If you have a bank account, it is highly likely that it will come with a card. Here’s our explanation on the differences between bank cards, how you should use them and what to do if your card gets lost or stolen.

Debit card

A debit card is in effect an ‘electronic cheque’. When you use it, the amount of your purchase is debited to your account usually two or three days later. Your statement entry will often show the name of the supplier you bought your goods from. You should always ensure that you have sufficient funds on your account to cover the amount you spend. Retailers such as supermarkets will often allow you to use your card to withdraw cash as well as pay for goods.

Credit card

A credit card allows you to buy goods now but pay at a later date. When you open your credit card account you will be advised of your limit. Make sure that you don’t go over this. If you do, your card may be taken away from you. Remember that payments in settlement of your credit card statement may take up to sven days to reach your credit card account. Credit card statements are issued monthly and you will have the choice of paying the bill in full or paying part only.

The minimum amount due and the date by which it should reach the credit card company will be shown on the statement. Take care though, as with some issuers the date by which payment should be received will differ according to whether you pay in full or in part.

If you don’t pay the total amount in full by the due date you will be charged interest on the outstanding balance, unless the card has a time-limited interest free offer running. The method of calculating interest will normally be shown on the back of your credit card statement and will differ between different card issuers.

Charge card

A charge card works in much the same way as a credit card but you have to pay the balance in full each month.

Affinity card

An affinity card is a credit card which enables you to support a charity or a similar organisation when you use it. Although there is no extra cost to you, the card issuer makes a donation to the organisation every time you use the card. This usually takes the form of an initial payment the first time you use the card, followed by a percentage of the amount you spend.

Lost cards

Always take care of your cards. If your card is lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately.


  • Allow anyone else to use your card, PIN or password
  • Write down or record your PIN on the card or anything else kept near it or with it
  • Write down your PIN, password or selected personal information without disguising it, for example, never write down or record your PIN using the numbers in the correct order
  • Keep your cheque book and cards together


  • Take reasonable steps to keep your card safe and your PIN, password and selected personal information secret at all times;
  • Destroy notification of your PIN and/or password as soon as you receive it.