What can you do with your debit card?

November 06, 2020

The humble debit card has lots of practical applications in everyday life. And before you ask, we promise this isn’t one of those “thrifty tips” articles suggesting that you use your card to scrape icy windows or remove adhesive — in fact, we highly recommend keeping your current debit card safely stored in your wallet, getting it out only when necessary (or better yet, adding it to your mobile wallet), and shredding it immediately upon expiration. Instead, we’re offering suggestions for using your debit card beyond getting cash at the ATM and paying for your gas at the pump. There are many smart ways to make your debit card work for you, so let’s walk through them together.

Stay on budget. If you’re tracking your spending to build a budget, keeping tabs on your debit card transactions is a good jumping-off point. When you view your bank account or your monthly bank statement, you can see just how much money you spent and where. If you have a budget already in place and are using your debit card for your expenses, one look at your transactions can help you categorize your spending. To make the process even easier, you can link a budgeting app to your debit card and identify where your money is going with every swipe.

Pay for goods. Anywhere that takes credit cards takes debit cards, and you won’t be charged interest on your purchases. From your favorite coffee truck to the farmer’s market, most merchants and vendors have card readers now, so think beyond grocery and big-box stores. You won’t have to carry cash or pay interest on your purchase.

Pay for services. Chances are good that your hairstylist, lawncare service, and even the heating and air conditioning tech are prepared to take debit cards as a payment method, and most systems allow you to add a tip (although your AC guy probably won’t expect one!). Super easy, and you’re back to your busy life.

Pay your bills. For a free, no-hassle way to pay your bills on time, set up automatic recurring payments for anything from auto insurance to your cell phone using your debit card — just be sure to update the info if you get a new card.

Order dinner. No more scrounging for cash for the pizza guy! It’s as easy as ordering dinner and pre-paying online. From local establishments to meal delivery services, a card is a must, and your debit card is always a handy option.

Make donations. Give love (and cash) to your favorite nonprofit organization(s) and/or house of worship using your debit card. Whether it’s a one-time donation, a recurring monthly or bi-monthly gift, or a ticket to a fundraiser, using your debit card makes for smooth philanthropy — though again, you’ll want to update the info if you get a new card.

Join and subscribe. From your wholesale club to your bookstore to organizations you belong to, annual membership fees and dues can easily be put on a debit card (ask for a reminder text or email so you’ll know when they’re happening). You can see them come out of your account and know you’re set for another year. Subscriptions to everything from magazines to meal kits to streaming services can be handled in this no-hassle way, as well.

In summary, your debit card can be the key to purchases without interest, payments without fees, on-time bill payment, and better budgeting. Hopefully we’ve given you some beyond-the-ATM inspiration!

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  • Managing Your Money
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