Using debit cards
A debit card is a card that you can use to pay for goods and services, or withdraw money, directly from your bank account. You may have to pay a fee when you use your debit card depending on your financial institution.
Financial institutions, such as banks, usually give you a debit card when you sign up for an account.
Information you must receive when getting a debit card
Organizations that sign on to the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Debit Card Services, like banks, agree to give you the following information before you get a debit card:
- your responsibility in protecting your PIN and debit card
- the possible effects of not protecting your card and PIN
- who to contact if you have a problem
- a copy of the cardholder agreement
Learn more about the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Debit Card Services.
Your financial institution may set a daily dollar limit on the amount of money you can withdraw from your account with your debit card. Your financial institution may check your credit history to set the daily limit on the card.
There may be different limits for:
- cash withdrawals
- in-store purchases
- online purchases
Check with your financial institution to find out about your debit card's daily limit and any fees that may apply when you use your debit card.
Personal identification number (PIN)
Your personal identification number, or PIN, is a numeric password that verifies your identity. It allows you to access your account information.
You need a PIN to use your debit card. You usually don’t need a PIN for contactless payment where you tap your card on a payment terminal. You’ll be asked to enter your PIN if you tap above the contactless card payment limit.
Choosing your PIN
Some financial institutions may send you a pre-assigned PIN for your debit card. Others may ask you to choose the PIN. If you don’t receive a PIN, contact your financial institution.
To protect yourself against fraud, you should change the PIN that the financial institution gives you. When you choose your own PIN, choose one that others can’t guess easily.
Choose a unique PIN.
Don’t use any of the following, alone or in combination:
- your name
- your phone number
- your date of birth
- your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- your address
- anything else that someone may guess easily
Protecting your PIN
You may be responsible for unauthorized transactions, meaning those you didn’t make or approve, if you don’t protect your PIN.
To protect your PIN:
- don’t keep it close to your debit card
- don’t write it on your debit card
- never give it to anyone, not even a family member
- cover the PIN pad when entering it at an ATM or in-store terminal
- cancel the transaction and use a different machine if someone is watching you or if you suspect anything unusual
- notify your financial institution immediately if you think somebody has it
Convenience fees and surcharges
In some cases, you may need to pay a convenience fee or a surcharge for the use of the payment terminal when you pay with your debit card in-store.
A payment terminal operator or automated teller machine (ATM) operator may charge you a convenience fee or a surcharge if:
- the fee appears on the screen where you enter your PIN
- it gives you the option to cancel the transaction at no cost before you complete your transaction
- most merchants don’t charge a fee when you pay by debit
- some merchants may require that you make a minimum purchase to pay by debit
To avoid fees when using debit to pay for purchases, you can:
- use other means of payment, such as cash
- go to another merchant who doesn’t charge for paying with a debit card
Contact Interac if you weren’t notified of the surcharge on the PIN pad screen.
Interac can investigate the situation. You should provide:
- the name and address of the merchant
- details from the transaction record
- the amount of the surcharge
You can also file a complaint with your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.
You can use your debit card at an ATM for transactions such as deposits, withdrawals and bill payments from your account.
When you use your debit card at an ATM, you’ll need to insert your card and enter your PIN to complete transactions. You can also tap a contactless card at a contactless ATM. You may pay a fee if you use an ATM that doesn’t belong to your own financial institution.
A convenience fee can also be a fee charged by an ATM operator to non-customers for the use of their ATM. For example, you’ll pay a convenience fee when you withdraw money from your account using another financial institution’s ATM.
Find out how much you may pay in ATM fees.
What to do if an ATM keeps your debit card
If the ATM keeps your debit card, contact your financial institution or the ATM owner directly. Most ATMs will have contact information posted on them. There may be a toll-free number.
Ask your financial institution to cancel your lost debit card and issue a new one. This will protect you against fraud.
You may use your debit card to make in-store and online purchases.
When you use your debit card in-store, you’ll need to:
- insert your card into the payment terminal, or
- tap your card, phone or other payment device on the terminal
If you insert your card, you’ll need to enter your PIN on the PIN pad to authorize the transactions.
You’ll also be required to enter your PIN if you tap your card and exceed your total contactless spending limit.
You can use your debit card to make purchases online. When you do this, you don’t need to give personal financial details to the online merchant. You also don’t need to create a separate online bank account to make purchases.
If you use the online service to buy something on a merchant’s website, you’ll usually be protected against fraudulent transactions. Some financial institutions and card issuers may also extend these protections to mobile transactions.
Learn more about how you’re protected from unauthorized transactions.
Co-badged debit cards
A co-badged debit card has two logos on the front of the card. It has the Interac logo with the logo of another payment brand such as Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard.
In addition to the types of transactions you can make with a traditional debit card, a co-badged debit card allows you to:
- make online purchases
- have greater access to debit transactions when traveling abroad
A co-badged debit card is not a credit card. Regardless of the type of purchase you make with a co-badged debit card, the funds will always be taken from your chequing or savings account.
The terms and conditions of your chequing and savings account agreement apply to all transactions you make.
Learn how your co-badged debit card works on a mobile wallet.
Using debit when you travel
Your debit card will work in most countries, but there are some exceptions.
Some countries may not have ATMs but may still let you use your debit card for in-store purchases.
Using your debit card in other countries
Whether or not your debit card will work in ATMs in other countries depends on which ATM networks your financial institution belongs to.
Look to see which ATM network logo appears on the back of your debit card. For example, your card may list logos like Plus, Maestro or Cirrus. You’ll need to check each foreign ATM machine before using it to see if it's part of your financial institution’s ATM network.
Before travelling, check with your card issuer for more information. The name or logo of the card issuer is usually on the card itself or on the card packaging.
Finding ATMs in other countries
The most common ATM networks belong to Visa and Mastercard.
- the Plus network
Both companies have ATM locators that you may use to help find ATMs in the countries where you plan to travel.
If you can’t find an ATM in the places you plan to visit, you’ll need to find other ways of exchanging cash, such as at local banks or currency exchanges.
Travel with other forms of money, such as a credit card, prepaid travel card or cash in case someone steals your debit card or it doesn’t work.
Learn how to use prepaid cards.
Get information on using credit cards in other countries.
Unauthorized transactions when using your debit card in other countries
Check your debit cardholder agreement to find out how you’re protected when using debit in other countries. Your protection will depend on who issued the card and which payment card network owns the ATM network.
Tips for using debit in other countries
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to use your debit card outside of Canada:
- foreign currency conversion fees may apply when withdrawing money from an ATM in another country
- some foreign ATMs may not recognize a PIN that is longer than 4 digits
- you may need to change your PIN to one that foreign ATMs will recognize before you travel
- some banks and credit unions will freeze your card if transactions are made outside of where you normally travel
You may want to notify your financial institution of when and where you plan to travel. This will help make sure your debit card isn’t frozen while you travel. Contact your financial institution or check your account agreement for more information.
Unauthorized debit transactions
You’re protected against unauthorized transactions when you use debit card services in store, at a point-of-sale terminal or at an ATM. You should immediately report an unauthorized transaction to your bank.
Learn more about resolving an unauthorized transaction.
Lost or stolen debit cards
Report your card as lost or stolen as soon as possible. Check your cardholder agreement for the length of time you have to report the card lost or stolen.
If your card is lost or stolen and purchases are charged to it afterwards, you, as the cardholder, won’t be held responsible if:
- your card has expired or had previously been cancelled
- you report that someone else, beyond your control, may know your PIN
- you've taken reasonable steps to protect your PIN
All debit cards have a payment card network logo, such as Interac, Visa or Mastercard. If you pay online using this type of debit card, the network’s zero liability protections apply. Check the terms and conditions and contact the card issuer for more details. The name or logo of the card issuer can usually be found on the card itself.
Making a complaint about a debit transaction
Learn who to contact if you have a problem with a debit transaction and how to file a complaint:
Report a problem or mistake on this page
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