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Exclusive   Check Card Survey 2007
  STATISTIC: ATM transactions reached a high of 13 billion in 2001 and have  
  since decreased to 10 billion due to the rise in the use of check cards.  
   
Check Card Survey 2007

Is it an ATM card or a check card?
 

ATM card, debit card, check card: What's the difference?

While the definitions might vary among banking institutions, the difference is how the transaction is processed and what you can do with each card.

ATM cards
An automated teller machine card lets a cardholder deposit or withdraw cash, check balances and transfer money between accounts at a machine, whether at the bank or at a machine in another location. A personal identification number, or PIN, must be used with the ATM card.

The transaction is processed over an electronic fund transfer, or EFT, network, such as Cirrus, Interlink, NYCE, Plus or Pulse. ATMs have been in use since the mid-1960s, but gained wide acceptance in the mid- to late-1980s.

Debit cards or check cards
Debit cards or check cards came along in the mid-1990s. They are issued by a bank and carry a Discover, Visa or MasterCard logo. They can be used anywhere those cards are accepted. Most debit cards double as ATM cards as well as point-of-sale cards. Cardholders can use a PIN or sign for purchases, and when used for purchases such as groceries, they can get cash back.

The transaction is processed over the bank card's credit card network.

In both cases, the money is withdrawn from the checking account almost immediately.

For retailers, there's another difference: PIN transactions cost less in interchange fees -- the fee they pay to the banks and bank-card issuers to process a purchase -- than signature-based transactions.

-- Posted: Mar. 12, 2007
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Checking Basics: Debit cards
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