DULLES, VA (11/23/09)--As more consumers avoid using their credit cards to keep balances low, debit cards are getting a workout. Debit card transactions are predicted to outpace credit card transactions on Black Friday. As holiday shopping starts, consumers need to be cautious when using a debit card for transactions requiring a personal identification number (PIN) (walletpop.com
Nov. 12). PIN-based transactions are not covered under a card’s liability policy, which means it may take up to 10 days to get your money back for returned or disputed purchases. Before you head to the mall or websites this holiday season, here’s what you need to know about using a debit card wisely:
* Always pay with a credit card online. Paying with a debit card using your PIN is the same as wiring a retailer cash. If you “fat finger” any entries and end up with multiple items in your virtual shopping cart, you may be out of luck getting a refund. * Keep receipts. They won’t get you a refund faster, but getting one will be easier. * Add “copy of my credit report” to your shopping list. This is a good way to ensure there’s no fraudulent activity on your accounts, and it gives you a baseline for future checkups. Federal law lets you access a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. * To check your credit report for errors, call 877-322-8228 or go online to annualcreditreport.com. You can check your report at all three companies at the same time, or order a report from a different company every four months to monitor your report throughout the year. If you find an error in one report, it's wise to immediately check the others for errors as well. * Act fast if your debit card is stolen or used fraudulently. Report it to your credit union or other card issuer right way. Your liability can be as much as $500 if you wait more than two business days. The responsibility to monitor activity on your account is up to you. * Check the status of your checking account before you shop. That way you’ll know your balance and you can avoid overdraft charges for any debit card purchases that would put you over the top. And, you can set a budget for your holiday spending based on the money available. For more information, see the Debit vs. Credit video in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.