The Best Times to Use Debit vs. Credit Cards

The Best Times to Use Debit vs. Credit Cards

October 18, 2023

When you get to the register or the payment portion of your online shopping cart, do you choose your debit or credit card? The best time to use your debit and credit cards depends on how you manage your money, but the scenarios below can be a guide to help you become more aware of your purchasing habits so you can reap the maximum benefits of cash back, reward programs, reduced debt, and the like.

Debit cards

Most people (42 percent) prefer to use their debit card over their credit card (29 percent), according to a 2020 Federal Reserve survey on consumer habits. If you’re someone who prefers debit to credit, use it with caution as debit cards are not nearly as fraud-proof as credit cards. For this reason, check your bank statements often—even make it a morning or evening routine.

Additionally, you may find that using a debit card can help you control impulse spending because you know how much you have available. More people are likely to overspend when using a credit card. Considering all this information, the following scenarios are the best times to use a debit card.

Small everyday in-person purchases

There is a debate on whether you should use a debit or credit card for everyday purchases, and the answer depends on your own financial goals. Most financial professionals might tell you to use a debit card for everyday purchases because you have the money available to do so. It’s easy for most people to forget to pay off small purchases on a credit card, so it’s best to consider your budget and use debit or cash to completely cover your purchase.


Put your utilities and other recurring bills on a debit card or direct transfer from your checking account. There are often convenience fees if you pay bills on a credit card, and, not to mention if you do so you’re simply putting off a bill you’ll eventually need to pay. It’s best to pay your bills upfront and take care of them so they don’t pile up.

Credit cards

There are several types of credit cards to consider using: standard cards, premium cards, rewards cards, and charge cards. If you haven’t already, talk to a financial professional about what type of card or cards can benefit your financial goals. For example, if you want to travel more, they might help you choose a good rewards card that earns you miles for flights. The type of credit cards you have will affect how often you want to use them. However, these are a few general scenarios all credit cards can be good for.

Online shopping

Fraud protections offered on credit cards make them an ideal choice for any online shopping. It’s easier for online systems to be hacked for your information than traditional store registers. Luckily, you are likely to pick up on any unusually high credit card bill or spending alerts that look off. Most companies offer you the ability to freeze your card through an app or over the phone if you notice strange activity, and the window to claim fraud is longer than that of a debit card.

Large purchases

You can boost your credit score generously by using it for large purchases. If you have the cash available, pay off the purchase in full on your next bill or pay it off in chunks. Either way, your credit score can benefit from your utilization and on-time payments. You are more likely to remember a large purchase over a small purchase, so it will be easier to remember to check your credit card bill.

Be aware of your financial situation and apply this knowledge to your purchasing habits. Whether you want to reduce your debt or build credit quickly, be sure to set the appropriate goals with a financial professional!


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