Choosing with Confidence

Know the differences between credit cards and debit cards


All plastic is not created equal. Let's take a look into your wallet and separate your credit cards from your debit cards. Yes, both are 0.029 inch thick and 3.375 inches by 2.125 inches with rounded corners. And both can be swiped at stores or used to make purchases online. But the differences between credit cards and debit cards can be important when you're thinking about spending.

Credit Cards—Instant Access to Your Credit

First, credit cards. When you swipe one or use the number to pay online, you're basically taking out a loan that's yours interest free, as long you pay the entire balance off when the payment is due. Otherwise, you'll be charged interest on the remaining balance.

Here are some important benefits of credit cards:

Debit Cards—Instant Access to Your Money

Basically, a debit card works like a digitized check, and usually it's linked to your checking account. Like a credit card, you can swipe it or use the number to pay online. But with a debit card, the store where you’re shopping is paid with money deducted directly from your account when the transaction goes through.

Debit cards have their own benefits:

  • Debit cards let you pay without carrying cash or writing checks.
  • Since you’re not borrowing anything, there are no interest charges.
  • It's more difficult to overextend yourself—your spending limit is what's in your account. However, overdrawing your account can result in high overdraft fees.
  • Debit cards generally can’t hurt your credit, but they can’t help you build credit either.
  • Generally, liability for a lost or stolen debit card is limited to $50 for unauthorized transactions if you report it lost or stolen within 2 business days.

For all their similarities—especially the flexibility they provide—the differences between credit cards and debit cards are worth keeping in mind when using them to make purchases. Capital One offers both credit cards and debit cards. Take a look.


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.