Your bank usually offers a card for use at automatic teller machines, or ATMs. The card gives you fast access to the money in your banking account just about anywhere. You can also use it to check your account balances. ATM cards include debit cards and the two are often used interchangeably. While debit cards allow you to make purchases and pay bills, you must use them carefully.
Debit cards, also called check cards or bank cards, can be used like an electronic checkbook. Most banks give you a debit card when you open a checking account so you can make withdrawals from ATM machines or make purchases. Some ATM cards are issued for specific accounts and can only be used at a particular bank.
ATM cards issued for specific accounts and banks can have safety advantages over debit cards. Although debit cards have a personal identification number, or PIN, some stores don’t require a PIN to buy something. If your debit card is stolen the thieves can have an easy time of swiping the card to swipe your money. ATM cards, on the other hand, can only be used with a PIN. Debit cards often have a credit-card logo and number, which can be copied and used by other people, while ATM cards usually just have the bank or financial network name on them.
However, bank customers usually enjoy the convenience of ATM debit cards to take out money from a machine and to buy products or services. You don’t have to carry cash because you can get it from almost any ATM machine, though you may end up paying a fee if you use an ATM that's not in your bank's network. You can pay your bills easily and quickly with a debit card because the number on the card acts like a credit-card number.
Withdrawing money with ATM or debit cards is so easy you could drain the account accidentally. Banks usually charge overdraft fees unless you have credit-line protection. Depending on your bank, debit cards might also have annual fees, or charge you each time you use your card. Writing a check usually gives you time to cover your account if you're short, but money from cards comes out instantly. Unlike a credit card, ATM or debit cards don't usually offer you protection for refunds on purchases or help build up your credit rating.
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