Debit Card Dangers: Answers to Your Questions

Many of you asked about how to find and prevent debit card fees after Wednesday's Good Morning America segment on debit card related fees.

You'll find my answers to your most frequently asked debit card questions in my online Q & A below.

Q U E S T I O N: If you use a debt card to pay your bills (car payment, rent, credit cards, etc...) do you get credit for having "good credit" on your credit report? What about if you have automatic withdraw from your checking account? Does it show up as good credit? — Doug Dayton, Ohio

A N S W E R: A debit card does not affect your credit report like a credit card. Therefore, your debit card purchases do not enable you to build-up positive credit. However, by using your debit card instead of your credit card, you can avoid running up a costly tab and facing the potential negative impact on your credit report from late payments and outstanding balances. Not to mention, high credit card interest rate payments.

Q U E S T I O N: I use my debit card like a credit card, I do not punch in my PIN number. They always ask if it is debit or credit. I tell them credit. Is there any type of charge for this? Also, if I do use my debit PIN, can I ask if there is a charge to whom ever I am purchasing from? Or will it only appear in my bank statement? — Vicky Tyler, Texas

A N S W E R: Normally, there is not a charge for using your debit card like a credit card and simply signing for the purchase. However, it is important to review your monthly bank statement to determine if you are being charged for any of your debit card purchases. As for asking the retailer about any charges, all fees are dependent on your financial institution and are not determined by the individual retailer so the clerk will not know. As such, it is important you call your bank or carefully review your statement.

Q U E S T I O N: I often use my debit card as a credit card when making online purchases. Will that change? Also does a debit card cost appear as a line item on your bank statement or is it added in to the amount of the debit? — Janice Weston, Wis.

A N S W E R: I do not advise using your debit card when shopping online. As the Internet is not 100 percent secure, it is best to use a credit card that offers a more complete and hassle-free fraud protection policy in the event of a problem or mistake. As for reporting debit card fees, they are reported differently depending on the financial institution but are not generally added to the bill. Some banks charge a monthly fee while others will assess a fee per transaction. The best way for you to determine if and how your bank is charging you, is to call the bank directly and inquire about any fees associated with your debit card.

Q U E S T I O N: What happens if you find fraud on your account through your debit card? What are our rights? We recently had someone steal our debit card number; not the cards, and then somehow used it at an ATM in Canada, somewhere near Montreal. Neither my husband nor myself have ever been to Montreal! — Susan Cheektowaga, N.Y.

A N S W E R: Unfortunately, debit cards do not afford the same peace of mind when it comes to financial security as credit cards. The major difference concerns the federal regulations regarding your financial liability. When using a credit card, you are generally responsible for the first $50 of fraudulent charges whereas your liability on many debit cards can be as high as $500. In addition, unlike a credit card, if there is a problem with your purchase, you are not able to withhold payment until further investigation by the credit card company. If your debit card is stolen or lost, report it to your bank immediately. In many cases, if you wait more than 60 days to report your card lost or stolen, you could be responsible for all of the damages. Also, always keep your PIN number stored somewhere besides your wallet or purse-or better yet, memorize it and make sure you are conscientious when you input it.

• E-mail Mellody with your personal finance questions.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management ( in Chicago, is Good Morning America's personal finance expert. Ariel associates Matthew Yale and Aimee Daley contributed to this report.