ATM Card, Debit Card & Credit Card Overview

Ever wondered what the difference is between ATM cards, debit cards and credit cards? Although they may look similar, each works slightly differently and has different considerations. Here’s a brief description of each type of card and how it can affect your checking account balance.


ATMs or Automated Teller Machines are mostly used for cash withdrawals. If a bank allows it, you can deposit money into the account during and outside of regular business banking hours.

All funds are instantly deducted from the customer’s account using the ATM card.

There is no liability if a card is lost or stolen and the user reports it before any fraudulent charges are made. If a missing card is reported within 2 days of fraudulent activity, the maximum liability is $50.

If a card is reported lost or stolen more than 2 days but less than 60 days after it went missing, the customer may be held liable for damages up to $500. After 60 days, the customer may be held responsible for the entire amount missing from their account, as well as any accounts that may be connected to it.


Credit cards allow the consumer to purchase goods and services by borrowing against an approved line of credit. This is a loan.

If you are unable to pay the balance in full, the credit card company charges you interest.

If payment is late, the credit card company may also charge a late fee and cancel the promotional interest rate.

Unlike ATMs or ATM/debit cards, all charges, as well as any cash advances, are not automatically deducted from your checking account, unless specific arrangements are made by the bank.

Credit cards have some additional protections that debit and ATM cards do not have. If a credit card is lost or stolen, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, the maximum liability is $50. If a missing card is reported before any fraudulent charges are made, there is no liability.

Type of CardImmediate Withdrawal from a bank accountReceive a bill and pay at a later dateLiability if lost or stolen 
ATMYesNoMax of $50 if reported within 2 days; $500 if reported within 60 days; entire contents of account/linked account if reported after 60 days.
ATM/Debit Card with Visa or MasterCard logo*YesNoMax of $50 if reported within 2 days; $500 if reported within 60 days; entire contents of account/linked account if reported after 60 days.
Credit Card (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa)NoYes$50 maximum


A debit card is a payment card that takes money directly from your checking account. Also called “check cards” or “bank cards,” debit cards can be used to purchase goods or services or to withdraw cash from an ATM. Debit cards can help reduce your need to carry cash, although these cards can sometimes incur fees.

How a Debit Card Works

A debit card is a card that is linked to your checking account. The amount you can spend on a debit card is determined by your account balance, not a credit limit like credit cards.

Unlike a credit card, you don’t go into debt when you use a debit card because you’re using it to access funds you already have. You don’t have to make a monthly minimum payment on a debit card because there’s no debt to pay off.

You can use a debit card to get cash from an ATM or you can make purchases with it like you would a credit card. With debit cards, you may be required to enter your PIN (personal identification number), although many debit cards can be used to make purchases without a PIN.

Debit cards withdraw funds instantly from the affiliate account. Therefore, your spending is limited to what’s available in your checking account, and the exact amount you can spend will fluctuate along with your account balance.

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