create a personal identification number (PIN) that you use to access to the money in your bank account using Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). You can check your balance, make deposits and withdraw cash 24 hours a day from ATM’s.
- Debit cards—Debit cards work just like ATM cards, but they also give you the ability to make purchases just about anywhere credit cards are accepted. While they look like credit cards (most even have a Visa or MasterCard logo on the front) and you can use them in much the same way, the money spent is immediately deducted from your checking account. It is not an extension of credit that you pay back later like a credit card.
If you have a checking account, you will most likely be given a debit card. If you’re under 17 years old or have another type of account, you’ll probably get an ATM card.
Be sure to keep track of each trip to the ATM and your debit card purchases. It’s easy to forget, but getting into the habit of tracking all of your withdrawals and debit card purchases will keep you in control of your account.
An important note about ATM fees: When you use your own bank’s ATM it’s usually free, but be aware that fees are often charged for using ATMs that belong to other banks. ATM fees can range from $1 to $3 per transaction, and the costs can really add up. What’s more, your own bank might charge you for using another bank’s ATM, too. So instead of taking, say, $20 out of your account, you could find yourself paying $5 or more in fees. It’s wise to develop a habit of using your bank’s ATM machines whenever possible.
Important: If you suspect your debit card has been lost or stolen, call your bank immediately. While federal law limits your liability for a lost or stolen credit card to $50 if reported within 60 days of receiving the statement, your liability for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card can be much greater, depending on how quickly you report the loss.
Podcast: Debit Cards
Tune in to learn more about how debit cards work—and how you can avoid extra feesDownload Debit Card Use (1.1 MB MP3)
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