How to manage your first debit card

Your teenage years are all about first and new experiences.

As a student, entering the financial world can be exciting. To help students better understand and manage their money, here is an article explaining how to manage your money and understand your debit cards.

What are the features of a debit card?

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  1. Debit card number. Every card issued has a unique 16 digit number. This is not a bank account number, but you will need it if you shop online.
  2. Expiry date. All cards have an expiration date and you won't be able to use it after that date. Your bank will issue you a new card before the card expires. Again, you will need the expiration date when doing online shopping.
  3. Call centre. If you have any questions, you can call the number on the back of the card which is toll-free between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Saturday. There is also an Overseas Assistance number near the call centre number.
  4. Secure chip. The golden chip on your card stores all your banking information. The EFTPOS machine reads your bank information when you pay by this method.
  5. Visa payWave. This is one of the quickest ways to pay. You won’t need to put in your pin, you will just be able to tap and go. This service only works for purchases under $100.
  6. Magnetic strip. A few retailers do not have the payWave feature so you will need to insert your card into the EFTPOS machine.
  7. Signature panel. Once you've received your card, sign the signature panel located on the back of your card. In doing this, it will make it more difficult for someone to use your card if it gets lost or stolen.
  8. CVV (Card Verification Value). This is a three digit code on the back of your card and is used as an extra security measure. You will be asked to give this code when shopping online or over the phone.

Using your card

Where can I use my Visa Debit Card?

Any place where Visa is accepted, you could use your card both in Australia and overseas. Shops, restaurants, ATMs and online are all examples of where you can use your card. You can also use it in person or over the phone.

How do I operate the Visa Debit Card?

Using an EFTPOS machine or ATM is one of the most common ways to use a debit card. You will need to select one of three options before you can complete your transaction. The three options are “credit”, “cheque” or “savings”. So what are the differences of these options?

Below is a very basic guide to these three options. Please note that this is only meant to be a guide and your account could have specific features that are not mentioned below.

  • Credit. The payment would come from a credit account. In some cases, pressing this option will tap into an overdraft service if that is available on your card. It is worth checking the features of your card to see if this service is available to you.
  • Cheque. The money would come out of your chequing account, or an everyday transaction account if you don’t have a specific chequing account.
  • Savings. The purchase would be charged to your savings account, or your everyday account if you don’t have a savings account linked to the debit card.

Understanding Visa payWave

Many places nowadays have a feature called payWave which allows users to simply pay with a wave of their card. Instead of entering a PIN number, hold your card next to the machine and the card will send a wireless signal to complete the transaction. If the purchase is over $100, a PIN is required and payWave will not work.

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How to stay on top of your account

Here are a few tips to help you manage your account and finances.

Can I spend money I don’t have?

If you don’t enough money in your account, when you go for a payment, the ATM or EFTPOS machine will decline your payment. However, if you have an overdraft service available on your card, you can take out credit so you can pay with a credit loan. The overdraft service allows you to pay for items even if your bank balance is $0.

Keep track of what you spend

Check you balance regularly through Internet or mobile banking and bank statements. This is a good habit to get into so you know exactly what your money is being used for. If you notice something out of place, contact your bank right away so they can help you. Your Visa Debit Card includes chargeback protection letting you reverse transactions.

Set up alerts for your phone

You can register to receive SMS or email alerts that lets you know when cash goes in or out of your account. All email alerts are free, and depending on your banking provider, the SMS alerts could cost a small amount.

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Keep your purchases secure

Using a debit card makes everyday purchasing easier, but there are still risks so here are a few tips to keep your money safe.

If you have lost your card or if it's stolen, report it immediately

If you lose your card, let your provider know immediately so they can cancel the card. Let your bank know through these channels:

  1. Internet banking.
  2. Call the help number. This number can typically be found on your debit card.
  3. Visit a branch. You can cancel your card by going directly into a branch and report your card stolen.

Your card will be blocked as soon as it is reported.

Don’t reveal your PIN

Your PIN number is meant to be kept secret for a reason. This goes without saying, but here are a few “don'ts” when creating a PIN:

  • Don’t use your birthday.
  • Don’t use the date printed on your card.
  • Don’t use consecutive numbers like 1234…
  • Don’t repeat numbers that form a pattern (eg. 5555).
  • Don’t use your telephone number.

Avoid getting hooked by “phishing”

When people or companies send you emails that deliberately fish for your personal details or banking details, this is known as “phishing”. They might pretend to be someone you know, or impersonate your bank, but don’t

Scammers will try and lure you in with all sorts of deals that seem appealing, but do not be hooked by these false promises. Just don’t click or reply to them.

Online shopping

Shopping online is often safe and reliable. A simple rule to keep in mind though is to make sure you purchase items from secure sites. If you receive a link or web address from someone you don’t know, the safest thing to do is to ignore it.

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What are the features of a Debit Mastercard?

Below are some of the features that Mastercard offer:

  • Contactless. A simple tap of your card will allow you to pay for transactions less than $100. No payments are accidental since there's a security code which is unique to each transaction and cannot be used again.
  • MasterPass. This is a new and secure way of paying online. This is a multi-tiered security network that works in a partnership with your bank. With MasterPass, your payment and shipping information is stored by your bank in one safe place.

A Debit Mastercard is a combination of the benefits and conveniences of Mastercard, with the control of spending your own money. Funds are directly debited from your savings or cheque account, you will never receive a bill and you remain fully in control of your finances.

Compare debit cards and apply for your first one below

Rates last updated November 19th, 2017
Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
NAB Classic Banking
$0 monthly account fees.
Tap and pay with your NAB Visa Debit card, NAB Pay for Android or NAB PayTag for iPhone.
Visa $0 $0 $0 account keeping fees with no deposit conditions. Unlimited free withdrawals at NAB and rediATMs. Go to site More
ING Orange Everyday Account
$75 cash bonus & Apple Pay available.
Get a competitive ongoing variable rate when linked with an ING Savings Maximiser.
Visa $0 $1,000 ING charges no ATM withdrawal fees and offers a rebate on any third-party ATM fees and international transaction fees when you deposit $1,000 (and from 1 March 2018 make 5+ card purchases a month). Go to site More
St.George Complete Freedom Student Account
A student bank account with a linked Visa debit card and Mobile + Phone banking.
Visa $0 $0 account keeping fee for students. Unlimited Free withdrawals at St.George, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA and Westpac ATMs. Go to site More
HSBC Day to Day Transaction Account
Your Visa debit card unlocks special privileges worldwide with the HSBC home&Away Privilege Program.
Visa $0 $0 $0 account keeping fees. Unlimited free withdrawals at over 3,000 HSBC, Westpac, St.George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA ATMs. Go to site More
ANZ Access Advantage
Apple Pay, Android Pay & ANZ Mobile Pay.
Take advantage of Apple Pay by linking your ANZ Visa Debit card to an eligible iPhone and seamlessly pay for purchases with your phone.
Visa $0 $2,000 $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $2,000 per month. Otherwise, a $5 monthly fee applies. Unlimited free withdrawals at ANZ ATMs. Go to site More
Bankwest Student Account
Get discounts from a range of brands like McDonalds, Hoyts and City Beach.
Mastercard $0 $0 $0 ATM fees at over 4,000 Bankwest and CommBank ATMs, $0 monthly fees. More
Community First Student Starter Account
Designed for students aged 17-24 and studying their first degree or traineeship full-time.
Visa $0 $0 No monthly fee, fee-free banking with access to the RediATM network. More
Bank of Sydney Student Transaction Account
A flexible, student bank account with a linked Visa debit card.
Visa $0 $0 No monthly account fee with free, unlimited ATM withdrawals from RediATM network. More
Bank of Sydney Student Savings Account
Available for students under 18 years of age and want to earn interest on their transaction account.
Visa $0 $0 Free, unlimited ATM withdrawals from any RediATM. More
Westpac Choice Student
An everyday account for full-time tertiary students.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly service fee whilst you are a full time tertiary student More
P&N Student Account
A bank account for secondary and tertiary students aged between 16-25 years old.
Visa $0 $0 Unlimited + free transactions via rediATM, NAB and BOQ ATMs. More
Bendigo Bank Student Account
Available to full time students, apprentices and trainees over 12 years.
Mastercard $0 $0 No monthly account service fee, unlimited e-banking transfer, BPAY and Pay Anyone. More

Shirley Liu

Shirley is's publisher for banking and investments. She has completed a Masters in Commerce (Finance) and is the author of hundreds of articles. She is passionate about helping Aussies make an informed decision, save money and find the best deal for their needs.

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