Why Choosing Debit or Credit Is Like Picking Salad Dressing

By Len Penzo

What kind of dressing would you like on your salad? For most people, it’s a simple decision. Not me.

Whenever my server asks me that question, I tense up like I’ve just been asked the big question on Who Wants to be A Millionaire. Usually, I struggle to decide if I want ranch or bleu cheese.

This particular time, my server just politely stood there, tapping a pen on her ticket book while I tried to make up my mind. “Well, um, let’s see…”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, I looked over at the wife just in time to see her roll her big brown eyes. After 15 years, she’s used to it.

Choosing debit or credit: Does it really matter?

I bet many folks get that same deer-in-the-headlights reaction when they run their debit cards through a merchant’s card machine at the checkout counter and are confronted with the dreaded “debit or credit?” question.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, this choice is more complex than ranch or bleu cheese.

Your decision to pay “credit” or “debit” simply tells the bank how you want to process the transaction. Whichever you choose, the money comes directly from the bank account tied to your debit card.

If you choose “debit,” you’re asked to enter a personal identification number (PIN) and the funds are immediately removed from your bank account.

On the other hand, if you choose “credit,” the transaction is verified via your signature and the funds might not be taken from your account until the end of the day – or sometimes even later. That’s because merchants often process these transactions in a “batch mode” with other credit card transactions. That’s it, really.

Now I know what you’re thinking: That’s great, but when I’m using my card, what’s the better choice? Credit or debit? Well, it depends.

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