Never Use Your Debit Card for These 6 Purchases, According to Financial Experts


Advances in technology have transformed the way we regularly pay for things. Now, it's becoming increasingly more common to swipe or tap your card or smartphone when you're settling up at the register—even for the most minor purchases. But if you're opting for your debit card instead of your credit card, you might want to think twice. According to experts, there are several situations in which you should avoid putting in your PIN. Read on to discover the purchases where you should never use your debit card, according to financial experts.

READ THIS NEXT: Never Use Autopay for These 6 Bills, According to Financial Experts.

Filling up the tank

Keeping your vehicle fueled up can often feel like the biggest drain on your budget. Of course, recent sky-high prices have all but assured most trips to fill up will require a swipe to cover the cost. But even as gas prices begin to fall back to normal, you may want to break the habit of using your debit card at the pump.

"Many gas stations pre-authorize a certain amount before you pump gas, which can result in a temporary hold on a large sum of your funds," says Tim Doman, the newly appointed CEO of TopMobileBanks. "If you do not have enough funds in your account, this can result in overdraft fees and other penalties. Using a credit card instead allows you to avoid these holds and potential overdrafts."

High-value items or big purchases
Kwangmoozaa / Shutterstock

It's rare for anyone making an expensive purchase to show up with cash to cover the cost. But if you're in the market for big-ticket items such as jewelry, electronics, or household appliances, experts caution that you're likely better off using a credit card instead. Besides being able to take advantage of the extended warranties or special return policies they can offer, credit cards have other benefits.

"Debit cards are risky to use because the fraud protection benefits are much more limited compared to credit cards," says Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. "If there are any issues with transactions, the money comes right out of your checking account. That could put you in a tough spot when it comes to paying bills or rent."

READ THIS NEXT: The IRS Warns You Could Get Fined for Forgetting This on Your Taxes.

Any transactions abroad

There are plenty of benefits to swiping your card when you travel internationally. Apart from avoiding the costly fees associated with currency exchange, you'll also avoid losing large sums of cash due to a misplaced wallet or theft. But before you swipe, make sure you're not using a debit card to make your purchase.

"The conversion rate used by foreign ATMs or merchants can result in a lower exchange rate than what you would get with a credit card," says Doman. "Also, foreign transaction fees can be significantly higher with a debit card. If you are traveling internationally, it is best to use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees or withdraw cash in the local currency using your debit card only in emergencies."

Recurring payments
Damir Khabirov / Shutterstock

Let's be honest: Paying your monthly bills is never a fun activity. Fortunately, it's a lot easier to manage them with online payments—some of which can even be made automatically. But just because you can settle your dues through your phone or computer doesn't mean your debit card is a suitable option.

"If you have recurring payments for services such as a gym membership, a subscription-based service, or a utility bill, it's best to use a credit card," advises Doman. "If a recurring payment is made using a debit card, a temporary hold or pre-authorization can be placed on your account, potentially leading to overdraft fees or unavailable funds."

For more financial advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Online purchases
fizkes / Shutterstock

E-commerce has made shopping so convenient that it can sometimes be arguably too easy. After all, it can be hard to turn down what looks like a fantastic deal on an item you've had your eye on. But before you elect to have something shipped to you, experts caution that you should think twice about your payment method.

"I advise against using a debit card for online purchases, especially on sites that you are not familiar with or that have a questionable reputation," says Doman. "Debit cards are directly linked to your bank account, making it easier for hackers to access your funds if your information is compromised. On the other hand, credit cards offer greater protection against fraudulent purchases, as you can dispute the charges and your money is not directly tied to the card."

This can also make events like data breaches or identity theft more expensive to deal with. "Yes, if there are fraudulent transactions, the bank will reimburse you up to the limits allowed by law—but it could take upwards of 60 days," Farrington explains. "Furthermore, depending on when you notify your bank, you could be on the hook for some of the issues. If you notify your bank within 48 hours, you could still owe $50—and after two days, you could still owe up to $500!"

Hotels and other travel expenses

Traveling is one instance when purchases can rack up much more quickly than usual. From meals out on the town to exploring a new city's shops and stores, it can feel much easier to spend money on the road. But before you go to check in to your accommodations or pull off the rental car lot, you should consider having a credit card on hand to pay for them.

"People should know when they're traveling that renting a car using a debit card can result in a hold on a large sum of money from your bank account. And many hotels will pre-authorize a certain amount on your debit card for incidentals such as room service or internet usage," Doman tells Best Life. "This can result in a hold on a large sum of your funds, making it difficult to access your money for other expenses. Using a credit card instead can help avoid these holds and potential overdrafts."

"Additionally, car rental companies may also check your credit score when you use a debit card, potentially leading to further holds or declines," he adds.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.