K-State Research and Extension News
May 27, 2010
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Debit? Credit? Which Card to Use?

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- While some might take pride in displaying a wallet with several credit or debit cards, carrying more cards than you need increases the risks if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen.

So, should you carry one -- or more than one -- credit or debit cards?

Lifestyle and financial practices can influence the number of credit or debit cards that should be carried and when -- or how -- using them can be beneficial, said Carol Young, Kansas State University Research and Extension financial management specialist.

Using a debit card, rather than cash or a check for routine purchases is handy, she said. Using a debit card means that money is withdrawn from your checking account at the time of purchase.

"Consumers who use debit cards are currently being contacted to opt in or out of overdraft coverage, but people who monitor account balances closely probably won’t need this coverage to avoid overage fees," she said.

Carrying a credit card for larger purchases can help track expenses and simplify refunds or returns if a product or service is unsatisfactory. And, in the event of a dispute, having charged the purchase or service can be helpful in avoiding tying up personal funds during the resolution, Young said.

Using a credit card to pay for a larger item like a new dishwasher or refrigerator may offer incentives such as an extended warranty or, in some cases, cash back, she said. But evaluate the benefits of reward offers carefully.

"Using a credit card to earn reward points may be tempting, but also may result in spending that isn't beneficial. Charging more than you can reasonably pay to clear the balance at the end of the billing cycle is counterproductive," Young said.

Reserving a separate credit card for business expenses can be helpful in identifying tax deductible expenses or tracking personal expense categories, Young said.

Carrying a second card when traveling also should be considered, as not all cards are accepted everywhere, she said. Whether business or personal travel, if close to a credit limit (or not sure if you're close to a credit limit), carrying a second card will provide a backup to cover unexpected expenses, especially in such cases as a delayed or cancelled flight, a car breakdown or other unplanned event. 

More tips for managing money are available at K-State Research and Extension offices and online: www.ksre.ksu.edu.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News

Carol Young is at 785-532-1943