30 September 2012

Uganda: The Convenience of Debit Cards

Debit cards have become a way of life, thanks to the convenience and security associated with them.

Most financial institutions offer transactional account holders these electronic cards that are usually branded Visa.

The most common usage of Visa debit cards is drawing cash from the account you hold at a financial institution via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), as well as payment for goods and services.

Some Visa card holders are not aware that they can draw cash from any location both local and abroad, as their card carries the Visa sign.

However, you will be charged a higher rate for drawing money from an ATM location that does not belong to the card issuer.

One of the advantages of debit cards as opposed to credit cards is that you only spend what you have on your account and you are not charged any interest by the issuing financial institution. These electronic cards are a safe form of payment because you need a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to access your money.

You can use these cards to purchase goods online. To get more details related to what your card can procure, you need to approach your financial institutions to ascertain what transactions are possible with your debit card.

Most debit cards can be used anywhere in the world, as long as the transaction points display a Visa sign. But take note that the transaction fee will be higher if you use your debit card abroad.

Debit cards come in handy when travelling because they minimise the risk associated with carrying cash.

Prior to your travel date, it is advisable to make inquiries from your bank to ensure that your card can be used anywhere in the world.

To minimise suspicion of transactions abroad, some financial institutions recommend that you alert your bank of your travel plans.

Take this opportunity to ask about the daily withdrawal limit abroad so that you can plan your journey effectively.

Remember to always have a backup plan regarding your travel money, just in case your Visa debit card cannot be used to access funds.

Some banks have more features and perks offering several types of Visa debit cards that target different market segments. For example, some financial institutions offer their corporate clients multiple cards for senior management.

Other card holders are entitled to value-added services from other service providers like hotels and retail outlets.

A number of financial institutions issue Visa debit cards to non-account holders. All you need is to fill in an application, including some requirements, and you are entitled to an electronic account on the card.

After the application process, you are required to make a deposit and the bank issues the electronic value that is equivalent to the cash. Make inquiries at your financial institution to find out if they offer such a service. Such cards can come in handy when travelling.

To enjoy the benefits associated with a Visa debit card, it is your responsibility to keep your information secure, and scrutinise the ATM you are using to ensure it is not tampered with.

Avoid keeping the PIN with your card, and you need to update the PIN regularly. More to that, take precaution when handing your card for transaction, to ensure your information is not copied to facilitate identity theft.

If you lose your card, it is advisable to report the theft to your financial institution to avoid unauthorised withdrawals from your account.

The writer works with Bank of Uganda.

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