“We don’t accept those cards here” : why you can often only pay with credit cards and not debit cards

Debit cards and credit cards are often confused. This can be a problem on vacation. How they differ and what their advantages are.

A VISA Card type credit card is held next to a computer keyboard. Often, bank customers don't know the difference between this and a debit card. (symbol image)

It’s almost a classic credit card story. You fly on vacation or have to start a business trip and get a rental car for it. The moment you want to pay and pull out your card, you are told: "We do not accept these cards here." The vacation then comes to a standstill before it has even begun. And all because the supposed credit card is actually a debit card.

But what distinguishes both types of cards actually from each other? Is one card really worse than the other card? And how to recognize, What kind of card is in your own wallet? questions, the answers to which can greatly facilitate the start of a journey. To make the confusion about the numerous cards in the wallet disappear, we have once summarized the most important things on the subject:

What is a debit card?

A debit card is first of all no credit card. Debit cards can be obtained from savings banks or banks after opening a current account. Often this type of cards are also called EC cards, bank cards, savings bank cards or even ATM cards.

With a debit card, you can make cashless payments and withdraw money from the bank’s ATMs.

A debit card has the so-called ISO-7810 format. This means the card is about 86 by 54 millimeters in size and about 0.76 millimeters thick – just like credit cards, driver’s licenses or the electronic ID card introduced in Germany in November 2010.

Debit cards can be used with a specific secret code consisting of four digits (PIN), which is sent to you by the bank.

What is the difference between credit cards and debit cards?

The difference between the two types of cards lies primarily in their nature, when the current account is debited. A payment or withdrawal with a debit card debits the account directly after the transaction. With a credit card, the account is only charged after a certain period of time – usually after one month. So the bank first grants credit.

And it is exactly this credit that, for example, rental car companies or hotels sometimes still demand in order to have security. This is the reason that debit cards are not accepted there. Meanwhile, however, the acceptance of debit cards by hotel chains and car rental companies in Europe is increasing more and more.

If the debit card is accepted in hotels, for example, this means that the amount due, including the deposit, is debited directly. The account must be covered accordingly.

However, both debit cards and credit cards can be used for cashless and contactless payments. However, credit cards are advantageous when shopping on the Internet, on business trips, when booking a rental car or abroad. If you want to withdraw money abroad with a debit card, you have to expect high fees.

What are the advantages of a debit card?

  • Debit cards are in Domestic and also in the Abroad usable.
  • The risk of becoming get into debt, is small.
  • Debit cards offer a high level of Security.
  • The entire Credit of the account can be used.
  • Often the debit card in the Account management fees with included and therefore cheaper than credit cards.
  • The debit card is also suitable for people whose Credit rating not enough for a credit card.

Often debit cards also have a debit credit card function. This makes it usable abroad as well. A second card is therefore not necessary. If a debit card has such a feature, the bank where it was purchased can tell you about it. At the bank you also get information in which countries in the world the card works and in which not.

Due to the fact that debit cards are not credit cards, they are primarily suitable for people who are careful not to overdraw their account. Because with debit cards, the account is debited immediately. The account holders are thus able to have a complete overview of their expenses at all times.

Compared to credit cards, the debit card is also somewhat cheaper. It does not have to be bought in addition and is often already included in the account maintenance fees.

Moreover, the debit card is directly linked to the current account. This means that – unlike credit cards – no credit can be taken out. As soon as one pays with the card, the amount is debited from the account shortly thereafter. For this, the account must be covered in most cases, which in turn has the advantage that a Debt rather unlikely is.

The security of the debit cards is guaranteed by the so-called Personal Identification Number, the PIN, guarantees. The card and PIN should always be kept separate to prevent misuse in the event of wallet loss or theft.

How can you tell that you have a debit card??

Visually, credit and debit cards are virtually indistinguishable from each other. But if you look closely, you will find on most of the cards a hint. Usually in the corners of the cards is the small word "Debit" to find. Credit cards, on the other hand, often bear the word "Credit".

If the debit card also has a Maestro or V-PAY logo printed on the card, then the card can be used in other European countries and occasionally even outside Europe.

In addition a third card variant. Visa and Mastercard issue cards that are equivalent to a credit card but are actually debit cards. They have the same functions as credit cards as well as a corresponding credit card number.

More on the topic

Decision of the BGH Withdrawing money at the counter may cost extra – but not too much

A woman is having cash paid out at the counter in a bank branch

What distinguishes them from EC (debit) cards: they do not use the same payment system and do not have a credit card number.

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