Debit cards get absolutely no respect.
Talk with enough personal finance experts and you can collect a laundry list of reasons why credit cards are better than debit cards. For some consumers, a credit card is better than a debit card, but if average credit card debt statistics are any indication, many consumers would be better off using debit.
You can’t fall into the debt spiral with a debit card. Credit cards offer all sorts of great perks and rewards, some of which are matched by debit cards, but they are also a gateway into a world of debt. If you can’t pay off a credit card bill in full each month, you’re paying double digit interest rates. Those double digit interest rates are liable to keep you in debt for a very long time and it is too high a price to pay for those perks and rewards. Getting 1% cashback on your purchases and paying 18.99% in interest charges is not a good deal.
Some debit cards offer cashback. If you look hard enough, some debit cards are offering cashback just like credit cards. PerkStreet Financial offers 2-5% and ING Direct, for a limited time, offers cashback on their Electric Orange debit card. If cashback is the only reason you’re using a credit card, consider looking around for alternatives.
You are always approved. Since a debit card is merely another way to access your own money, no credit is involved. Your credit score takes a hit with every new credit card application, whether or not you’re approved. You don’t build any credit with a debit card though, as it’s off the credit radar.
When it comes to the things that matter, such as fraud protection, debit and credit cards are more similar than they are different. The crucial difference is that with a credit card, you can spend money you don’t have (which is exactly what they want) and pay for it for quite a long time.
Jim writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com.