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What is a debit card and what does it allow you to do?
When you open an Australian bank account, the bank will issue you a debit card to use as a way to access your money. You can use your debit card to get cash, make purchases and manage your money. The debit card is linked to your transaction account and the terms and conditions associated with your account explains how you can spend your money.Your debit card is linked to your everyday bank account and can be used to make withdrawals from ATMs, EFTPOS, payWave or PayPass.
How is a debit card different from a credit card?
A debit card works similarly to a credit card, except that you’re using your own money instead of the banks' money, which means you don't need to worry about interest payments. With a debit card, you're using your money in real time.Debit cards are a good way to take advantage of the accessibility of a credit card, without having to pay any interest on the amount spent, or worry about your credit rating. It is also a good strategy to prevent you from racking up debt, as a debit card only allows you to spend the money you have in the account at the time of purchase.
A credit card, in comparison, will allow you to make purchases and send you a bill at the end of the month for you to pay back.
Can I choose my own PIN for my debit card?
Yes, in fact, most banks recommend that you change your PIN regularly for security reasons. When you receive your debit card in the mail, your bank will provide you with a pre-selected PIN and instructions on how to change it.
What bank accounts can I link to my debit card?
You can link almost any everyday transaction account to a debit card. The account needs to have an Australian BSB and account number and the account must be in the same name as what's on the card. It can also be a joint account if desired.
How do I get a debit card?
To get a debit card you first need to open a transaction account. You can open a transaction account directly from our site, finder.com.au. Once you've selected the transaction account, click 'go to site' to complete an application. A debit card is typically sent to your residential address within two weeks of completing the application.
Overdrawing usually occurs when you've used your debit card when your transaction account balance is zero, which usually brings your account into a negative balance. If you have an overdraft attached to your account, this balance starts to attract interest. It's important to try and avoid overdrawing your account because the fees can be high, usually up to $20.
Can I use my debit card when I have no money in my account?
If you have an overdraft attached to your account, you will be able to use your debit card when your balance is $0. However, this will attract interest and a hefty fee. It's important to always ensure you have enough money in your account for automatic payments, such as your phone bill, as if the issuer tries to deduct the money from your account and it's empty, you will likely be charged a penalty.
What is a cash back debit card?
Some debit cards offer cash back on Visa payWave or Mastercard PayPass purchases under $100 in Australia. You normally need to make a minimum deposit, usually $1,000 or $2,000, into your transaction account every month to get the cash back reward on eligible purchases. In the case of joint accounts, either account holder can make the deposit requirements for the cash back to apply.
How do I know if my debit card has PayPass or payWave?
Take a look at your debit card and see if it has the payWave or PayPass symbol on the front. If it doesn't you can call your bank to get a new card.
What are foreign transaction fees and which banks do not charge these?
Foreign transaction fees are applied when you use your debit card to make purchases overseas, or online with a website that doesn't accept Australian dollars. It's a fee charged for having to convert the currency, and it's usually around 3% of the value of the transaction. Currently, the Citibank Plus transaction account and the Macquarie Bank Platinum Transaction account do not charge this fee.
What is the CVV number on my debit card?
The Card Verification Value (CVV) is a three digit number found on the back of your debit card. On American Express debit cards, the CVV is four digits. This number is used to verify your debit card and helps to reduce fraud, by proving to the merchant that you have the physical debit card with you when making a purchase online or over the phone.
Westpac, NAB, ANZ and CBA are offering financial support for customers affected by the NSW and QLD fires. Read more…
What are the features of a debit card?
When you are looking for a transaction account, the type of debit card that comes with it should play a role in your decision:
No monthly fees. You can compare fee-free bank accounts here to ensure you don't get charged for having a debit card.
Third party logo. Having either Visa or Mastercard stamped on the card will increase the flexibility and benefits in spending that a debit card provides.
One or multiple ATM networks for free. This is linked to the bank you choose, but you will want to find a debit card that has access to a large number of ATMs for free. Bankwest and Commonwealth Bank's ATM network is currently the largest in Australia.
Contactless technology. Some debit cards enable you to make purchases using Near Field Communication (NFC) without having to swipe your card or enter a pin. Called tap & go, the feature lets you pay for items, usually costing $100 or less, by holding your card to a reader.
Fraud protection. You need to protect your debit card from theft and improper use. Make sure you have a unique PIN number set and keep your debit card safe.
Other security measures. Check what security features your bank provides with your debit card. Your debit card should have secure PIN and chip technology. Also, check to see if you are responsible for unauthorised charges.
Debit cards for students. As a student, you can receive a range of benefits from your debit card, including no monthly fee.
Debit card fraud: is your money at risk?
What is debit card fraud?
When someone else obtains your card details and makes transactions on your card without you knowing. If you report a fraudulent transaction on your card, your bank should deactivate your card to prevent the person from making anymore transactions.
You should always check your debit card statement to make sure all the transactions listed are legitimate. This will help you identify any unusual activity.
Lost or stolen cards
If your card is lost or stolen, let your bank know straight away, even if your overseas. In most cases, you can get a replacement card as soon as possible and your bank can stop all transactions on your account.
Can I get a refund on fraudulent transactions?
This depends on your bank and the situation. Many of the bigger banks offer a 100% money-back guarantee on fraudulent transactions if you comply with the card's conditions of use. For more information, speak to your financial institution.
As a link to your personal or business funds, you should be careful in the way that you use your debit card. Some things to avoid are:
Overdrawing too much and being charged dishonour fees. If you are not keeping careful track of the money available in your bank account, you may accidentally go over the limit which could result in bank fees.
Ensuring it doesn't get lost or stolen. If your debit card is lost or stolen and because your debit card is linked to your transaction account, you could have your funds withdrawn without your permission. Luckily, banks today have technology to identify unusual transactions and will typically notify you of the transaction.
What should I do if I’ve noticed my Visa or Mastercard accounts are displayed incorrectly online?
First check your recent receipts and transactions made by any of your additional cardholders. If there is still a discrepancy, contact your bank immediately in case someone is using your account fraudulently.
Why do banks approve transactions when I don’t have sufficient funds? Is there any way to stop this?
This could be the result of a direct debit that posts at the same time as a purchase or credits to the account not clearing as quickly as you thought. You can avoid paying overdrawn account fees by applying for an overdraft account.
I've tried to withdraw cash from my account using an ATM but it's miscalculated the money. What should I do?
If this occurs, try to contact your bank as soon as possible to notify them of the problem. They should be able to get in touch with the branch who takes care of the ATM and sort it out.
Common questions about debit cards
Typically, you will need to link your savings account to the transaction account that your debit card is linked to. In most cases you will need to transfer the money into your transaction account first before you can use the debit card to withdraw it.
Notify the bank immediately so that they can put a stop on the card. They will then issue a new one as a replacement.
Yes, you can ask for additional cards (typically up to two cards) for family members or business associates, but as the primary account holder you will still be responsible for any actions taken using those cards.
You can use most debit cards overseas, but be mindful that fees and charges can apply so check the Product Disclosure Statement.
Australian minors who have a transaction account in their name can still get a debit card, but it may not be a Mastercard or Visa.
finder.com.au featured debit cards
Compare what the debit cards below have to offer
ATM network details
NAB Classic Banking
NAB Pay (Only compatible with Android 4.4+)
NAB (1000+ ATMs)
ANZ Access Advantage
Apple Pay, Android Pay (Compatible Apple and Android devices)
ANZ (2000+ ATMs)
ING Orange Everyday
Apple Pay & Android Pay (Compatible Android devices)
Any ATM in Australia if you deposit $1,000+ a month plus make 5+ card purchases a month
CommBank Smart Access
Tap & Pay (Only compatible with Android 4.4+) and PayTag (iPhone)
Alison Banney is the banking and investments editor at Finder. She has written about finance for over six years, with her work featured on sites including Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and Dynamic Business. She has previously worked at Westpac, and has written for several other major banks including BCU, Greater Bank and Gateway Credit Union. Alison has a Bachelor of Communications from Newcastle University, with a double major in Journalism and Public Relations. She has ASIC RG146 compliance certificates for Financial Advice, Securities and Managed Investments and Superannuation. Outside of Finder, you’ll likely find her somewhere near the ocean.
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