Before credit cards became the norm, “bank cards” were commonplace for everyday purchases. Bank cards, or debit cards, take money directly out of your checking or savings account, which then gets automatically rebalanced less the amount of your recent purchase.
Credit cards on the other hand, allow you to purchase something and then pay for it at a later date. A lot of people prefer debit cards versus credit cards as it eliminates the burden of a future payment and the possibility of missing that payment and it negatively affecting your credit score.
When it comes to account security though, it might make more sense to use your credit card. Although the safety gap between credit and debit cards is almost identical at this point, credit cards still have an advantage over debit cards that just can’t be missed — delayed payment.
Should a fraudster get a hold of your bank account information, the money is gone right away. Your bank will likely eventually replenish your account with the amount lost in cases of authentic fraud. That said, with over half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, this could cause trouble. If you have bills due and your account has been frauded, you might not have enough time to get your money back and pay your bills on time. What’s worse, if you’re like the millions of Americans who have bill pay through their bank (the service that pulls directly from your bank account to pay bills automatically), you could miss payments entirely. This could eventually have a negative impact on your credit score, since companies have the right to report late or missed payments to credit agencies.
Matt Schulz, a credit card expert for Lending Tree, recommended through CNBC that gas stations are particularly important places to choose your credit card over your debit card. Places like gas stations he stresses often see hackers put in “skimmers” into the credit card slots, which can easily steal your information as you swipe. Gas stations and other public places like subway card vending machines are common places for skimmers to be placed more so than other businesses which might have a tighter grip on the security of their devices. For these kinds of transactions, a credit card could help keep our money safer than a debit card woud.
Credit cards of course also accrue points and help towards building your credit score. It really boils down to what your goals are and what you’re comfortable with. If you rarely use cards in general and do not have much need for credit worthiness anymore, i.e. a retiree or soon-to-be retiree, it could make sense to only have a debit card on hand if that’s what makes you most comfortable. Otherwise, credit first is a good rule of thumb – but ONLY if you are diligent about paying it off.
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