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While you can use a debit card to pay for almost all the things you would use a credit card for, these cards aren’t the same type of thing. A debit card is tied to existing money, either prepaid on the card itself or in your savings or checking account. A credit card lets you make purchases on credit, and you won’t be able to do this with a debit card.

Can You Use Your Debit Card as Credit?

When you pay at the register, you’re often asked whether you’re making a debit or credit payment. This isn’t a question about whether you’re paying with existing checking account funds or if you’ll be borrowing the money from a credit card lender. It’s a question about how you want the payment processed. And most of the time, yes, you can use your debit card as credit at check out.

What Happens When You Use a Debit Card as Credit?

When make a purchase and select to process your payment as credit, it’s an offline transaction. “The funds for offline transactions are deducted after the merchant settles the purchase with the credit card processor and typically take 2-3 days to be reflected in your account balance,” MasterCard says.

According to MasterCard, when you use a debit card and your PIN (personal identification number), the transaction is completed in real time. That’s also known as an online transaction— you authorize the purchase with your PIN, and the money is immediately transferred from your bank account to the merchant. These are debit card transactions.

But in reality, the difference between debit and credit transactions have little real impact on your bottom line. There may be some differences in fees paid by the retailer or processor, but those fees are rarely passed on to the consumer directly.

Some individuals choose to use their debit cards as credit at the register to avoid having to enter their PIN. It’s commonly believed that this creates some additional security against someone learning that number and having one more piece of information to support credit card fraud.

While you certainly want to protect your PIN, simply being aware of who is around you and keeping the keypad covered during debit transactions can help keep you secure if you do decide to pay this way. It may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but you can never be too careful when it comes to debit card fraud.

Can I Use My Debit Card if I Have No Money?

One thing that’s important to note is that you can’t usually use your debit card for credit. If you are short on cash, your credit card still works if you have available credit on it. If there’s no money in your bank account, your debit card may get declined when you attempt to pay. So make sure there’s cash in your bank account anytime you use your debit card.

There’s one exception to this rule. Some banks offer overdraft protection. If you qualify for this protection, the bank covers your charges up to a certain amount and you simply rectify the situation later. That way, you avoid potentially embarrassing declines — for a cost in overdraft fees, which can be $15 to $30 per overdraft.

Can I Use My Debit Card as Credit at Walmart?

Whether or not you can choose to pay as credit with a debit card depends on each retailer and payment system setup. Many Walmart payment systems are set up to allow this, but they default to debit. When this happens, tell the cashier you want to pay as credit or select the option for changing payment method and choose to pay as credit and sign for your purchases instead of entering your PIN.

Does Using My Debit Card Build Credit?

Paying with your debit card doesn’t really impact your credit score, regardless of the payment type you select. That’s because your debit card is simply a stand-in for money you actually have on hand (or in the bank). It’s not credit and doesn’t provide any type of illustration of your likelihood of making payments in a timely manner or using credit responsibly. Therefore, it won’t impact your credit history.

If you use your debit card to overdraw your bank account on a regular basis or do so and leave the negative balance long-term, it could negatively impact your credit score. Banks do report checking and savings details like this to the credit bureaus.

The Bottom Line on Debit Cards as Credit Cards

Whether you use your debit card as credit or debit, the funds will still be withdrawn from your checking account. You can use your debit card to make a payment processed as credit, but you can’t use your debit card for credit in most cases. And even when you can, it’s via the limited fail-safe of overdraft protection, which is not meant for regular use and can be quite expensive.

Debit cards are wonderful money-management tools that provide a lot of modern convenience. But for many people, it’s a good idea to have at least one credit card in your wallet too for those times when debit just doesn’t quite cut it. Just make sure to check your credit score, understand how credit cards work and apply for the card that provides you the best perks at the lowest cost.

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  • kt

    Also when you choose credit you can see the name of the vendor. When you use debit you may only see the address….

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Not necessarily. The laws governing them are different — you have far less time to report a debit card lost or stolen, for example. Here’s more:

    Do You Know the Differences Between Credit & Debit Cards?

  • Cristastic

    But you share your zip code, which is required and also information co-related to the transaction. Isn’t that the equivalent of using a PIN#?

    • JC

      So if I give you my card and ZIP code you can get money from an ATM?

      Besides, when I swipe my debit card and choose “credit” very, very few places ask for ZIP code.

      • Cristastic

        “So if I give you my card and ZIP code you can get money from an ATM?”

        Silly question.

        The whole premise of the article was stating the advantages and disadvantages of using debit vs. credit. My question was related to purchases using your card as a credit card (for instance paying at the pump) where you are prompted to enter in your zip code as an identifier. Obviously, if you are not prompted to give this information, this is not your problem.

      • Cristastic

        “So if I give you my card and ZIP code you can get money from an ATM?”

        Depends. Is your PIN number the same as your zip code?

  • tessa

    My bank charges me for swipes using my pin. If i choose to run it as credit i can avoid those charges.

  • Deb

    So then, are you saying, to help build credit a person should use thrie debit card as a credit card?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      No; using a debit card, regardless of whether you run it as credit, will not affect your credit score.

  • Leah

    I don’t get interest on my checking account unless I have 15 “credit” purchases each month. I get nothing if I use the pin. I don’t do business with anyone who only accepts debit card transactions – no benefit for me there!

  • Brian7262784671

    nah people run their debit cards as credit because they want people to believe they have good credit and they look “co000000l” by saying “credit”

  • Kristy

    Help??? Can someone answer this question for me. Say I went to McDonalds or Stayed in a hotel and they slide my card as a credit. Does that automatically subtract money from your account??

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      As the article states it’s considered an “offline” transaction and how quickly it will subtract that balance from your account depends on how quickly it is processed. (With hotels they often place a hold on the account first.)

  • Cristastic

    You need to re-read this entire thread from the beginning. Your comment should be directed at JC, not me.

    • mikey

      OK, I re-read it from the beginning. I thought I understood your point reasonably well, but I could be wrong. To summarize, as I understand it:

      – David Shipper begins by stating that by selecting ‘credit’ instead of ‘debit’, you don’t have enter your PIN number. This is better because, if the merchant’s system is compromised (as we’ve seen more and more frequently), the PIN number is not included in the compromised data. The practical upshot of this (as David points out) is that whoever has stolen the card data cannot make ATM withdrawals, as they require the PIN number.

      – You point out that some ‘credit’ transactions require a ZIP code to process. Presumably, you are saying that in the case of the merchant’s system being compromised, whoever has stolen the card data would get your ZIP code. Your question, as I understand it, is this: “why is it better that they get my ZIP code than my PIN number?”

      – JC says “So if I give you my card and ZIP code you can get money from an ATM?”, which is actually the answer to your question: your ZIP code can’t be used in conjunction with your ATM card to withdraw money.

      Anyway, that’s how I read it. I’m not trying to be a jerk or offend you, but trying to offer an answer to your question.

      • Cristastic

        Nope. But thanks for taking the time to reply.

  • mike

    hi,if i selet the credit feature can i still get cash over purchase

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You have to choose debit to get cash back.

  • https://www.pinterest.com/elysianheart15/ ElysianHeart 15

    For online payments, can I click the ‘credit’ option for my debit card?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes. But keep in mind debit cards don’t carry the same protections credit cards do. If there is a problem with the purchase you can’t request a chargeback like you can with a credit card.

  • Drill

    Please help So what if I don’t have any money in my checking account can I still use the credit part instead of debit

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Debit cards generally get denied when you run out of funds in your checking account, as they are not a line of credit. However, if you have overdraft coverage, the charge may go through … and you may incur steep fees until you address the overdraft.

      Thanks,

      Jeanine

  • Ai Yamaguchi

    Thank you so much for this very clear explanation. I’ve been asking questions eversince I started using my debit card. There are times when I use my card for a transaction and dosen’t need a PIN. And other times it’s the other way around.. definitely using the option “credit” from now on, just to be safe. Very helpful article! Kudos!

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