What are the differences between debit and credit cards?

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Debit cards and credit cards are both payment cards, but they function differently and have distinct features. Here are the key differences between debit and credit cards:

1. Source of Funds:

  • Debit Card: Debit cards are linked to your bank account. When you make a purchase with a debit card, the money is deducted directly from your checking or savings account. You are spending the money you already have in the account.
  • Credit Card: Credit cards provide a line of credit. When you make a purchase with a credit card, you are essentially borrowing money from the credit card issuer. You will need to pay back the borrowed amount later, usually by the due date on your monthly credit card statement.

2. Spending Limit:

  • Debit Card: Your spending limit with a debit card is typically the amount of money available in your linked bank account. If you don’t have enough funds in your account, the transaction may be declined.
  • Credit Card: Credit cards have a predetermined credit limit set by the issuer. This limit represents the maximum amount you can charge on the card. You can spend up to this limit, but exceeding it may result in over-limit fees or declined transactions.

3. Interest and Fees:

  • Debit Card: Debit card transactions do not incur interest charges because you are using your own money. However, some banks may charge fees for certain types of transactions or for using ATMs outside of their network.
  • Credit Card: Credit card transactions can accrue interest charges if you carry a balance from month to month. The interest rate, known as the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), varies by card and can be substantial. Credit cards may also have annual fees, late payment fees, and other charges.

4. Credit Score Impact:

  • Debit Card: Using a debit card does not impact your credit score because it is not a form of credit. Debit card transactions are not reported to credit bureaus.
  • Credit Card: Credit card activity is reported to credit bureaus. Responsible use of a credit card, including making on-time payments and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, can positively affect your credit score. Conversely, late payments and high credit card balances can have a negative impact on your credit score.

5. Repayment:

  • Debit Card: You do not need to make monthly payments on debit card purchases. The funds are immediately deducted from your bank account when you make a transaction.
  • Credit Card: You are required to make at least a minimum payment on your credit card balance each month. If you carry a balance, you’ll be charged interest on the remaining amount.

6. Borrowing and Building Credit:

  • Debit Card: Debit cards do not help you build credit because they do not involve borrowing money or credit reporting.
  • Credit Card: Responsible use of a credit card can help you establish and build your credit history, which can be beneficial for future financial endeavors such as obtaining loans or mortgages.

In summary, the main difference between debit and credit cards is that debit cards use your own money, whereas credit cards allow you to borrow money with the obligation to repay it later. Each type of card has its advantages and considerations, and the choice between them depends on your financial goals and spending habits.

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