All About Debit Cards


What Is a Debit Card?

With a debit card, you can shop at many merchant locations without having to carry cash or remember your checkbook. You can use your Provident Credit Union debit card at any merchant that accepts Visa (including for Web purchases), and the purchase amount will be deducted directly from your checking or savings account.

Debit cards are "pay now" products that quickly access (i.e. "debit") money from your checking or savings account, as if you were taking out cash. So, for your debit card to work, you must already have the money in your account to cover the transaction.

This differs from credit cards which are "pay later" products that draw from a credit line--money made available by your card issuer--and give you a grace period to pay. With a credit card, if you do not pay in full by the end of this period, you are charged interest.

The Benefits of a Debit Card

  • Payment convenience and safety: You don't have to carry a bulky checkbook or large sums of cash when you go out shopping.
  • Wide merchant acceptance: Debit cards are more widely accepted than checks--even when you travel--and let you make Web purchases without incurring debt.
  • Fast, easy payment process: There are no checks to write, and no need to present an I.D. or other personal information at the sales counter, or wait while the information is written down or verified.
  • Doesn't deplete the available cash in your pocket: You might still need small amounts of cash for some things, and using your debit card means fewer trips to the ATM.
  • Reduces the possibility of loss or theft of cash: The less cash you carry, the less you can lose or have stolen from you. If your card is stolen, a phone call can block the card from being used and limit your liability (with a Provident Credit Union debit card, your liability is zero, but it is important to call us quickly if this happens).
  • Doubles as an ATM Card: The Provident Credit Union debit card can also be used as an ATM card, thus reducing the number of cards you need to carry, increasing the number of places where it can be used (such as many gas stations), and making it easy to get "cash back" at many POS (Point of Sale) locations.
  • Easier qualification: Because debit cards use your own money at the time of sale, they are often easier to obtain than credit cards. At Provident, Visa debit cards are included free with all checking accounts, with no monthly fees or transaction charges.

Responsible Use

When choosing a PIN (Personal Identification Number) for the card's ATM and POS features, choose a number that a smart thief couldn't figure out. Avoid obvious choices, such as your address, phone number, or birth date. Then keep your PIN private. Memorize it. Don't write it down and never tell it to anyone. To minimize your risk, use different PINs for other cards, home banking, voice mail, combination locks, other online services, etc. If one of your PINs is ever compromised, you won't want all other aspects of your life to become vulnerable at the same time.

Know your current account balance. Don't forget about checks that have not yet cleared your account. If you're not sure where you stand, go online (with Provident's online banking) or use "Telephone Banking" (Provident's automated telephone service) to check your balance and recent transactions.

Always take sales receipts and carbons. They may contain valuable information a thief could use to make mail, phone, or Web purchases on your account.

Record your transactions in your check register as soon as possible. Then store your receipts safely in a secure place (i.e., not your wallet or purse) in case you need them later.

If your Provident Credit Union debit card is lost or stolen, contact Provident at (800) 449-7728 immediately. This reduces your liability to zero if fraud losses occur after you've contacted us.


Content on this page adapted in part from Visa, Practical Money Skills for Life with permission.