Take Precautions When Using ATM Debit Cards for Purchases

The Wall Street Journal has a useful article listing things to look out for if you choose to use a debit card for purchases.

In general, it’s always safer to a credit card when shopping instead of a debit card. As the WSJ points out, your credit card company is a lot likelier not to hold you responsible for a charge than a bank is to replenish your bank account if someone empties it.

Worried about accruing credit card debt? Just make a commitment to pay it off monthly. Not only will you earn interest on your money that’s in the bank during the month, you can earn frequent flyer points and other gifts from most credit cards.

If you use ATM / debit cards when shopping, DO:

  • Check for signs of tampering on ATMs and card readers like loose connctions, tape, loose wires, etc.
  • Check for hidden cameras or people looking over your shoulder when entering PINS. Shield your fingers on the keypad – even if there are guards around the keypad.
  • Keep an eye on your card at gas stations, hotels and retaurants.
  • Check bank and credit statements each month. (This will also alert you if your bank starts to add charges to your account.)
  • Close compromised accounts immediately; change your PINs, which is something you should do occasionally anyway.
  • Order and check your credit report if you suspect credit card fraud. Have fraud alerts or if you can in your state freeze your credit.

And DON’T:

  • use unbranded or suspicious-looking ATMs and card readers. Corner grocery stores, convenience stores, and public locations outside banks are often targets of software by hackers or hardware that’s been replaced with a fraudulent system.
  • let cashiers or others use or enter your PIN for you. (Report anyone who asks you for your PINs.)
  • delay reporting errors, even small ones, to financial institutions.
  • use debit cards for large purchases; to preserve your maximum consumer protections use credit cards instead.


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