Cash is no longer king, but if you don’t want to use credit cards what else is there? For many, debit cards provide the solution offering the convenience of credit cards and the immediacy of cash.

Debit cards have many benefits and allow users to avoid the trap of credit. Here’s a beginner’s guide to debit cards and how to use them.

The basics

Debit cards won’t allow you to get into debt; their very nature means you can only spend the money that’s in your account. Debit cards can be associated with a traditional bank account, or offered by an online provider where you can move money onto the card to spend.

Visa Debit and Mastercard Debit are the two most common types of debit cards but for all intents and purposes, there’s very little difference between them.

When you use a debit card to pay, the money is deducted from your available balance right away. It’s no different to paying by cash; you won’t have to pay a bill at the end of the month as you would with a credit card.

Unlike cash, debit cards come with some protection so if you think you’ve been scammed you can get help. If it gets lost or stolen, simply report the card and it can be canceled right away without any loss of your money.

When you use a debit card to pay, you’ll have to enter your pin number. This is a private number that should never be divulged to anyone, not even your bank. Entering this pin number into the shop keypad authorises the transaction and permits payment to go ahead.

Contactless technology

An increasing number of debit cards include contactless technology which means you don’t need to enter your pin number to authorise a transaction.

Your card needs to be fitted with a chip to work in contactless machines; if you don’t have one you can ask your bank if they’d be able to supply one.

When you use a contactless debit card, you don’t need to enter the card into the machine. Instead, you can simply hold it or tap it over the top. You’ll usually hear a beep and the machine will show the transaction has been approved.

It’s only possible to pay up to £30 using contactless technology; for any larger transactions you’ll need to enter your pin number.

You will need to be a bit more careful about where you place a contactless card as there have been some incidences of cards accidentally being read by mistake.

The benefits of a debit card

Whatever type of debit card you use, you’ll enjoy lots of benefits such as:

•         Much easier to carry than cash
•         Safer and can be replaced if stolen
•         Accepted nearly everywhere in the world
•         Pay for good in person, over the phone or online
•         Withdraw cash from ATMs - charges may apply
•         Get cash back in supermarkets.

Debit cards can make life much easier, and if you’re not interested in borrowing money, it’s the obvious solution.