Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Checking accounts vs. debit cards

These two products go hand in hand, but have distinctly different functions.

Checking accounts and debit cards are technically two separate products, but you usually can’t get one without the other. While they both allow you to manage your money and make transactions, there are a few differences that set them apart.

What’s the difference between checking accounts and debit cards?

Many checking accounts offer an accompanying debit card to access funds. Though some savings accounts also offer debit cards, and digital-only banks or mobile apps are increasingly offering debit cards linked to their account or service. Ultimately, a debit card is dependent on another source for the funds it accesses.

Checking accountDebit card
AboutUnlimited access to your money through deposits, withdrawals, checks, bill pay service and an optional debit card.Payment card linked to a financial account used to withdraw cash at ATMs or swipe for payments at retailers or online.
Online transfersYesNo
Check writingYesNo
ATM accessVia debit cardYes
FDIC or NCUA insuranceYesDepends on the account it’s linked to
Monthly feesVaries by bankNo
Point of sale purchasesYes with debit cardYes
Online transactionsYesVaries by bank
Account featuresYesNo
Store moneyYesNo

Isn’t a debit card a checking account?

No. Checking accounts are a place to store money for everyday transactions separately from your savings. Debit cards are tools to access the money in linked accounts through ATM withdrawals and point-of-sale transactions.

Pros and cons of checking vs. debit cards

You technically can’t get a debit card without a checking account (and vice versa). The only exception is if you find a prepaid debit card or a digital bank account that doesn’t offer physical debit card. With that in mind, here are some pros and cons of each:

Checking accounts

Pros
  • Security. Checking accounts allow you to deposit money to be kept safe inside the account. Plus, most of them are insured for up to $250,000 by the FDIC.
  • Account features. Many checking accounts offer features like rewards programs, money management tools, overdraft protection and more.
  • Transfer money. Checking accounts allow you to write checks and transfer money to other accounts online or by phone.
Cons
  • Potential fees. Many checking accounts charge monthly fees that could eat into your balance.
  • Minimum balance requirements. Some checking accounts require that you keep a certain amount in your account to avoid fees.
  • Limited point-of-sale purchases. Unless the retailer accepts checks, you won’t be able to make point-of-sale purchases at retailers without a debit card.

Debit cards

Pros
  • ATM access. Debit cards allow you to withdraw cash from ATMs whenever you need it.
  • Point of sale transactions. With a debit card, you can make purchases online and at retailers.
  • No monthly fees. While you could be charged ATM fees, there are usually no monthly fees to own a debit card.
Cons
  • Must be linked. Unless you have a prepaid debit card, you’ll need to link your debit card to another account to make purchases and withdrawals.
  • No deposits or account features. Debit cards are not accounts, so you won’t get any account features and won’t be able to make deposits.
  • Can’t transfer money. Cash withdrawals and POS transactions are the only way to access money with a debit card. If you want to make transfers, you’ll need to use an account.

How to compare checking accounts and debit cards

These products are best used together, but here are some important factors you should think about if you’re considering one over the other:

  • Features. Checking accounts often come with useful features, whereas debit cards do not.
  • Access. Checking accounts allow you to write checks, make online purchases and transfer money. Debit cards can only be used to withdraw cash and make purchases online or at stores.
  • Fees. Checking accounts have monthly fees and other charges that could eat into your balance. Other than ATM fees that are charged to the linked account, debit cards do not.
  • Security. Checking accounts are eligible for FDIC deposit insurance, whereas debit cards are not.
  • Deposits. Checking accounts allow you to deposit money and manage funds. You won’t be able to store money with a debit card.

Compare accounts with debit cards

The table has two tabs: one for checking accounts and one for digital banks and apps. Sort each table by minimum deposits, ATMs and fees. If you’re eyeing more than one account, you can compare your top picks side-by-side by ticking the “Compare” box next to each one.

Name Product APY Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Up to 1.00%
$10
55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
Deposits are fossil fuel-free and insured by the FDIC. Enjoy a spend and save combo account with unlimited cash back rewards and a $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first 60 days.
Chime Spending account
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime Spending account
N/A
$0
60,000+ fee-free ATMs
$2.50
Get rid of fees with this financial app offering consumer-friendly accounts. Chime can also help you save easily and access your paycheck faster.
Lili
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Lili
1.00%
$0
32,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide
$2.50
Freelancers get paid up to two days early and can automatically set aside money for taxes with the Lili digital bank account
Chase Total Checking®
Finder Rating: 3 / 5: ★★★★★
Chase Total Checking®
N/A
$0
Access to 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches nationwide
$2.50
Chase Total Checking is easy to use and gives you access to 16,000 ATMs and more than 4,700 branches. It offers a $225 signup bonus to new Chase customers
OnJuno
Finder Rating: 4.8 / 5: ★★★★★
OnJuno
Up to 1.20%
$0
more than 85,000 ATMs nationwide
$0
OnJuno embraces an open banking system for everyone, regardless of their age, location, or income.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product APY Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
Chime Spending account
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Chime Spending account
N/A
$0
60,000+ fee-free ATMs
$2.50
Get rid of fees with this financial app offering consumer-friendly accounts. Chime can also help you save easily and access your paycheck faster.
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Finder Rating: 3.8 / 5: ★★★★★
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Up to 1.00%
$10
55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
Deposits are fossil fuel-free and insured by the FDIC. Enjoy a spend and save combo account with unlimited cash back rewards and a $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first 60 days.
Target REDcard Debit Card
Target REDcard Debit Card
N/A
Save 5% every day & get exclusive extras with REDcard.
Wise Multi-currency
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
Wise Multi-currency
N/A
$20
Free at any ATM in the world
$0
Send and receive 50+ currencies right from your phone, but with a better exchange rate and low fees.
N26
Finder Rating: 4.5 / 5: ★★★★★
N26
N/A
$0
Fee-free ATM withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs
$0
A digital bank account with no hidden fees, no minimum account balance and no maintenance charges.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

A checking account can help you store and manage your money while allowing you to make transfers and online purchases. Debit cards can be used to withdraw cash and make point-of-sale transactions.

Compare your options to find checking accounts or the best debit cards on the market.

Frequently asked questions

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site