Did you know you can use your debit card without entering a PIN? Identity thieves hacking into merchants’ hardware and software and stealing customers’ PINs have made using a debit card risky business. And some merchants, such as gas stations, transmit balance inquiries each time you use a debit card, racking up bank charges. Here’s an easy way to foil them:
When you get to the merchant’s cash register, swipe your debit card, then select “credit” on the keypad and sign the receipt. Your money still comes direct from your checking account, but when you sign for your purchase, you don’t have to enter a PIN. So, even though you’ve used your debit card, you haven’t put your PIN into the system.
This bit of intelligence comes from the Arizona State Credit Union and is confirmed by another credit union in Virginia. The Virginia credit union adds that the strategy also will avoid balance inquiry fees, which occur when you shop at places like gas stations that transmit balance inquiries when customers use debit or ATM cards, because such merchants don’t do balance inquiries when you select “credit.”
Alternatively, you can tell the cashier that you want to sign for your purchase. She or he will ask you to sign the receipt, as you would do with a credit card.
According to The Consumerist, selecting “credit” with a debit card sends the transaction through a different network than the one used for PIN transactions. Banks like you to do this because merchants have to pay more money for signature debits. But it doesn’t cost you a thing.