When I open up a regular checking account, I get an ATM/DEBIT card? So what exactly are the pros/cons of using a Visa/MC Debit card over the debit card provided by my bank?

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    I don't think I've seen a debit card that wasn't on either the Visa or Mastercard network (and branded as such). The only alternatives I've seen are ATM-only cards. You might want to doublecheck with the bank to find out whether this really is an either/or, and what the differences are if so. – keshlam Sep 30 '14 at 21:20
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    @keshlam In The Netherlands, Germany, and Canada, I had debit cards that were not on Visa or Mastercard. My Dutch and German cards were Maestro, my Canadian card is on the Cirrus network (among others). Both can be used not only at ATM's worldwide but also at all domestic and most international POS. Until recently I didn't know debit cards on Visa and Mastercard even existed. – gerrit Sep 30 '14 at 23:02
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    What country does this question relate to? – gerrit Sep 30 '14 at 23:04

ATM and Debit are not the same thing. ATM is a card that can only be used to withdraw money from the ATMs that belong to that bank (or participate in the same network). In some countries, ATM cards can be used for shopping if the merchant is equipped with an appropriate reader and is participating in an appropriate network.

Debit card can be used for purchases in any store showing the appropriate (Visa/MC) logo, and withdraw money at any ATM showing the appropriate (Visa/MC or the ATM network that appears on the card) logo.

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    Many debit cards can also function as ATM cards, which may be one source of confusion. In fact, some stores here in the US will ask me which way I want them to run the card. It's less expensive for them if I let them submit it through the ATM networks, but the authentication mechanism is different. The banks claim that both paths are equally secure. – keshlam Sep 30 '14 at 23:11
  • @keshlam in some places credit cards are also functioning as ATM cards while debit cards are almost never used. – littleadv Oct 1 '14 at 2:16
  • Ah. Good enough; can speak only to may own experience/knowledge. – keshlam Oct 1 '14 at 3:14
  • @littleadv Isn't it also true that using a credit card as an ATM card (getting cash from the ATM machine) counts as taking a cash advance from the credit card account, on which sum interest is charged from the day the transaction occurred till the cash advance is paid off in full? – Dilip Sarwate Oct 31 '14 at 14:00
  • @DilipSarwate no, it is not, in the countries I was referring to. – littleadv Oct 31 '14 at 14:59

In Canada, there are many stores that take debit (Interac) but don't take Visa or MasterCard. For example, a corner store. In the US the reverse is often true: every tiny place seems to take Visa or MasterCard, but not debit.

A Visa debit card looks like a Visa card to the merchant. It therefore has the benefit of being usable at places that only take Visa. (Substitute MasterCard as necessary.) This benefit is very small in Canada, less so elsewhere. Meanwhile the money is actually coming out of your bank account just like a debit card, which therefore has the benefit that you're not borrowing money, can't accidentally overspend, and run no risk of incurring interest charges. It is also a way to get what appears to be a credit card when you can't qualify for credit.

If you do the majority of your spending in Canada, you don't need a Visa or MasterCard debit card. Your regular debit card (Interac) will work fine for you. If you have a credit card anyway (from another bank or whatever) then again, you don't need a debit card that can pretend to be a credit card.


Visa and Mastercard offer a variety of benefits to their cardholders. It's all in the initial information that may come in one, two or more parcels describing the relationship the two of you are in.

I can't enumerate the services, but it ranges from things like automatic rental car insurance to price matching.

You'll really have to compare the product with your banks'.

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    In my experience most of those benefits are offered only on credit cards, not on debit cards. My experience may be incomplete. – keshlam Oct 1 '14 at 3:15
  • @keshlam Oh, I answered assuming it came with the logo. I'll take it down if this is wrong. – Louis Oct 1 '14 at 3:20
  • @keshlam Visa does seem to offer some benefits as a brand package, debit & credit. – Louis Oct 1 '14 at 3:27

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