February 23rd, 2012

Debit vs. Credit: Which is better?

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debit or credit

**Today’s guest post is contributed by CreditCardChaser.com.**

What do you do when it comes time to pay for your fast food meal or maybe a new television? What makes you decide if you will use your credit card or debit card? This dilemma has been going on for years.

There are multiple reasons on why one would choose a certain card over another. In the end, it is up to you. However, here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind next time you’re deciding between your debit card or credit card.

Debit Card Over Credit Card

It seems like the debit cards are slowly being overtaken by “buying on credit.” However, Credit.com gives statistics showing that there are almost 520 million debit cards in circulation. So even though buying on credit is becoming very popular, it looks like the debit card is still king. When is a good time to use your debit card, though?


  • If you are having trouble paying off your credit card bill – Buying on credit can be so easy at times. You can do a couple swipes of the credit card and suddenly have thousands of dollars in credit card debt racked up. A debit card can be good for controlling your expenses, since it is linked directly to your bank account. Just be careful to not overdraft on your debit card. Another good thing to do is check with your bank to make sure you have overdraft protection.
  • To keep spending controlled with students – A debit card is a great way to control your student’s spending from afar. The debit card can also be a great way to teach students proper spending habits.
  • For the convenience of ATMs and cash – Don’t you hate the signs that say, “Cash Only”? A debit card is great for those times when you need cash quickly. All you need to do is find the nearest ATM or spend a couple dollars at a store and get cash back. The convenience of cash is definitely a positive with a debit card.

Credit Card Over Debit Card

A debit card is a great option, but sometimes the credit card is the route to go. Rewards and security are just a couple reasons the credit card can be a better option.


  • For gas and hotels– It is good to use a credit card for gas and hotels for many reasons. For starters, many credit card companies will give certain cash back percentages for using your credit card on gas and hotel purchases. You are going to need gas to drive your car, so you might as well make some money on filling up your tank. Another positive is that you can use your credit card points to get free hotel rooms. Nothing like staying in a free five-star hotel!
  • For regularly purchased items – Some credit card companies have rewards for certain purchases. When your credit card gives cash back on grocery purchases, you should definitely use it. Things that you buy regularly are great to put on your credit card. One, it is most likely in the budget. Two, you need these things. As long as you avoid splurging, you will get some money back in cash back rewards.
  • When shopping online – Credit cards are more secure. Using a debit card online gives thieves direct access to your bank account. Even if your credit card number is stolen, you are only responsible for fraudulent purchases up to $50.

Whether you choose a debit card or credit card, make sure to stick to responsible spending habits.

Jeff Crews is the Content Manager of CreditCardChaser.com. He is not a fighter. However, he always up for a little debit vs. credit battle every once in a while. When he isn’t running CreditCardChaser.com, you can find Jeff running the beaches and playing beach volleyball!

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


  1. Hi Jeff,

    I think your comparison is generally pretty good, but in your last point (online shopping), I think it’s a little disingenuous to say that credit cards are more secure than debit cards. The fact is, both Visa and MasterCard offer zero-liability protection in the event of unauthorized purchases, so debit cards with either of those logos on them are protected.

    I see what you’re saying about thieves having direct access to your checking account, but any bank worth its salt will issue a provisional credit immediately while they conduct their fraud investigation, so you’re not actually without your money for very long.

    Just something to consider.


    Matt Jacob at 10:00 am on February 23, 2012
  2. Matt,

    Great insight. I totally agree with you on security practically being the same. The only thing being different is the idea that thieves have direct access to one’s bank account.

    Now, pretty much every bank would make sure you are taken care of, but it is something to consider. Debit and Credit card security is pretty much the same. After all, they want to keep your business and make sure you feel protected.

    I just tried to bring some things that people might not usually think about. Thanks for the comment!


    Jeff Crews at 2:32 pm on February 23, 2012
  3. I tend to agree with Jeff on this one. You should definitely only choose a bank with good fraud protection. But think of it this way: if someone does make fraudulent purchases on your debit card, funds in your bank account could be tied up until the mess is figured out. If it’s your only source of cash, you’re in trouble. A credit card is definitely a better option in this case.

    bethy at 4:34 pm on February 23, 2012
  4. I use credit card only when I am sure that I will be able to pay entire amount when bill is presented to me. Also, I hesitate to use debit card if I think that any fraud or mis-representation of transaction may lead to blocking my find. Otherwise, both cards are safe to be used as long as you extra-security layer such as 3D Secure.

    Ajay Mishra at 5:12 am on February 24, 2012
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    Kelly at 8:32 am on February 29, 2012

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