Debit Card Warning!

Debit Card Warning!

We are, to put it mildly, not fans of debit cards. They are tied directly to the money in your bank account and should be used only by people who are so undisciplined they can't possibly handle credit cards -- not our family!

The first thing we don't like is that you don't have the same protection as credit cards. When your credit card is lost or stolen, as long as you report the loss within one or two days, the maximum for which they'll hold you liable is $50. (In fact, if you have a good credit record and call them right away, they will most likely waive that $50.) But with a debit card, someone can steal it and debit your account down to zero before you even realize it's gone!

But here's what really scares us: the ATM "debit" cards that have Visa or MasterCard logos on them. Banks send them to customers without asking. These cards can be used with or without a personal identification number (PIN), just like credit cards, but the thief has his hands right on your bank account. You might be able to recover your money eventually, but you'll face a LONG fight with the bank.

Dolan Smart Money Move: Personally, we've never used ATM cards. We know, they're convenient and a lot of people like them. If you must carry one around, employ our obscure-PIN strategy (never use your birthday or any obvious numbers), and try to hover over your transaction like a human shield when you're at an ATM machine. Paranoia is appropriate here; ATM card thieves have been known to steal PIN numbers with binoculars.

The more plastic you have in your pocket that could be ripped off, the more you are open to identity theft, monetary theft, and all sorts of problems--another reason to keep your credit card inventory down to just a few really good low-interest cards.

Debit cards are just the beginning! Learn what your credit card provider may be keeping from you by reading our article Credit Card Company Secrets.

About the Author

Ken Dolan and Daria Dolan were anchors for Dolans Unscripted on CNN. They have also written six books on personal finance and hosted several money seminars. Prior to joining CNN, the Dolans were contributors to CBS This Morning and CBS News Saturday Morning and hosted their own show on the now-defunct CNNfn.

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