Paycheck Chronicles

NFCU Check Card vs. ATM Card


While clearing out some old things, I came across a Navy Federal Check card that had never been activated.  I currently use a Cue Card, which is basically an old style ATM card that is not affiliated with Visa or MasterCard.  I seemed to remember that there is a reason that I don't use the Debit check card but I couldn't remember the reason, so I called Navy Federal and asked them to tell me the differences.  Here's what I found out:

Check card -

  • Visa product
  • Offers fraud protection
  • Can be used anywhere the Visa is accepted
  • You may not get cash back
  • You use the credit button and sign the slip
  • Funds are placed on hold for 24 hours.  If the merchant does not processed the transaction within 24 hours, the hold drops off.  If this happens, the debit will reappear when the merchant processes the transaction
  • $2500 purchase limit per day
  • More expensive for the merchant to process

Cue card -

  • Navy Federal Product
  • No fraud protection
  • Can only be used at retailers who accept the card
  • You may get cash back at retailers who offer this option
  • You use the debit button and enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN)
  • Funds are taken out of the account that day and stay out
  • $5000 purchase limit per day
  • Less expensive for the merchant to process
Either way, the money is coming out of your bank account.  You need to have available funds or you could be charged overdraft fees.

I've been looking at this over and over and trying to understand why I would choose the check card.  The NFCU representatives stressed that the Check Card is accepted at more merchants, but I have rarely had a problem.  There are a few stores that can not accept the Cue card and I just use my credit card there.  The problematic part of that is usually the store employees who don't know what they accept.

The four reasons why I prefer the Cue card are:

  • Using a PIN may offer more security
  • It is less expensive for the merchant (particularly important to me when it is a small business)
  • Funds come out immediately and stay out
  • I can get cash back
In investigating this question, I discovered that most banks issue a single card that can be used with either function.  Whether to choose credit or debit generally depends on the same set of criteria, though details may vary.  In particularly, many banks and credit unions do offer fraud protection on their debit card purchases.

Both cards are handy tools but you may find that one is better for you than the other.  Be sure to understand the differences before you choose.

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