The sophisticated and widely accepted credit/debit ATM cards that we are now accustomed to has laid the foundations for the convenience of spending without much diligence. And so it surprises me very little that a close friend of mine has vowed not to use an ATM card or any kind of debit or credit card. This is also quite disturbing considering the fact that we live in a world where marketers go to all lengths to ensure that their products sell and 90% of us “buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”― Dave Ramsey,
That’s why it is necessary to create rules that will govern the use of these cards.So I have come up with five safety rules for all credit, debit and pre-paid bank card users to help minimise the costs involved in using these payment systems.
- Don’t Use A Card Unless You Need One
I know people who still fancy signing cheques. If you are one of them, stay put! Convenience may sometimes not work out so well for everyone. Besides, some shortcuts are dangerous.If you don’t need a card and you are not prepared for the hustle of spending more because you have an ATM Card or a debit card, don’t change your mind.
Historically, cards were issued as evidence of membership to the Diners Club in the USA. This was to enable customers who did not have cash with them pay for their meals on a credit basis. This saved customers the stress of always carrying huge sums of money just to make payments. Banks adopted this system and today issues cards to customers. Generally, the banker-customer relationship is predicated on a debtor-creditor relationship, where the bank is the debtor and the customer is the creditor; who gives his money to the bank to save and later retrieves it from the debtor bank by writing a cheque demanding payment.
With the influx of technology and alternative electronic payment methods, the story is different. We have turned the relationship upside down and most times the debtor is the customer of the bank. This dawned on me one fine Monday afternoon. I visited the mall to shop and although I had a budget, I couldn’t help the urge to buy more because I had my visa card with me. Truth be told, the debts are slightly lower in Ghana because most of the Ghanaian banks do not issue an overdraft of money on their cards like we have in the USA and for that I’m thankful. Despite all that, it is quite easy to clear one’s account at an ATM, or by using the Visa or MasterCard to pay for goods and services. Apps like Express Pay and services like PayPal has made it easy to shop with just a click of a button.
- Love Your Card As Much As You Love Your Money
Credit/Debit Card theft is rife. And, liability for losses incurred is borne by the owner of the card. No bank pays for the costs of losing your card. Once you lose it, you are to take steps to block the card immediately. The case is different if your card number is stolen and money is withdrawn from your account without your knowledge. In such instances, since you still have your card the issuing bank is expected to refund the money to you. This shifts the burden of protecting your card to you. In other words, since your card is your money vomiting cobra…you are to keep it as if it was cash…away from thieves.
- Check the Interest Rates Before You Use Your Card
So you know that when you withdraw money from an Ecobank ATM with a Barclays Bank debit card, you are charged an interest of 5.00 GHC. This applies across most of the banks here in Ghana. Aside from those charges,if you send money via express pay or pay for utilities, you are charged interests. These interests are usually charged little by little making it look like insignificant costs. However, when put together, they account for losses you make. Another example is the charges associated with using the cards to purchase items in malls, grocery stores and boutiques. To avoid being caught by these charges, it’s either you avoid them totally by using the card solely as an ATM card and only at the bank of issue or the first time you use the card to pay for something, you keep track of the charges to enable you decide whether you want to incur such costs on your next purchase. This will also improve your savings.
- Avoid Independent ATMS
Avoid taking money from ATMS that are secluded from the main banks or that are off the main streets for two reasons. First, you could be robbed. Secondly, you run the risk of skimmer. Skimmers are devices made
to be affixed to the mouth of an ATM to secretly swipe credit and debit card information when bank customers slip their cards into the machines to pull out money. They are planted by criminals and usually aid credit or debit card fraud. While skimmers can be found on bank ATMs, they’re less likely on bank premises because there are often security cameras in place and people arround.
- Check Your Balance Frequently
It’s essential to periodically check your bank statements and balance to make sure you are not overspending. By monitoring your balance, you can easily spot potential identity theft if you notice an unexpected drop in your money. Hopefully, these rules will help us protect our purses and save by reducing incidental charges that come with the convenience of debit/credit cards. If you use a credit card, visa card or a master card, I’d appreciate some feedback.