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which is the best for you?

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The first experience of paying with plastic instead of cash for many people is their debit card, which gives consumers direct access to money in their checking account.

But while debit cards have some advantages over credit – they don’t make it easy for consumers to get into debt the way credit cards do, for example – they shouldn’t be the primary vehicle for spending money. the average person.

For most people, it’s usually best to use credit cards for the bulk of your purchases, Matt Schulz, a credit card expert at LendingTree, told CNBC Make It. Although the security gap between credit cards and debit cards has narrowed in recent years, credit cards still have an edge over the competition.

“If someone gets your debit card information and uses it fraudulently, they are stealing real money from a real account,” he explains. “There is a good chance that you will get this money back, but it may take a little while, and if you have bills due before you get this money back, you can be in a very difficult situation.”

If someone gets their hands on your debit card information and uses it fraudulently, they are stealing real money from a real account.

Matt Schulz

LendingTree Credit Card Expert

On the other hand, when someone steals your credit card information, that money is not taken directly from your account. Instead, it shows up as a charge on your account, which your credit card issuer can investigate and reverse when they find out it’s not coming from you. During this time, your money is still safe in your bank account.

People who have both credit and debit cards need to be aware of their surroundings when deciding which one to use, says Schulz. He cites gas stations as an example of where he would advise people to pay by credit if possible, as crooks like to install devices called protein skimmers in credit card slots, which are capable of stealing your information when you pay. at the pump.

“Because many gas stations don’t necessarily have their credit card readers as updated as some other companies, you may be putting yourself at a bit more risk of fraud,” he explains.

Ultimately, says Schulz, consumers have to trust their instincts when deciding how to pay. If a place “looks a bit dodgy” or has a bad vibe, you better take it safe with your money, he says.

“If you don’t feel comfortable, you should just trust your gut and use this credit card instead of a debit card,” Schulz said. “When in doubt, it is certainly safer and less risky to use credit in most cases.”

Credit cards have other benefits, such as helping consumers build their credit scores. This can be accomplished by paying off your balance in full each month, which debit cards cannot offer.

Yet Schulz points out that despite the benefits of credit cards, someone who prefers debit is not wrong. Personal comfort is the most important factor when choosing how to spend your money, he says. Anyone who isn’t comfortable with a credit card because they don’t know if they’ll handle it well or think it will create financial stress for them shouldn’t feel bad about sticking to it. debit.

An advantage of using the flow? It can help you save money in some stores.

“It is more and more common for surcharges [on credit cards] be legal in various states across the country, “says Schulz.” If there is a place where retailers are going to charge you a bit more for using a credit card, it may be worth paying by debit. “

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