Debit Card Users? Anyone?

Does anyone use their Debit Card anymore? They were such a novelty when they first came out. I used to use mine all the time in college. It was as easy as a credit card, and without the hassle of a check. I just made sure to write everything into my bank account ledger, and balanced my account regularly. They truly seemed liked such a brilliant invention… until people started having their bank accounts wiped out because someone had stolen their debit card information. Scary. Very scary. So scary that I stopped using my card… for everything. Actually, I will go to an ATM occasionally, but usually that means something has gone wrong in our planning. The cash/envelope system means that you shouldn’t be drawing random cash from your account, since you have already drawn it. The credit card method means… what are you doing with cash? OK, so I realize that not every place takes cards and there are always those weird occurrences like stores like ALDI (a grocery store) who only take cash, or you decide to go to the State Fair on a spur of the moment and need cash, but other than that… I don’t really have a plan for debit cards. Except to say, don’t use them irresponsibly. They are dangerous. Don’t hand them to your waiter. EVER. Don’t ever let your debit card leave your site, because it is all of your money in your account walking away from your table. Some banks may cover the stolen funds if you prove that they are stolen.. but what a headache. And they may not cover everything that bounces in the meantime.

So use debit cards at your own risk if you are going to use them for your discretionary money. But before you do, check with your bank about their policy in case your account number is stolen and misused, or your card is stolen. You will be so glad to know in advance as that may really help you decide whether or not to use it. If it is insured by your bank and they will fully refund all funds that are proven stolen, then you can feel better about using your card but still be very cautious. A credit card number being stolen has far fewer ramifications than a bank card being stolen.

If you do use it, write your purchase into your ledger every time you use the card. Treat it just like a check because you do not want to overdraw your account because you forgot a purchase. In fact, the need for a “buffer” in your account is even more important if you are going to regularly use your debit card. In case you need a reminder, a “buffer” is an amount that you leave in your account at all times. It protects you incase you mess up on your math in your checking ledger, or forget to enter a purchase. Matt and I keep a buffer of $500 in our checking account at all times. We never ever use it or spend it. We just consider it our “zero”. Even if you only keep $100 as a buffer… you need a buffer. Just consider it a savings account imbedded in your checking account that is “saving” you the fees of ever bouncing a check. If you do decide to use debit cards or even checks and you are married, it is even more important that you and your spouse have regular conversations about where you are on your budget and what is left in your account. It is definitely a dance because with two of you spending it is even easier to overdraw your account. So just talk often, keep good track in entering every receipt, and have a buffer, and you should be OK.

So maybe, they are not that scary. But I am very serious about you not letting them out of your sight in any scenario. If they need to take your card to a machine in the back, ask to go with them. It is your right to do that. It doesn’t matter if nobody else around you does it… YOU are the one who will have to deal with the hassle if your card number gets stolen. I had my purse stolen last year, and it was such a horrendous, time consuming ordeal to get all of my information changed, and accounts redirected to the new account. I definitely do not want that for you. So feel free to use your debit card if you feel like it is the best choice for you, but please… debit responsibly 🙂