How to Get a Debit Card


Society is increasingly going cashless, with more people handling their finances digitally for safety and convenience. Yet despite the numerous apps and pay-as-you-go options, debit cards remain essential for transactions, paying bills, and everyday purchases.

This guide explains the basics of debit cards, giving you an overview of how to get one and how they work.

woman using debit card

Different Types of Debit Cards

Multiple card types exist, each with a convenient way to pay for purchases. These include standard cards, prepaid cards, and EBT cards. Before you get a debit card, read below for a list of your options.

Standard Card

These debit cards link directly to your checking account, allowing you to make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs. Modern cards come with perks like contactless payments, mobile access through online and mobile banking, and fraud protection.

Prepaid Card

A prepaid card (or pay-as-you-go cards) are cards you buy and load money into before using. You don’t have to have a bank account to use them, making them a convenient choice if you don’t have access to traditional banking services.

EBT Card

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards are cards for government assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). You can use them to make eligible purchases at participating retailers.

How much does a debit card cost?

Some banks and credit unions may charge you specific fees for issuing a physical card. When you open a checking account, you usually receive a debit card by default with no initial fee. However, in some cases, banks may charge a monthly or annual maintenance fee that covers the cost of providing and maintaining card services.

Do debit cards come with perks?

Some debit cards come with incentives, like cash back deals or reward points on certain purchases and easy mobile app control. Depending on the bank, you can redeem the reward points for cash or other items.

See also: Advantages of Using a Debit Card

How can I get a debit card?

Getting a debit card is a straightforward process if you have your documents ready. You can apply for an account online, or visit your local bank branch and apply using a teller. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting a debit card without hassles.

Step One: Open a Checking Account

Start by researching to find the best bank or credit union to open a checking account. Make sure to check whether the card comes with fees and what the bank’s terms are. Once you find one, you can visit a branch to open a checking or savings account, or you can apply for a debit card through the bank’s website.

What do you need to get a debit card?

You must have the necessary identifying and personal documents to open a checking account from a bank or credit union and get your debit card. Although some requirements differ for a checking account, you generally need the following:

  • A valid photo ID like a state ID, a passport, or a driver’s license
  • Your Social Security number or Tax ID
  • Proof of address, like a lease or a utility bill
  • A direct deposit amount that varies between banks

Joint Accounts

If you have a joint account, you need the other person’s information and for them to co sign. You can add their information online or visit a teller and fill out the application onsite.

Step Two: Request Your New Debit Card

Both your bank or a credit union may require an initial deposit to open a checking account. You can do so by depositing cash in person, transferring funds, or mailing a check.

After the institution approves your application and opens your checking account, they will give or mail you a debit card and checkbook. You must activate your card before making a purchase or a payment.

Step Three: Activate Your Card — and Start Using It

Like a credit card, you must activate your new debit card to access funds from your checking account. Although the activation process varies between banks, you can find the activation instructions in the accompanying documentation or on a sticker on the card. Keep an eye on the expiration date, use a designated in network ATM, and minimize web access to your checking account to prevent stolen cards or card lost situation.

Activate Your Debit Card

Standard activation methods include calling a designated phone number, using your bank’s website or mobile app to activate the debit card online, or through an ATM transaction. After activation, your financial institution will confirm that your card is ready.

See also: What Is the Difference Between a Credit Card and a Debit Card?

How to Get Cash from an ATM

Withdrawing cash from an ATM card is an easy process when you have your card handy. Although multiple ATMs exist, using one associated with your bank helps you avoid transaction fees.

Once you find one, insert your debit card into the card slot. The machine will then prompt you to enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). After doing so, Select the “Withdraw” option from the main menu and choose the account you want to withdraw from.

After selecting “checking” or “savings,” enter your desired withdrawal amount and your money is ready. Always protect your card from unauthorized use and shield your number for added security.

How to Add a Debit Card to a Digital Wallet

To add cash to a wallet like Apple Pay, open the wallet app on your smartphone or device and sign into your account. Locate the “Add Funds” option and choose a funding source, like a linked bank account, debit card, or credit card. Then, enter the amount you want to add. Once you confirm the transaction, the funds transfer instantly to your digital wallet.

Do debit cards have fees?

Yes, your bank or financial institution may charge monthly service fees, monthly maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, and ATM fees. Always ask a representative before establishing a bank account to avoid overdraft penalties for ATM withdrawals.

How can I avoid overdraft fees?

You can avoid overdraft fees by setting up low-balance or email alerts on your bank’s mobile app and monitoring your spending. You can also link your savings account or credit card for overdraft protection.

Protecting Your Debit Card

To protect your debit card, never share your PIN or card number with others. Regularly monitor your account and manage cards well to detect unauthorized charges and report suspicious activity immediately to your bank. If you have a lost or stolen card, report it immediately to the bank to protect your money.

Using Technology

Technology makes it possible to purchase, pay, and manage your debit cards and credit cards without having physical money in your hand, When paying online, use secure websites and connections for your purchase. You can also enable account alerts to notify you when unauthorized charges happen on your account. Don’t use your debit card if your PIN is visible.

What to Do If Your Debit Card Is Lost or Stolen

Report stolen cards immediately to your bank. They can block the card and prevent unauthorized transactions.

Your bank usually issues a replacement card. However, be sure to update your new card information for recurring payments or linked accounts to avoid late penalties.

Also, record the date and time you reported the theft to your bank and monitor your account if additional transactions or fraudulent activity occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements to get a debit card?

To get a debit card, you’ll typically need to be at least 18 years old and have a valid checking or savings account with a bank or credit union. Minors can also get debit cards, but they’ll typically need a parent or guardian to co-sign the account.

How long does it take to receive my debit card?

Once you’ve opened an account and requested a debit card, most banks will send you the card within 7-10 business days. In some cases, you might even be able to get a temporary card right away at your local branch.

Can I get a debit card without a bank account?

Yes, prepaid debit cards are a fantastic option for those who don’t have a bank account or prefer not to link their card to one. Just load the card with funds, and you’re good to go. Here are some of the best prepaid debit cards on the market right now.

How can I choose the best debit card for my needs?

Consider factors like fees, rewards, account access, online banking, and customer service when selecting your debit card. Don’t forget to compare different banks and credit unions to find the one that aligns with your financial goals.

Hiba Boutary
Meet the author

Hiba Boutary is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written finance, legal, real estate, human resources, software, and business content for numerous online publications and websites. Hiba brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to her writing, making complex topics accessible to everyone.