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Debit Cards

Overview

A debit card is a card enabling the holder to have his purchases directly charged to funds on his account at a deposit-taking institution (may sometimes be combined with another function, eg that of a cash card or cheque guarantee card). (BIS definition).

For over-the-counter payments the customer's debit card is read by a point-of-sale terminal which shows the amount on a display, which the cardholder checks and then authorises the transaction, usually by the use of a 4-digit PIN*. The retailer and customer each retain a copy of the receipt. The value of the transaction, to a maximum of €1,500 is debited from the cardholder’s account and credited to the retailer’s account immediately or within a couple of days.

*The PIN (Personal Identification Number) a numeric code which the cardholder may need to quote for verification of identity. In electronic transactions, it is seen as the equivalent of a signature. (BIS definition).

"Laser" is the brand name of the national debit card in Ireland. – but national brands are being phased out in favour of international brands (Visa and Maestro).  A debit card is a card enabling the holder to have his purchases directly charged to funds on his account at a deposit-taking institution (may sometimes be combined with another function, eg that of a cash card or cheque guarantee card). (BIS definition).

All Laser transactions are recorded on the cardholders’ current account statement detailing where and when the transaction took place and the value of the transaction. Certain retailers will allow cashback, a facility which allows a sum of cash to be added to the cost of the purchase. The Cashback sum is included on the transaction receipt.

In 2010 there were 3.4m debit cards in Ireland, generating 208m transactions to the value of over €11bn. 

The debit card

The physical characteristics (size, shape, thickness, etc.) of a Debit card are defined by international standard ISO 7813. There is probably no other standard which has greater worldwide acceptance, and the standard is now used for most other banking cards around the world, as well as for many non-financial applications. See "How credit cards are made"

The debit card serves the means of identification of the account to which a purchase should be charged. The transaction is then authorised by the cardholder by other means (signature, PIN, or online, or other means as appropriate.)

Debit cards issued in most European countries now carry an EMV chip. (EMV is an acronym for Europay, Mastercard, Visa, the three organisations who originally co-operated to develop the chip - Europay has now been absorbed into Mastercard). The EMV chip is an essential part of the Chip & Pin strategy for security on credit cards. The chip carries the essential identification information on the account, as well as mechanisms to authenticate the card as a unique original. EMV is therefore a significant fraud reduction device. The EMV chip has capacity for a range of functions including identification of multiple accounts, stored value cards, and ticketing systems. However, to date, none of these applications have been used on debit cards in Ireland. EMV terminals are required to satisfactorily exploit the benefits of EMV, and EMV terminals have been installed in most retail outlets in Ireland, and some EU countries. Significantly, EMV has not been widely adopted in the USA. Accordingly, to accept US cards, old-type magnetic stripe terminals may also be maintained for some years.

On the obverse side of the debit card is the magnetic stripe, which also carries the account identification information. Contrary to popular belief, the magnetic stripe is very robust against accidental damage by water or magnetic devices, as has been proved by Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.

On the obverse side is the signature panel. As the technical requirements of the card become more advanced, it appears that the space for signature gets smaller. The signature panel has some security features. The card should be signed as soon as possible after acceptance. A retailer who accepts a card on the identity of a signature should compare the signature presented with the signature on the card.

Charges for debit card transactions

Laser cards are usually issued in a current account package from your bank rather than specifically being charged for. Note that there may, however be a government stamp duty (see below). The charge for transactions varies between banks, and depends upon the particular current account package chosen. The National Consumer agency maintains a database of current account information, and these show the range of charges for debit card transactions from €0.0 to €0.28. Click here for latest surveys.

Lost or Stolen debit Cards

The maximum amount a cardholder can be held liable for in the event that their card is lost or stolen is €75 under the 'Payment Services Regulations 2009” The actual amount depends on the bank and circumstances of the situation. If a card is lost or stolen but the cardholder does not report it, then the cardholder may be liable to pay a greater amount.

Customers should contact their bank to report the loss or theft of a debit card as soon as possible.

Debit card Safety Tips

  • DON'T give your card to anyone. Your card is the key to your bank account. It is for you and your use only.
  • DON'T be careless in the handling of your cards. For example, don't leave them lying around at home or in an accessible place when you are away from home.
  • DO sign the back of your card as soon as you receive it. Destroy any cards which are past their expiry date.
  • DON'T leave till receipts lying around. Some terminal receipts still show the card number, expiry date and the cardholder name so it is important to dispose of them carefully.

Debit Card Acceptance

Virtually all retailers and services providers in Ireland accept debit cards.