Credit cards are renowned for their convenience and security, but they are not the best tool for every job. The biggest problem with credit cards is the fact that cardholders can easily use them to get them into debt, which results in costly interest charges. Other potential drawbacks of credit cards include the high fees charged to merchants and the fact that credit cards are not universally accepted.
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But rather than keeping some spare cash under your mattress, here are seven times when a debit card can do the job instead.
1. If you’re in over your head with credit card debt
Those who are carrying a balance on their credit cards are assessed interest charges each day on their average daily balance. That means that each new charge immediately increases the amount of interest incurred on the account. To break that cycle, shoppers can use debit cards. A debit card does not involve borrowing money or paying interest.
2. To withdraw cash
Using a credit card to get cash may be the worst thing that you can do with it. If you do it, you will likely get hit with cash advance fees and a higher, cash advance interest rate. In addition, the money withdrawn will immediately begin incurring interest, as it is not eligible for a grace period.
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3. When you are buying a money order
There is no way to purchase a money order with a credit card, but many stores will accept debit cards in addition to cash.
4. If you want to give a small business a break
Many merchants hate credit cards due to the high cost of the merchant fees that they must pay to accept them. Merchants are also charged a fee to accept debit cards, but it is much smaller. So if you would like to help out a small business in a small way, you can choose to use your debit card rather than your credit card. And if you are negotiating the price of a large purchase, offering to use your debit card might make a difference, especially since merchants often overestimate the cost of processing a credit card.
5. When you pay your taxes
Local, state and federal governments are allowed to charge a credit card convenience fee, which is typically about 2% of the amount paid. On the other hand, debit cards incur a flat fee of about $3, so it will cost less to use a debit card if you are making a payment of about $150 or more.
6. To pay utility bills
Like taxes, many public utilities are also allowed to charge customers additional fees to pay their bills with a credit card, but these fees can be much lower if you use a debit card.
7. When offered a discount for cash or debit
While credit card surcharges are rarely allowed and imposed, discounts for cash and debit cards are available in many instances. For example, gas stations sometimes show two prices, one for credit cards, and a lower price for cash or debit cards. Just be aware that most gas stations will place a hold on your debit card for $100, which can remain for several days.
More from Credit.com
- Credit or Debit: How to Choose at the Checkout
- The Credit Card Payoff Calculator
- How to Avoid Credit Card Late Fees
Jason Steele has worked as a computer systems administrator, a commercial pilot, and a contributor to several of the top personal finance sites as an expert on credit cards and travel. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in History.