Consumer Watch: Dangers Of Debit Card Use

Friday, November 9th 2012, 10:56 pm
By: News 9

A Consumer Watch warning shoppers should consider before whipping out that debit card for Christmas shopping.

We might think it's smarter to use a card connected to our checking accounts over a high-interest credit card, but doing so may open up the opportunity for more trouble and expenses. That's because credit cards offer more protection if we have to make a return or if someone else gets a hold of them.

Friday night, we have a list of the worst places to use debit cards, according to the Better Business Bureau.

We like to avoid the lines and crowds by shopping online. So do hackers. The unsecured online networks increase the risk of identity theft.

Read about other consumer news from the BBB.

And don't buy big ticket items, like TVs, with a debit card. We have better luck with returns or exchanges when paying with credit.

Other debit card don'ts:

  • Gas stations. Pay at the pump is convenient, but thieves can easily steal card numbers with a skimming device.
  • Free standing ATM machines, like at convenience stores and casinos, also aren't as secure as the ones at our banks.
  • Need to rent a car? When we use a credit card, we have more protection if something happens to it.
  • And never use your debit card for recurring payments. It's much easier to cancel if we use a credit card.

The top place the BBB says thieves often steal card numbers may surprise you: hotels.

"The minute you hand over your debit or credit card to the person at the desk at the hotel, you're putting your life in their hands," BBB President Bob Manista said. "I don't want to cast everybody, paint them with a big broad brush, but it seems like there's a trend for the theft of the card numbers at hotels."

Manista suggests we monitor our accounts for several months after a hotel stay to make sure there aren't any unknown charges.

If you're worried about the big bill and interest after the holidays, Manista says to set a budget.

"If you can stick to it, you're far better off most of the time using a credit card to make these purchases," Manista said. "The key is being responsible with your spending."

Read more from the BBB about setting up a good Holiday budget.