BACK

Credit Scores and Reports

Debit card payments: PIN or signature?

Summary

Three reasons to choose the signature (credit) option over punching in a PIN when using a debit card.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Debit cards are rapidly gaining popularity.  Consumers who in the past were unable to pay with plastic now can get approved for a standard bank-issued debt card or a prepaid debit card to use as an alternative to cash.

Unlike a credit card, a standard bank-issued debit card authorizes a merchant to take money directly from your checking account.

When paying with a debit card, there are two options.  You can either swipe your card through a reader and enter a personal identification number (PIN), or you can sign a receipt without entering a PIN. Regardless of your selection, the payment is taken directly from your account.

Still, some experts recommend that debit card users opt for the “credit” selection. Here are three reasons:

  • You avoid paying transaction fees. A few banks charge from $0.10 to $2 each time you use your PIN, but there are generally no such fees for signature transactions.
  • You could earn rewards. Some debit cards offered by major issuers provide points toward rewards.  Most of these programs, however, only let you earn points for signature debits, or provide more points for signatures than PINs.  Regardless, you earn very little when the programs are free, with enrollment costing $20 to $60 annually for rewards programs that rival those of credit cards.  At that rate, it takes a lot of debit card payments in order to break even.
  • You may experience greater security.  Visa and MasterCard offer “zero liability” if someone uses a stolen debit card to drain your account.  But some banks only provide this protection for signature debits, so you should find out if PIN debits are also protected.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Credit Scores and Reports

Credit card debt a big concern on college campuses

Studies show college student credit cards affect not only their finances, but their education as well.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: July 2nd, 2020
Business
13.91%
Airline
15.48%
Cash Back
16.09%
Reward
15.82%
Student
16.12%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.