Which is safer? Debit card or checking account

Which is safer? Making a payment via debit card or checking account?

Overall, using a debit card is safer than using a checking account to make a purchase. It contains less identifying information than your checking account, thereby better protecting you from fraud. Debit cards can easily be canceled if stolen, but checks cannot.

Debit cards make purchases easier and more convenient. However, people still like to write checks or use their accounts for purchases.

Hands down, debit cards are the safer option for making purchases.

Luckily for you, I’ll show you why debit cards are the best option for you compared to your checking account. I’ll show you the pros and cons of debit cards and checking accounts. You’ll be on your way to making safe transactions in no time.

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Why Debit Cards are Safer than a Checking Account

Overall, using a debit card to purchase is safer than using a checking account. Debit cards contain less personal and account information. Debit cards are easily canceled if stolen, while checks or account withdrawals are harder to stop.

First, let’s break down the differences between checking accounts and debit cards:

  • A checking account is a deposit account at a financial institution that allows for withdrawals and deposits of cash. 
  • A debit card is a payment tool linked to a checking account. 

Your debit card is linked to a checking account unless you use a prepaid debit card. When you swipe your debit card, the money comes out of your checking account. 

Some people prefer not to use debit cards. Instead they make purchases directly from their checking account using paper checks or through their account number.

1. Debit cards have less identifying information

Although a debit card isn’t completely risk-free, it has less identifying information on it than a check or your checking account. Other than your name, account number, and bank, nothing on your card can reveal your personal information or account details.

On the other hand, a check contains your full name, address, phone number, bank name, account number, routing number, current check number, and even your signature. You can also find most of these things if someone has access to your online checking account.

2. Debit cards fraud is less likely

Stolen debit cards can immediately be canceled. You can then order another, leaving your bank account safe. Once your card is canceled, the person committing fraud cannot access your account.

Stolen checkbooks are a bit riskier. Checks can be made out and forged. Unauthorized access to your online checking account gives access to your transaction history and personal details. Both could leave you as a victim of check fraud or identity theft.

To deter this, you would have to close the entire bank account, open a new one, and buy a new box of checks. Doing so is extremely time-consuming and expensive.

Debit Card Pros and Cons

Debit cards have become the norm in everyday transactions due to their ease and safety. They are most often used for online transactions but are also easy to use for physical purchases.

A debit card is light and easy to carry and gives you access to all the funds in your account. It can be swiped at virtually any card machine and used online or via apps.

If it is ever lost or stolen, you can quickly cancel and replace it, protecting your bank account and personal information. Debit cards also allow ATM access for cash withdrawal and usually require no monthly fees, nor charge interest fees.

Debit cards do have some downsides. Unless you have a prepaid card, a debit card must be linked to another account to make purchases and withdrawals. There are no deposits or other account features unless you go to an ATM or bank.

Also, most debit cards do not allow for fund transfers, only allowing you to access your money through cash withdrawals and point of sale transactions. Your card may charge you a fee for certain sales transactions or to use an out-of-network ATM.

Checking Account Pros and Cons

Checking accounts are the basics for storing and managing money. Unless you use a prepaid debit card, you cannot have a debit card without having a linked checking account. However, some people opt not to link a debit card to a checking account and instead make purchases by writing checks.

If you decide to make purchases using your checking account, you can avoid convenience fees. 

A lot of people also use paper checks as proof of payment. Many think it is more convenient to manage their money and balance their checkbooks via a checks system.

One big downside of using checks is the information they display. This leads directly to your checking account, including bank numbers and routing numbers. This can also expose your personal information, including your address and signature.

Stolen checkbooks can lead to fraud or identity theft and you may have to close your entire checking account and open a new one. The same is said if someone finds access to your online checking account.

Cash or checks can easily get pickpocketed. You will not see lost or stolen checks again and the information on your checks can lead to checking fraud or identity theft. 

Another con is that checks aren’t cheap. Debit cards are typically free, but most people buy their own checks.

Processing check payments takes much longer than processing cash, debit, or credit card payments or transactions on financial apps. Check recipients may not cash checks immediately, meaning your account statements won’t reflect the money missing. Checks can cause you to overdraft your account if you forget about a payment and don’t have enough money.

Cash and checks are also uncomfortable to carry while shopping. You also can’t use them for online purchases.

Recently, some businesses stopped accepting checks altogether, so it’s important to consider this when shopping.

Summary: Debit card vs. checking account safety

So, which is safer? Overall, debit cards offer more safety against fraud than checking accounts. Debit cards contain less information than checks, allowing them to more easily protect you from fraud.

The most important thing to remember when using either form of payment is to keep your information private and secure. Be careful what stores and websites you shop at. It is also good to keep a close eye on your transactions to confirm that none of your accounts have been compromised.     


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John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.