Making smart financial moves is always essential. No time in recent memory, however, has made prioritizing family finances as necessary as the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In the battle of credit cards vs. debit cards, credit comes out on top. Here’s why you should use a credit card instead of a debit card for everyday purchases.
Credit vs. Debit: Why Choose Credit Over Debit?
While there are plenty of reasons to consider choosing your credit card over debit on your next purchases, three major incentives immediately spring to mind:
You Can Pay Over Time
Perhaps the most significant benefit of opting for a credit card over a debit card is the ability to pay back purchases over time.
Debit cards access your checking account. When you make a payment with your debit card, that amount is debited from your account.
With a credit card, on the other hand, that amount comes out of your overall credit limit. At the end of the billing period, you have the option of paying your statement balance in full, paying the minimum balance due, or anywhere in between those two figures.
This ability makes purchasing goods and services much more flexible with a credit card. Keep in mind, however, that paying less than the entire balance will incur interest charges on whatever amount remains.
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You Can Build Credit
You can’t build credit with a debit card – it’s that simple. Whether your debit card is issued through your bank, or is a prepaid card, like the Amex Serve, Amex Bluebird, or even one of the many Netspend prepaid debit cards, you simply can’t boost your credit score with purchases when you use these products.
Because a credit card requires a line of credit, using a credit card to make purchases can help (or hurt) your credit score. Even secured credit cards (which require a security deposit to open), regularly report to all the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).
Building credit with a credit card requires financial responsibility. This means:
- Paying your bills on time every month
- Keeping your credit usage low
- Only spending what you can afford to pay back
Not every credit card offers rewards consumers for purchases, but plenty do. Credit card rewards come in many shapes and forms:
- Cash back
- Airline miles
- Hotel loyalty points
Credit card rewards are one of the most appealing aspects of this payment method. There are countless websites dedicated to getting the most out of rewards, finding the best signup bonuses, and more.
Say you have a lucrative cash back credit card, like the Citi Double Cash, for example. That card offers 2% cash back on all purchases. If you use that card to make $1,000 in purchases, you’ll earn $20 back. With a debit card, you’ll likely receive nothing in return.
Most debit cards don’t provide rewards, but there are exceptions. Discover, for example, offers a cash back checking account. That account offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases – and features the same Discover Cashback Match incentive that comes with the bank’s credit cards.
Other Reasons for Choosing Credit vs. Debit
Beyond these three reasons, there are plenty of other benefits from using a credit card vs. a debit card. These advantages include:
- Fraud Protection: Credit cards offer built-in fraud protections, such as Mastercard and Visa Zero Fraud Liability.
- Purchase Protection: Some credit cards offer purchase protection, which insures you should you buy something and find it cheaper elsewhere.
- Sign-up Bonuses: Like rewards, some cards offer bonus points for meeting minimum spending requirements in the first few months after opening an account.
- Introductory APR: Other credit cards offer 0% intro APR on purchases for an initial period. Zero-interest payments mean you can make a large purchase and pay it off over time – without incurring interest.
Credit and debit cards are both payment methods. Despite accomplishing the same goal, they are unequal payment partners.
Credit cards offer greater value over debit cards in almost every category. Perhaps the greatest benefits of credit cards, however, are the protections they offer, the flexibility they provide, and the rewards they earn.
Even those with no credit can apply for – and receive – a credit card. While secured cards require an initial deposit (usually of $200 or more), that amount serves as the credit line. In this way, they are superior to a prepaid card, like a Netspend Prepaid Mastercard, in that once you pay your bill, the $200 limit is replenished. With the Netspend, you need to reload every time you reach your limit.
Related Article: What Are the Best Secured Cards for Building Credit?