Today, the electronic network for debit and credit card transactions is vast. Credit cards have been around since the mid 20th century, and earlier versions even existed at the end of the 19th century. The first ATM cards appeared in the early 1970s and were limited to allowing people to withdraw money from a checking account, but could not be used for purchases. By the 1980s debit cards emerged as an alternative to checks for making purchases with money out of one’s personal checking account. Over the past decade, “prepaid debit cards” have become increasingly popular. Also issued by banks, they work like traditional debit cards, but are not connected to a checking account.
Now, the lines are blurring between the two forms of payment-debit or credit-for both merchants and consumers. When someone pulls out a plastic card with the MasterCard or Visa logo on it to pay for food, gas, or a store purchase, he or she may conduct the transaction using a signature, or in the case of a debit card, by entering a PIN number on a check out keypad. The signature payment method runs on a credit card network. The PIN payment method runs on a debit network. Merchants pay a fee in either case (to MasterCard or Visa) as part of their doing business. This fee is slightly lower in the case of PIN transactions, which is why some retailers like WalMart and CVS Pharmacy encourage debit card users to pay by PIN.
The real difference between credit cards and debit cards has more to do with the funds being transferred. When you buy something with a credit card, you are not spending your own money but rather borrowing money against a credit line that the bank issuing the card has extended to you. The only limit on your spending is the limit imposed by the credit card company. So, when you make a payment towards your outstanding balance you are paying back the credit card briansclub real domain company for earlier purchases.
Here’s what happens behind the scenes when you make debit card purchase. You are actually accessing your own money that is sitting in a bank account. As the transaction happens, money is transferred out of your account, travels across the network, and is transferred into the merchant’s bank account. PIN purchases happen in real time, so the amount in your account is verified and transferred immediately. Signature transactions, which travel across the credit card network, do not have to happen in real time but can happen hours later in a “batch” process with other transactions. The transfer of funds from the cardholder to the merchant can also be delayed, some times as long as two days, depending on when the batch process is executed.
So what’s the difference between a prepaid debit card and a bank debit card or ATM card? The real differences are more technical than actual. For both kinds of cards, you deposit your own money with the card account and withdraw it as you see fit, either by making ATM cash withdrawals or by using the card for purchases. A bank card or ATM card (sometimes called a check card) is connected to a checking account. Typically, there are no fees associated with purchases, or when using an ATM within the bank’s network. In contrast, a prepaid card is not connected with a checking account but stands alone. There is usually some fee structure in place for using the card. For example, each purchase may generate a dollar fee, or the card holder may pay a flat $10 per month for using the card. A prepaid card is a good choice for people who would like to get a debit card but have trouble opening a bank account.
They are also a convenient alternative to credit cards, because prepaid cards that bear the Visa or MasterCard log are accepted worldwide like credit cards. They are a good option for people with bad credit or a lack of a credit history, because they do not require a credit bureau check to be approved.