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What’s the Difference Between Running my Debit Card as Credit or Debit?


When you go to run your CES Credit Union VISA® debit card at the checkout, you will often have the choice to run that transaction as “debit” or as “credit” leading you to ask the question, “What’s the difference?”

If you choose “debit” you will proceed to type in your PIN (Personal Identification Number), as long as the purchase is large enough to require one. At some merchants, no PIN is required for transactions less than $25. From there, the funds will be pulled immediately from your account or will show up as declined if there are not enough funds available. This option does allow for cash back to occur as well. Also, when you run your card as “debit” CES will be charged a small fee called an interchange fee which will be explained in more detail later.

If you press “credit” you will sign your name instead of entering a PIN, and the transaction is then sent through the VISA® network for approval. This puts a hold on that amount of funds in your account. You also may not be required to sign if the purchase is less than $25. Within two to three days, the transaction settles and funds are pulled from your account. Additionally, the merchant will pay a small fee for the service provided, that same interchange fee CES would have had to pay if you chose to run your card as “debit”. When you chose “credit”, a small percentage of that fee cost goes back to the credit union. This is called interchange income which helps CES offset the cost of the card program.

We want to reassure you that running a debit card as credit does not turn your debit card into a credit card. You will never be charged interest for running your debit card as “credit” because the card is linked to your checking account and not a line of credit. This also means running your debit card as “credit” will not do anything to improve your credit score. Running your debit card as “credit” simply allows your card to go through a different secure authorization process, but is still pulled from the same account as if your ran you card as “debit”. 

However, because constantly paying interchange fees can add up fast, CES encourages its members to chose “credit” for purchases. Cardholders are able to run their debit card as “debit” up to 4 times a month, but will be charged a $1 fee for every transaction after that. This count is reset on the first of every month. To avoid this fee, try to always choose “credit” when the option is available.

What if You Can’t Choose “credit” at the Point-of-Sale?

Merchants don’t want to pay the higher processing fee for you to run your debit card as “credit”. Because of this, some merchants engineer the transaction to make it difficult for you to choose the “credit” option or the merchant will have their readers/cashiers default to a “debt” transaction. See the tips below to help you choose “credit” every time you shop:

1. After you have inserted/ swiped your card, and the card reader asks for your PIN, just press the “Enter” button (usually green) without entering your PIN. This will trigger the reader to then run your card as credit.

2. If you’ve been asked to choose between “U.S. Debit” and “VISA® Debit,” choose “VISA® Debit.” This will run your card through VISA®’s credit network as explained above.

3. If you are still having a hard time figuring out how to run your debit card as credit, then ask the cashier. They may need to change a setting to allow you to run it as credit, or the cashier can tell you how their POS (point-of-sale) system works for running debit cards as “credit”.

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