5 Reasons Not to Use Debit Cards When You Shop Online

By Holly Johnson. Last updated 7 November 2020. 0 comments

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Many consumers use their debit cards for everything they buy. Using debit instead of paying with a credit card can help you avoid the potential for debt. The money is taken out of your bank account directly and immediately, so there’s little chance to spend more than you have, unlike using a credit card.

But when shopping online, there are reasons to consider using a credit card instead.

Using a debit card for online purchases can mean enduring greater losses if you're a victim of fraud. Plus, you're giving up valuable consumer protections and rewards each time you make a purchase with debit in a store or online.

Here are all the reasons you may want to stop using debit and use a credit card instead.

1. You may be putting yourself at risk for fraud

It's easy to assume you won't be liable for fraudulent purchases made with your debit card or checking account number, but this isn't the case. Where most credit cards come with zero fraud liability thanks to rules enacted in the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), the same protections don't apply to transactions made with a debit card.

In fact, someone who finds your debit card number could wipe out all the money in your accounts. If you don't notice or report it in time, you won't have any way to get your money back.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), your level of liability depends on when you notice the fraud and report it. For example, if you report fraud within two business days after it's noticed, you're only liable for up to $50 in losses. If you report fraud within two to 60 days of your statement being mailed to you, you're only liable for up to $500. If you fail to report fraud once it's been 60 days from the date your statement was mailed to you, the FTC notes that you could lose "all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more; for example, money in accounts linked to your debit account."

2. You're missing out on rewards

In addition to putting yourself at risk for fraud, there are plenty of ways you're missing out when you shop online with a debit card. For example, you could be earning cash back or travel rewards if you made the same purchases with a rewards or travel credit card. These rewards can add up quickly, making it easier to see the world or splurge on merchandise, gift cards, and more.

While you can typically earn 1% to 3% back with a rewards or travel credit card, you can also double up on rewards by shopping through a cash back, travel rewards, or airline portal. You can also shop in portals with a debit card in some cases, but you'll mostly be limited to earning airline miles or cash back. (See also: How to Use Airline Shopping Portals to Cash In On Rewards)

3. You won't earn any sign-up bonuses

Using a debit card when you shop online also means giving up on the possibility of earning big sign-up bonuses. Keep in mind that many rewards credit cards offer consumers the chance to earn bonuses worth $500 or more when they meet a minimum spending requirement within a few months.

You may think you need to pay the annual fee on a credit card to qualify for sign-up bonuses or ongoing rewards, but this is far from the truth. The reality is, there are plenty of rewards credit cards that dole out sizable bonuses, ongoing rewards, and more without charging a fee each year. (See also: Don't Make These 6 Credit Card Sign-up Bonus Mistakes)

4. You're giving up valuable consumer protections

Another reason to use credit instead of debit is the fact that you could qualify for valuable consumer protections and free insurance. This can include travel protections like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental car insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance, and more.

Other protections that can apply to your online purchases include extended warranties, purchase protection, and guaranteed returns. Most of the time, you won't qualify for any of these perks if you pay for your online purchases with a debit card. (See also: How Credit Cards Protect Your Purchases from Damage or Theft)

5. You're not building credit history

The final reason you may want to stop using your debit card is the fact that you're not building credit history based on your online purchases and everyday spending. When you use credit instead of debit, on the other hand, you're making regular purchases and payments that are reported to the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Having your credit usage and payments reported to the credit bureaus is huge because it helps prove your creditworthiness and gives them a basis to increase your credit score over time. Using a debit card certainly won't hurt your credit score, but it won't help it, either.

Considering a credit card? Here's a warning

While using debit online can be more risky and less rewarding, it's still important to figure out if you're a candidate for credit card use. While credit cards do come with better protection against fraud, the potential for rewards, and valuable consumer protections, they can make it easier to overspend and wind up in debt.

Before you sign up for a credit card and start using it for purchases, it's important to make sure you're committed to staying on budget and spending only what you can afford. If you wind up with a mountain of debt with the high interest rates most credit cards charge, the rewards and protections you receive won't be much help.

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