When you buy goods or get cash with a debit card the money goes from your bank account right away. With credit cards you receive a monthly bill. If you do not repay the amount owed in full on your credit card, or you take out cash, the charges can be high.
Debit cards are linked to your bank account. You can use them to buy goods or withdraw cash and the amount is taken out straight away. Debit cards can also be used to obtain cashback from shops and supermarkets. When you buy goods you can also ask for money back from the cashier and the amount is deducted from your account right away, saving you the trouble of going to the bank. Most bank accounts offer debit cards and they also work as cheque guarantee cards. The card is a guarantee to retailers that your cheque will be 'honoured' by your bank up to a stated amount.
It depends on the type of debit card you have. With a 'Solo' or 'Electron' debit card the balance in your account is checked before each transaction. But if there is no money you won't be able pay or withdraw cash with the debit card without additional agreement.
'Switch', 'Visa' or 'Delta' cards means your account balance won't necessarily be checked and the payment may still go through although you will probably incur interest or excess charges which will depend on your overdraft agreement.
Your PIN is the personal identification number on your card.
When using a cash machine or paying for goods with a debit card you'll need to enter your pin. In the last few years banks have introduced what are known as chip and pin cards in order to improve security. Under this system cardholders are required to enter their code when making a purchase. When buying goods you normally enter it into an electronic hand held device. In some cases you still may have to sign a receipt.
Credit cards allow you to buy now and pay later. Hence, they are called 'credit' cards. Credit cards are not linked to bank accounts. Like debit cards they can be used to buy goods in shops and over the phone and internet with the same information given out by you. You can also obtain cash by drawing money at bank's cash machines. Banks are always offering credit cards as they make a lot of money on them when you pay interest on your bill. You can also apply for one if you need one.
Think carefully before using one. If you do not repay your bill in full by the date shown you will be charged interest on the whole amount of the bill for that month. The rates of interest - the APR/Annual Percentage Rate - can often be extremely high. If you take cash out with a credit card you are charged daily interest from the moment you take out the money until the credit card bill is paid in full. This is an expensive way of borrowing cash. Some credit cards also have an annual fee. Use and misuse of credit cards is one of the main reasons for rising debt in the UK.
It should be noted that if you pay off your bill in full every month it does not matter how high the interest rate is on your card because you will not be paying it. A credit card therefore gives you greater spending flexibility. If you clear your bill each month, have no annual fee your card will not cost you. Some cards also offer loyalty bonus such as points, Air Miles or cashback. Paying for expensive items with credit cards also offers the advantage of added consumer protection. The Consumer Credit Act makes the card company liable along with the seller in case of breach of contract.
Don't pay over the odds for credit as there are a range of good deals available. You should be able to find an interest rate only marginally higher than the Bank of England base rate.
Store cards and some of the bigger name credit cards are often the most expensive. Often customers paying four times the rate of other cards. Read Review Centre reviews for recommendations about some of the best cards on the market. One good trick is to opt for a card that has a zero rate of interest and then switch to a better rate when any bonus rate expires or you become aware of an even better deal.
Debit cards can be used to make payments by phone or with internet transactions. You will need to provide numbers and details printed on your card to authorize the transaction.
If you can't afford to repay your credit card bill you might fall into debt. If you miss the odd credit card repayment this is probably not too big a deal. There might be a penalty charge. But if you persistently miss credit card repayments and fail to pay bills you could run into serious problems. You may face a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in court for non-payment whereby the court can order you to make monthly payments to the lender. An administration order is a similar order for when you have a variety of debts. These are added together and you make a monthly payment. As a last resort you could be declared bankrupt.
The credit card market is highly competitive and so the sort of good news is that card companies like customers who run up debts on which they charge interest and make lots of money. The good news is a lot of card companies will allow you to transfer debts from other cards and offer you a lower rate of interest to attract your custom. You may find substantial savings on your credit card bills.
There are lots of deals out there and the choice can appear confusing. Interest Free Cards are good if you do not clear your balance every month. There are dozens of cards on the market offering zero per cent interest, typically for five or six months. A few offer up to 12 months interest-free. The best cards give you a maximum of 50 plus days between buying and paying. Special offers will also entice you into some deals. Many banks have special debt-transfer offers to recruit new customers. Some cards offer free purchase protection insurance, cashback and other incentives.
The easiest way to avoid paying excessive bills and charges on your credit card is to set up a Direct Debit from your current account to your credit card to pay off at least the minimum amount each month.
Like loyalty cards where a charity or organization receives a small donation. Basically a small part of what you spend goes to a charity or other organisation. Lots of charities have set up their own credit cards via partnerships with banks. Some football clubs have their own cards too.
Gold and platinum cards used to be seen as a status symbol although less so now. They require a larger annual fee in return for incentives such as preferential borrowing and free annual travel insurance. Most gold cards have a minimum income requirement.
More and more people are happy with the concept of debt these days. But if you want to limit your credit card debt the best advice is not to overspend and buy what you cannot afford. For some people that may mean avoiding credit cards altogether or at least using one with a low interest rate.