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The Consumer

The problem with debit cards

/ 03:05 AM April 12, 2017

As Filipinos travel to their respective Holy Week vacation destinations, they may be wondering whether to bring cash, or their credit or debit cards.

A debit card is a convenient way of paying for purchases without using cash, unlike a credit card that may entail interest charges. With a debit card, people can control the amount they plan to spend.


But, is a debit card safer than cash or a credit card?

Robert Siciliano ( says, “If you can avoid using a debit card, you should. With a credit card, at least, you can dispute the charges before you lose money. With a debit card, this isn’t usually possible.”


He advises not to use a debit card for shopping: “Use it only to take funds from an ATM. If a thief gets your debit card number, your cash could be stolen from your account. Though you will get reimbursed for any fraud that occurs with a debit card, it happens only after your account has been wiped out.”

But before using your debit card to withdraw cash, you should be wary of card reader tampering or ATM skimming—through a small camera that can capture your personal identity number (PIN).

Siciliano warns that ATM skimming is likely to get worse. It is done by placing a small device over the card slot on an ATM that looks like the real thing and blends into the face of the ATM. When the card is inserted into the slot, all the information on the magnetic strip is read or “skimmed.”

The skimmer is paired with a tiny, wireless camera that records your debit card PIN as it is entered. Siciliano says the camera may be hidden in the brochure holder of the ATM, in the light bar at the top of the keypad, in the speaker on the face of the ATM, or in a box behind the small mirror on the ATM, among other places.

Some thieves, Siciliano says, are even “brazen enough to look for work that will give them ATM access,” like in a bank.

He adds that it’s also not wise to use your debit card for online purchases. A better option may be to make online payments with prepaid or single-use cards. Or, if you have recurring payments for any account, use only one credit card.

He explains, “Though a single-use card is linked to your actual card number, it prevents your real number from being exposed.” A prepaid card is different from a single-use card as it is not connected to your real card. “If the prepaid card is stolen, you can replace it without affecting your account,” he says.


Siciliano also suggests setting up text or e-mail notifications through your credit card company or bank to alert you of any charge. “This way, if an unauthorized charge comes in, you will find out immediately,” he points out.

Siciliano himself uses credit cards for everything: “I simply pay attention to my statements and get text and e-mail alerts for every charge in real time.”

Holy Week schedule

Several Robinsons Malls will be closed on Maundy Thursday, April 13, and Good Friday, April 14, resuming regular operations on Saturday, April 15.

But its branches in Antipolo City, Luisita in Tarlac, and Tagaytay City will keep regular hours on April 13 and 14.

Those in General Trias, Malolos, Palawan, Pangasinan, Santiago (Isabela) and Starmills Pampanga will be open only on April 13.

Robinsons Place Ilocos will be open on Good Friday.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine
Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and
Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City;
fax 8974793/94;
or e-mail the.consumer.

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TAGS: Consumer, debit cards, Holy Week vacation
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