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Bryan A. Schneider, Secretary  
Bruce Rauner, Governor
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If so, you are one of a growing number of consumers who like the ease and convenience of debit cards. But do you understand debit cards, what they can and can not do, and how to protect yourself if your card is lost, stolen or misused? Here is what savvy debit cardholders need to know about their cards.

You are in Good Company

Today more than 60 million people have debit cards that carry the logos of the two major payment card companies. That number is expected to grow dramatically as debit cards become increasingly popular.

What Is Not Smart

Many debit cardholders confuse debit cards with standard ATM cards. Like most Americans, you may not be aware of what your debit card can do for you and what you must do to protect yourself if your wallet is lost or stolen.

What's more, less than half of all Americans can name every item in their wallet without looking, and only 12% keep a written list of their wallet's contents. That's not smart.

Smarten Up…

Really get to know your card: what it is, what it does and can do, what you must do to protect your debit card and everything else that is in your wallet. Then print out the Wallet Watcher sheet at the end, fill it out and put it in a safe, separate place. That's smart.

Know Your Debit Card…

Not all debit cards are equal. Debit cards with the logo of one of the two major payment card companies are ATM cards with clout. They can be used to obtain cash from ATM machines, and also to make purchases anywhere the logos on these cards are accepted -- over 14 million merchants worldwide.

Increasingly, debit cards combine the key elements of ATM cards, credit cards and checks -- instant access to cash, worldwide acceptance, and the funds come directly out of your checking account. And because purchases and ATM withdrawals are listed on your monthly statement you can tract your spending. Very smart.

Other debit card facts: In some cases, you can use your debit card with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) at places like the supermarket checkout to get cash back above the purchase amount.

Most don't, but some issuers do charge fees for making purchases with your debit card. Be sure to check with your issuer and shop around for the best deal.

Debit cards are typically used as substitutes for cash and checks to pay for everyday items such as gasoline, groceries, restaurant meals, and department store purchases. You don't have to carry cash or checks and, unless you dip into an overdraft line of credit tied to your checking account you don't run up interest charges.

Look After Your Debit Card…

And your debit card will be good to you. You're in the driver's seat should your card be lost or stolen. If you notice your debit card missing, notify your card issuer immediately.

The two major payment card companies limit your liability to a maximum of $50 and it could be as low as zero if you report your card missing immediately. But, it's up to you to safeguard your debit card and notify the issuer as soon as you discover it missing.

It all depends on you. That's where the Wallet Watcher can really help. Fill it out and put it in a save place outside your wallet. Then, if your debit or credit cards are lost or stolen, you'll have everything you need to report and replace them.

Your debit card may be safe in your wallet but unauthorized use can still occur. Check your statements. Use the Wallet Watcher to report problems to the issuer immediately and avoid hassles when you legitimately use your card.


  1. Check your wallet often and report lost or stolen cards immediately. Follow up in writing. Your debit card is the key to your money. Hang on to it.
  2. Check your statements. Know what you've spent and where so you can spot problems and contact the issuer right away. Follow up in writing.
  3. Print out and use the handy Wallet Watcher. Write down the phone number and name of issuer for each card in your wallet. Put it in a safe, separate place to speed up the process if your cards are lost or stolen.
  4. Sign your card as soon as you receive it. Read the security precautions that come with your new debit card and follow them!
  5. Play it close. Memorize your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Don't write it down -- especially not on the card -- don't give it out, and don't carry it in your wallet.
  6. Play it cool. Know what's going on around you when using your debit card and always shield the screen and keyboard.
  7. Check the calendar. Keep track of when your cards and statement should arrive. Call the issuer if they are late.
  8. Check the numbers. Keep your receipts. Make sure the amount of your purchase is right and deduct that amount from your checkbook so no checks bounce.
  9. Protect your card from damage such as excessive heat or magnetic objects which could deactivate it.
  10. Know the limits. Many issuers limit daily purchases and withdrawals. That's good security but could leave you short if you're away and exceed that limit.



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Put an "X" next to the items that you keep in your wallet so you'll know what to replace if it is lost or stolen.

Box Airline Mileage Club Card Box Health Insurance Card
Box Auto Insurance Card Box Library Card
Box Auto Club Card Box Social Security Card
Box Drivers License Box Telephone Calling Card
Box Health Club Card Box Other












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