With most check cards, points are earned only on signature purchases
and aren't earned in specific cases including ATM withdrawals, balance
transfers or payments made to prepaid or reloadable cards.
"I guess consumers have shown that they do respond
to rewards, even when those rewards are less substantial than on
the credit side," Sloane says. "I still believe the primary
consumer motivation is better management of their finances. Secondary
motivation is the thought that, 'as long as I'm using my debit card,
I might as well get something back from that.'"
Regardless of the differences between credit card
and check card reward programs, one has to evaluate how one uses
"Credit card reward programs only work if you
use the rewards and pay off the balance every month," says
McBride. "If you do pay off your balance every month, you have
no need to use a debit card. You can use the issuer's money until
the bill comes and keep your own cash in an interest-earning account."
Another feature of credit cards that has been added to check cards
is fraud and loss protection. Discover Card-, Visa- and MasterCard-branded
check cards now have the same fraud and loss protections as credit
cards. In Bankrate's survey, every bank that offers debit cards
provides fraud and loss protection.
The Fair Credit Billing Act and the Electronic Funds
Transfer Act provide procedures for consumers to follow if a credit
or debit card is lost or stolen.
Under the FCBA, your maximum liability for a stolen
credit card is $50.
The EFTA, which covers debit cards, says liability
is dependent on how quickly you report the loss or theft. If you
report the theft within two business days, you are liable only for
$50 in unauthorized use.
If you don't report the loss in two business days,
according to the Federal Trade Commission, "you could lose
up to $500 because of an unauthorized transfer. You also risk unlimited
loss if you fail to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days
after your bank statement containing unauthorized use is mailed
to you. That means you could lose all the money in your bank account
and the unused portion of your line of credit established for overdrafts."
While the FTC's warnings about losing a check card
are dire, the reality may be much less scary. Over the past few
years, Discover Card, Visa and MasterCard have extended their zero
liability protection to check cards. In effect, check cards now
have the same protections as credit cards.
For Visa, offering zero liability "makes sense,"
says Krattli. "We make sure you have acceptance wherever you shop and make
you feel as secure as you can be about your purchase. That's part of our brand
promise -- payment options, acceptance, comfort and security for purchases."