Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards: What are the pros and cons of a credit card and debit card? What are the differences between them?

A credit card is a small plastic card issued by a bank, credit union, or other financial company which allows you to purchase goods or services on credit. The financial company usually establishes a credit limit that has the potential to increase or decrease depending on your spending habits and if you make payments on time. On a positive side, credit cards have a few advantages. In general, a credit card can be looked at as a 30-day, interest-free loan, as long as your monthly bills are paid off in full. Your credit card will allow you to begin to establish a credit history.

On the other hand, credit cards usually have high interest rates that will go into effect if you don’t pay a bill on time or don’t pay a bill at all. The interest amount accumulates over time, depending on how long it takes you to pay off the debt. Credit cards also are very vulnerable to fraud. It is important to monitor your purchase history, usually through a monthly paper or electronic statement. Monitoring helps you notice fraudulent activity. Lastly, if payments aren’t submitted on time, your credit history will be negatively affected, hurting your chances for future loans and other financial options to be issued to you.

A debit card is also a small plastic card that allows the holder to purchase goods and services, but it is usually issued by a bank or credit union. These cards are usually linked to a savings or checking account, where you will deposit funds for usage on the card.

Debit cards have several advantages that may be appealing to you! When you use a debit card, you are only allowed to spend the amount of cash that is available in your checking or savings account. (If have overdraft protection and you spend more, there may be immediate fees.) With this in mind, there is usually no need to carry cash as this is an equivalent. There are no interest rates ever associated with debit cards, due to the fact that you are spending your own money as opposed to taking a loan out with credit cards. Debit cards also have no effect on your credit history as there is no credit being used. Taking this into account, anyone who has a checking or savings account is able to sign up for a debit card, making it a viable option to consumers.

On the other hand, debit cards come with possible overdraft fees, which are put into effect if you spend more than what is in your checking or savings account associated with your debit card. If you choose a debit card, you are also required to remember a PIN number to make any transactions with the card. This PIN number must be kept confidential at all times!

Surely, several differences exist between credit and debit cards. If you have a credit card, monthly bills can be accessed electronically, or you can choose to have them mailed to you. On the other hand, debit cards have no monthly statements, which means you must keep track of your own expenses via your checking or savings account. For credit cards, there is a liability limit of $50. More often than not, you are not held liable for fraudulent activity. Furthermore, there is a lot less fraud protection with debit cards. There is a liability limit of up to $50 if you report in within two days of noticing the fraud. But your liability increases to more — or even everything in your account — depending on how quickly the fraudulent activity is reported.

 

Written by Joey Gangichiodo, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, December 2014. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

Where is the best place to bank on campus?

We can’t tell you where to bank, but we can help you narrow down your options by knowing what to look for in a financial institution (bank or credit union).

When choosing a financial institution, you’ll want to think about the following things:

  • Convenience
  • Services
  • Security
  • Costs

Shop Around: For a list of questions to ask when shopping for a new financial institution, check out University of Illinois Extension Financial Wellness for College Students’ website.

You can check out the map below for brick & mortar locations of different financial institutions near the three main University of Illinois campuses, and you can watch our recorded webinar, Establishing Your Roots: Getting Started with Financial Services, if you’d like to learn more about choosing the right financial products and services for your needs.

To learn even more about how to manage your finances while in college, including what to look for in a financial institution, you can watch another recorded webinar, Cash at College: Spending, Saving & Student Loans.

What happens to the interest on my federal loans while I’m in school?

All federal student loans have a variable or fixed interest rate that is set by Congress. The interest rate will vary depending on the type of loan you borrow and when the loan disburses. In most cases, if you have borrowed a loan since 2007, your loan will have a fixed interest rate. This means the interest rate will remain the same for the life of the loan or until it is completely repaid.

The amount of interest that accrues (accumulates) on your loan from month to month is determined by a simple daily interest formula. This formula consists of multiplying your loan balance by the number of days since the last payment times the interest rate factor. The interest rate factor is determined by dividing your loan’s interest rate by the number of days in the year. (Federal Student Aid)

Simple daily interest formula:

Outstanding principal balance
X number of days since last payment
X interest rate factor
= interest amount

Interest will accrue while you are enrolled in school. However, if you have a Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, the government will pay the interest that accrues while you are in school as long as you are enrolled at least half-time.

If you borrow a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan or Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan you will be responsible for paying the interest that accrues while you are enrolled in school. Students enrolled half-time or more do have the right to receive an in-school deferment from their loan servicer. Students are still responsible for repaying the interest that accrues, but the payments are not due during the deferment period. Interest that accrues during a student’s deferment will capitalize (be added to principal amount borrowed). Capitalization occurs at the time you enter repayment and results in a higher amount to be repaid.

Written by Josh Keen, Office of Student Financial Aid

My account is in collections. What should I do?

When your account goes past due and is now in collections, be proactive! These tips can help you cope with and resolve accounts in collections.

OWN IT/ DON’T IGNORE IT. Contact your creditor and tell them what happened. You do not need to divulge personal information; just be truthful and give the basic facts. Most accounts receivable specialists, or “collectors,” will welcome this approach, have worked with many people in similar situations, and probably have options available.

HAVE A PLAN. The collectors don’t know what your resources are, so be prepared to offer some alternatives. Can you pay interest only for a few months or make a partial payment on the past due balance? Ask your representative for advice and what they recommend during times of temporary financial distress.

FOLLOW THROUGH. Do what you have agreed. Do not hesitate to contact the company again if your plans or resources change. Stay in continuous contact until you are able to bring your account up to date.

Written by Mark Austin, Collection Manager, University Student Financial Services & Cashier Operations

Why get a savings account?

The most noticeable benefit of a savings account is interest earned on money deposited. The interest rate on a savings account is currently very low, but it still provides extra money. A savings account has many characteristics of a checking account, but it offers other benefits. A benefit of having a savings account is that it can create a saving mindset. Finally, a savings account will provide additional security.

A savings account annual interest rate is, as of April 2015, ranging anywhere from .05% to 1%. This may not seem like a high number, but it is still creating money. For example, 1% of a thousand dollars is ten dollars. Current rates can be checked regularly through your institution’s website or other online sources such as http://www.bankrate.com/.

A savings account is a great offer because it has very high liquidity. Liquidity measures how quick an asset or any financial instrument can be converted into cash (usually into a checking account). The process is as simple as doing a quick online transfer from savings to checking. In addition to having liquidity, a savings account is backed by the FDIC in conjunction with a bank’s checking account, or the NCUSIF if your saving account is with a credit union. Your account is insured up to $250,000. (Personal limits also apply if you have multiple accounts.) Basically, a savings account provides interest with zero risk on savings up to $250,000. Specific variations on a savings account, like a money market account, may provide higher interest rates but may limit the amount of transactions that can occur. It is important to talk with a bank or credit union representative to figure out which account fits your needs.

Besides earning interest, savings accounts are great for creating a saving mindset. First, while savings accounts are liquid, the money is set aside from regular checking. This makes it more difficult to spend unexpected amounts of money on any good or service. The process of transferring money from savings to checking creates time to mull over the decision and can prevent unnecessary expensive purchases. However, the money is still available and accessible in times of emergency. Next, taking extra income and depositing into a savings account can develop a mindset more geared towards saving. Saving money is important for achieving future financial goals, and a savings account is the first step in saving and earning interest income.

Finally, a savings account can create additional security for money stored in an account. For example, a savings account has a different account number than the checking account, so if account information were to get stolen, the savings account funds would remain difficult to be stolen. It is a good idea to not link your debit card to your savings account. This will create an extra barrier if your debit card were to get stolen.

In conclusion, a savings account is a great complement to a regular checking account. It provides many of the same features of a checking account but earns interest on the money deposited. It also allows you to create a saving mindset which is important in the long run. Savings accounts can also come in many different styles, so it’s important to contact your financial institution to figure out which is right for you!

Written by Jonathan Alton, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, and Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension