Q: I've been reading about all of this debit card fraud lately and here's my question: When you say people shouldn't use a debit card, does that mean when I'm asked "debit or credit?" at the register, then I should always say credit? When I'm in the grocery store or certain minor transactions, I always say "credit" because I don't want to use a PIN.
When making major purchases or a company I'm not as familiar, however reputable, I only use a credit card -- not my debit card. But on my debit card, does saying "credit" instead of "debit" make a difference?
-- A.C. Cleveland
The biggest problem is that you have a debit card with the MasterCard logo that can be used with or without your secret PIN.
When store clerks ask you "credit or debit," they're really referring to which network your transaction will run through and what documentation will be requested to prove you have the right to use that card.
If it runs through as a "credit" transaction, that means it runs through the MasterCard or Visa network and you need only sign or scribble for the transaction to go through. If it runs through as a "debit" transaction, that means it runs through the Automated Clearing House network and you must use your secret PIN for that transaction. That doesn't prevent your number from being used other times without your PIN.
You're smart, though, to avoid using your debit card at merchants you don't know well. That's a start.
A better tactic might be to not have a debit card on your primary checking account. A breach exposes your direct deposit and all of your obligations, such as your mortgage, rent, utilities, credit card payments, etc.
Q: I have asked Chase Bank and Huntington Bank if they offer debit cards without Visa or MasterCard logos. They do not. Could you publish a list of Cleveland area banks that do?
-- S.D. Euclid
A: Your question made me want to bang my head against
the wall. It infuriates me that banks - either through their branches or toll-free customer service lines - give people incorrect information.
Virtually every major bank in this area indeed offers a debit card without the Visa or MasterCard logo. The main exception is Third Federal, which does not have its own ATM network. The other newer exception is Ohio Savings, which has discontinued offering PIN-only cards except in special circumstances.
Chase spokesman Mike Fusco said Thursday: "We do offer ATM-only cards on request. However, most customers prefer to have a debit card with a MasterCard or Visa logo."
Huntington also still offers PIN-only cards: "The answer is, yes we do," said spokesman Bill Eiler.
Here's what I believe: Most banks will do everything they can to discourage you from demanding a PIN-only card. Some banks, like PNC, Key and FirstMerit, penalize you about $1 a month if you don't want a debit card with the MasterCard or Visa logo. Others will tell you all of the advantages of the logo debit cards. Others will tell you they don't offer PIN-only debit cards.
Banks want you to have a debit card because it's a major source of revenue for you. They make money every time you use it.
If you want a PIN-only debit card, don't take no for an answer.
Q: Last week, I asked KeyBank for a PIN-only debit card without the MasterCard or Visa logo. They said it only works only with a personal identification number and can be used only be used at an ATM machine to withdraw money. They said it would not work at a grocery store, department store or other merchants. -- L.H. Mentor
A: The answer you got was partially correct. PIN-only debit cards won't work any place that doesn't have a PIN pad. Who has PIN pads? ATMs do. Most grocery stores do. Many stores like Walgreen's do. Most
But Key is correct that you wouldn't be able to use your PIN-only debit card at many places, such as restaurants and department stores.