Before moving on to naming the top three most dangerous places where you should never use your debit card, it is important to first mention that the primary difference between debit and credit cards is reflected in the way transactions are managed. In a nutshell, when you use a credit card, you can easily choose to decline all the charges if you spot or even just suspect a suspicious transaction, but things are slightly different with debit cards, where the money is automatically withdrawn from your checking account, without resorting to any other intermediary that may prevent such an inconvenient situation.
Moreover, the two types of cards also differ in terms of protection, because your debit card is far more vulnerable in regard to cybernetic attacks, hackers and other types of fraudulent activities. With that in mind, you should consider using cash in the following situations:
1. Never Use Your Debit Card at a Gas Station
Gas stations are notorious for being vulnerable and at high risk for “skimming”, a fraudulent way of withdrawing money digitally that is often used by hackers. A hacker can easily pick up all the information you insert when you swipe your debit card through the gas station’s machine, and then use it later on to empty your account.
This is why it is important never to use a debit card at a gas station payment terminal. Even though the number of “pay-at-the-pump” machines has increased over the past few years since they are very convenient and time-effective, they do not guarantee the consumer that his or her personal information is entirely safe. Skimming devices or pinpoint cameras are widely used nowadays to capture videos of the debit card users as they insert their PINs-from that moment, and until all your money mysteriously vanishes from your bank accounts, there is just one step.
2. At Restaurants
Credit and debit cards are commonly used at restaurants nowadays, but the question is: How safe is it to use your debit card to pay for your dinner, and wouldn’t it be better to use cash instead? The reason why you should avoid using your debit card at a restaurant, even if it is a high-end, five-star restaurant, is because the card is commonly out of hand, which increases the risk for fraud.
The waiter often asks for your debit card only to disappear with it for a few seconds – during this time, your card information can be easily cloned or copied. In addition to this, some restaurants also keep payment information on file, with the sole intent of making any future transactions as easy and hassle-free as possible – the problem appears when the payment information is not properly safeguarded and a third party gains access to it.
Generally speaking, small fast food joints and restaurants pose a higher risk for fraud and identity theft than larger, well-established restaurants, although this is not a universally applicable rule. The only way to be entirely safe is by using cash or even your credit card, because, as mentioned above, the mechanism of action of debit cards differs from that of credit cards, and the latter tends to be more secure.
3. Never Use Your Debit Card When Shopping Online
Online shopping has become the norm for many people, and an increasing number of online stores and marketplaces seem to guarantee the safety and protection of your personal information by using encryption software and other state-of-the-art systems designed to keep hackers and malicious applications at bay. However, it is known that the risk for fraud is higher when you use your debit card online, as your card number can easily be hijacked.
Besides this, hackers often use a wide array of ingenious programs designed to monitor your online activity, as well as your keystrokes. Keyloggers, for instance, are commonly used to see which keys you press when introducing your personal information or your PIN, and this makes you particularly vulnerable in front of cybernetic attacks, especially since the debit card is directly linked to your checking account.
If you discover any suspicious money withdrawals or if you suspect that your card number has been stolen, you must notify your bank within 48 hours. Fortunately, most banks offer their customers some protection against these fraudulent activities.