Tips for Using a Debit Card Online

Our debit card makes it easy to spend from your checking account, and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere credit cards are accepted. But if you have the option to use a credit card, it’s probably safer to use credit — especially when shopping online.

How to Stay Safe Using Your Debit Card

To reduce the likelihood of problems, follow some basic security rules.

  • Look for the lock: Make sure you’re shopping on a secure website, especially when it’s time to enter your card number. Look for the lock icon in your browser and pay attention to any security warnings that pop up.
  • Monitor your account: It’s always a good idea to keep tabs on your money, and it’s especially important if you’re sharing account information online. Check on your accounts regularly (once per month is a bare minimum — more often is better). Set up alerts in your account so you know when money goes out.
  • Use secure connections: Mobile devices and free Wi-Fi make it easy to get things done. But you never know how secure a public hotspot is. If you’re going to access financial accounts or punch in card numbers, save those tasks for when you’re at home or work and you know your traffic is safe.
Debit Card Protection

Federal law offers some protection against fraud in your checking account, but you have to report trouble as soon as possible. If you spot the problem and notify your bank, your liability can be limited:

  • You’re liable for up to $50 if you call your bank within two days of fraudulent use.
  • You’re responsible for up to $500 if you report the problem within 60 days.
  • You can be held 100% responsible if you don’t report the problem within 60 days.

Some debit cards come with additional protection from the card issuer, so you’re safer than federal law requires. These services are often called “zero liability” policies or similar.

However, your card still pulls from your checking account – so you’ll have to wait at least a few days to get your money back. If your checking account is running on empty, that’s going to cause a domino effect.

If you're using a prepaid debit card (as opposed to one that came with your checking account), you might have less protection than described above — so be sure to research your card's policies before using it online.