Is Using a Debit Card As a Credit Card Online Safe?

Hackers often attempt to access payment information accepted by online merchants. When you use your debit card like a credit card online, you run the risk that unscrupulous individuals could tap into the merchant's website and begin making fraudulent charges against your account. Many websites have security measures in place, but instances of Internet-based fraud are still fairly common. However, protections exist that limit your liability in the event that you become the victim of fraud.


Under federal law, if you notice a fraudulent debit card-based transaction on your bank statement and report it to your bank within two days of receiving your statement, you are liable for no more than $50 of fraudulent transactions. If you fail to report a fraud within two days but notify your bank within 60 days, then you are liable for up to $500 in fraudulent charges. If you do not report the fraud to your bank within 60 days, then you are liable for all of the charges.

Zero Liability

Every debit card carries the logo of a payment processing network such as Visa, MasterCard or Discover. All three of these processing firms, plus many smaller payment processing companies, provide cardholders with zero liability protection. This protection goes above and beyond the required protection mandated by federal law and this added protection provides debit cardholders with peace of mind. However, this zero liability coverage only applies to online purchases and signature-based purchases that involve using your debit card like a credit card. Withdrawals made using your personal identification numbers are not covered.


Despite the benefits of zero liability on most online debit card purchases, you still have to contend with the inconvenience of having limited access to your funds for several days. Generally, payment processing firms credit money back to your account within five business days. If the payment processing firm later determines that the charges were not fraudulent, the company can debit your account for the money that was reimbursed you. If your debit card does not have zero liability coverage, then you must file claims through your bank and your bank can take up to 60 days to process your appeal. In the meantime, you may encounter problems with paying your bills until you are reimbursed.


Using your debit card online enables you to make purchases without having to leave your home and you can often find better deals online than at local stores. However, the danger of a thief temporarily draining the funds from your account, in many people's eyes offsets the benefits that debit cards provide. To remedy this problem, many people establish two checking accounts and two debit cards. They use one card and account for online purchases and the other for day-to-day expenses. This way you do not have to worry that thieves can drain your account leaving you unable to pay your bills if the debit card you use online becomes compromised.

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