Credit Card vs Debit Card

At first glance, credit and debit cards may seem like the same thing. They both have a 16-digit number, a magnetic strip, an expiration date, a three-digit security code printed on the back and are usually branded with either the Visa or Mastercard logo. You can use both to make purchases at stores or online, pay bills, withdraw cash from an ATM, and transfer money internationally and domestically.

However, despite these similarities, there are some major distinctions between credit and debit cards in terms of the type of money you’re spending when using them, how they work, their benefits and drawbacks, and how they can impact your financial standing.

So, to answer the question, “What is the difference between credit and debit cards?” We’ll have to examine every one of those angles in detail.

What Is a Credit Card?

Credit cards are issued by financial institutions, usually banks, extending you a line of credit that allows you to borrow money up to a specific limit. This means that when you buy something using your credit card, you’re essentially borrowing money from the bank, which you’ll have to pay back later with interest, according to the terms of your agreement with the issuer. 

How much you can borrow, or your credit limit, typically depends on several factors, such as your credit score, income, repayment history, and other creditworthiness criteria. 

How Do Credit Cards Work?

Whether you’re using your credit card to buy a new pair of shoes, book a hotel stay, pay for your electricity bill, get cash out of an ATM, or send money to Pakistan, the process is pretty much the same. For each transaction, the issuing financial institution covers the cost and adds that amount to your balance, creating debt.

At the end of each billing cycle, typically 30 days long, you’ll receive a credit card statement detailing how much you’ve spent, how much you’ll need to repay and when your payment is due

You can choose to pay your balance in full on or before the due date to avoid accruing interest on your debt. Or, you can make the minimum payment (the smallest amount you can pay to keep your account in good standing) or any payment that’s less than your total owed balance. In this case, you’ll stave off late charges, but your remaining balance will continue to incur interest.

Credit Card Pros and Cons

Like any financial tool, credit cards have advantages and disadvantages. The weight you assign to each of these aspects will come down to your lifestyle, spending habits, and financial goals.

Pros of Credit Card Use

In the debit card vs credit card debate, there are definitely some areas where the latter comes out on top, including:

  • Building Credit History

Every time you use your credit card, the issuer reports that activity to the major credit bureaus, creating a paper trail that shows how responsible you are in managing your finances. This trail includes positive marks like on-time payments and credit utilisation (the ratio of your balance to your credit limit) and negative indicators like late payments and defaults.

Such information is often used to calculate your credit score. With a history of big purchases and consistent repayment, you could gradually boost or maintain a good credit score — something that will open doors to better financial opportunities like low-interest loans and mortgages.

  • Receiving Rewards and Perks

Credit cards often incorporate reward programs to entice cardholders to use them more frequently. These can include one-time bonuses for signing up for a new card, reward points you can redeem for cash back or discounts on purchases, travel miles that add up over time to earn you free flights and hotel stays and many other perks. 

  • Protecting Your Transactions From Fraud

If your credit card is ever lost or stolen, you can report the incident to your issuer and have them freeze your account to prevent further unauthorised charges. In the meantime, you won’t be liable for paying for those purchases. 

You’ll also be protected by the zero-liability coverage instituted by credit card networks like Visa and Mastercard, which absolves you of any responsibility if your card is used fraudulently.

  • Enhancing Your Financial Flexibility

Credit cards give you some financial leeway to meet unexpected expenses or make big-ticket purchases when you don’t have enough cash on hand. This could be especially helpful if you’re between paychecks, just starting a new job, have irregular income, or are facing an emergency.

Cons of Credit Card Use

Now, let’s have a look at some of the drawbacks of using credit cards:

  • Racking Up Debt

When you use your credit card, you’re spending borrowed money that you’ll have to repay later with interest. As a result, if you’re not on top of your card usage, you could easily end up with gigantic balances on multiple cards that could become overwhelming to pay off.

  • Accruing Interest and Fees

Interest follows loans, which is basically what your credit card transactions are. If you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, it’ll carry over to the next with interest, and if this becomes a habit, you might find yourself paying more in interest month by month. 

Additionally, although credit cards come with perks, they often have sizable fees attached to them, such as annual fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees and more. Usually, the more benefits and rewards you get, the higher the annual fee will be. So, you’ll have to weigh whether those extras are worth the additional expense. 

  • Jeopardising Your Credit Score

As much as responsible credit card usage can help you build credit, reckless or careless spending can do the opposite. Late payments, maxing out your card, applying for too many credit cards in a short period and other actions that suggest you’re not effectively managing debt could hurt your score.

What Is a Debit Card?

Debit cards are issued by your bank and automatically draw money from your checking or savings account when you make a purchase, withdraw cash from an ATM or use other services.

How Do Debit Cards Work?

Unlike credit cards, debit cards only allow you to spend money that’s already in your bank accounts. For this reason, you’ll need to have sufficient funds for your transactions to go through.

If you don’t, two things could happen: 

  • Your transaction will be declined, and that’s the end of it.
  • If your account has an overdraft option activated, your transaction will be approved, and the bank will lend you money to cover the shortfall. However, you’ll have to pay back the amount plus any overdraft fees.

Debit Card Advantages and Disadvantages

The following are the arguments for and against debit card usage:

The Advantages of Using Debit Cards

Despite being viewed as basic payment tools by some, it’s from that very simplicity that debit cards derive their advantages:

  • Avoiding Debt

No debt, no interest, no monthly payments. Again, you’re only spending, withdrawing, or transferring money that you already have in your account. That way, even the most reckless debit card use can’t get you in debt.

  • Safeguarding Your Transactions Against Fraud

What is the difference between credit and debit cards when it comes to fraudulent transactions? The answer used to be a lot. However, nowadays, many of the features that credit cards have adopted for their users’ protection also apply to debit cardholders, like zero-liability coverage.

However, if there’s one area where those cards still differ, it’s in the speed with which you must report an unauthorised transaction to your bank. Generally, you’d want to act fast with both types of cards. But because debit cards are linked to your accounts, one compromised transaction could quickly drain your bank balance or accumulate overdraft fees, so the earlier you report it, the faster your bank can act to minimise damages. 

  • Enjoying No Annual or Cash Advance Fees

Debit cards don’t charge annual fees, nor do they allow you to take cash more than you have in your account. 

The Disadvantages of Using Debit Cards

Relying solely on debit cards for your financial transactions also has its downsides:

  • No Credit-Building Benefits

To achieve good credit, you must show lenders that you borrowed money and returned it on time. Since no part of this process applies to debit card transactions, using them is of no help in building your credit.

  • No Reward Programs

Debit cards don’t offer reward points, cash back or travel miles like credit cards. Think about it: What would be the point of incentivising you to use your own money?

Debit Card VS Credit Card: Which One is Best for You?

Now that you know the differences between both types of cards, how they work, and the credit and debit cards advantages and disadvantages, you can surely tell that the choice of which one to utilise will depend on how you manage your finances, your spending patterns, and what you’re looking to get out of using it.

If you are confident in your ability to pay off your balances each month, seeking to build credit, or are interested in rewards, then credit cards can be an excellent option for you. However, if you’re a stickler for avoiding debt at all costs and are comfortable living only within your means, then debit cards could be a better fit for your financial lifestyle

It also doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. Many people use both cards effectively; however, they exercise more caution with their credit card spending to ensure that they can pay off their balances and avoid falling into debt. 

Ultimately, whichever option you choose, ensure it aligns with your financial goals and priorities. 

Send Money Online With Credit Cards and Debit Cards Effortlessly With TangoPay

TangoPay is a leading digital payment platform in the UK that supports credit and debit card money transfers to Bangladesh, India, China, Turkey, Nepal, Pakistan and over 70 other countries worldwide. 

Our app, available on both iOS and Android, simplifies the process of sending money internationally with: 

  • Top-notch security and encryption measures to keep your information safe. We’re also licensed and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • Unbeatable exchange rates and low fees, so you can get the most out of every transfer.
  •  Fast delivery times of your funds directly to your recipient’s bank account, mobile wallet, or cash pick-up in several locations globally.
  • User-friendly interface through which you can track your transfers, view transaction history and manage recipients with ease. 
  • Ongoing offers, promotions and rewards to give you the most value for your money.

Send money online to any bank account from your credit card or debit card with TangoPay today. 

Download the TangoPay app, link your cards, and enjoy no fees on your transfers for the first three months.