How to Track Debit Card Purchases

Balancing your checkbook is a great way to manage your debit card transactions.
Image Credit: Oscar Wong/Moment/GettyImages

Debit and credit cards have given consumers unparalleled access to funds no matter where they are in the world (and on the internet). Many credit card companies are now striving to provide tools to track purchases and the debit card itself. That's because, with a debit card, the stakes are higher. Worrying about the balance of your account and ensuring your card hasn't been used illegitimately is a common concern – understanding how debit cards and their chips function can help make financial decisions feel more secure.

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Debit Cards and Chips

Modern debit and credit cards contain something called a smart (EMV) chip. According to the team at CNB Bank, EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. However, these days, the technology has been accepted by and is in use within many other major credit card companies such as American Express, Discover and UnionPay. These chips are a security measure that has been designed to make credit and debit cards more difficult to hijack. However, they do not function to track your physical card – instead, these chips help protect your credit card from theft.

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In previous iterations, a credit or debit card's unique number was encoded in the magnetic strip on the back of the card. Smart chips or EMV strips encode a new number for every transaction, which makes it much more difficult to steal or hack. However, this same technology makes it very difficult to track the physical location of your card, as the information it transmits constantly changes. That being said, there are several ways you can make sure your card is safe and that you can use it wherever you are.

Debit Cards vs. Credit Cards

Debit cards function differently from credit cards – the purchases you make are debited against your actual cash account balance (savings or checking). You can't run up a balance and pay it off later as you can with a credit card. Since your bank may take a while to register debit card transactions, you may check your balance and think you have enough money for a purchase without seeing a number of other debit transactions in the queue. In this way, it's easy to overdraw a debit card; tracking debit card purchases is essential.

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Because debit card purchases are linked directly to the actual cash balance you hold in your bank account, having your debit card stolen may be devastating. Fraudulent transactions can be more difficult to dispute, and you may be subject to overdraft charges.

Debit Card Company Tracker Tools

There are a number of resources you may use to track your debit card purchases. The first place you should look for assistance is a "track my debit card" or "spending tracking app" from the bank that issued the card. According to the writers at Forbes, most modern banks and credit unions provide apps that will let you track the transactions on your card before they affect your bank balance; however, features will vary from app to app. You'll need to determine which features matter most to you when selecting a financial institution to work with.

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Some credit card companies that also handle debit card transactions help synchronize the location of your smartphone with the location of your purchases. In this way, you can both assure your bank that your purchases are legitimate when you travel outside the area in which you normally shop or flag purchases that are definitely not yours.

Additional Tracking Tools

Finally, you may also track your debit card purchases through third-party apps such as Mint or You Need a Budget. These apps will help you collate transaction data across all your debit or credit accounts so you can see if you're spending more than you're earning or what categories you're spending more money in.

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You can also use a spreadsheet to track purchases and estimate your account balance – however, this requires a bit more discipline. In the end, while a debit card's smart chip doesn't allow you to track the physical location of the card, modern technology provides you with a number of ways to track debit card purchases, whether to prevent theft or to ensure you don't overdraw your balance.

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