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Debit cards vs ATM cards

ATM and debit cards look almost identical, but what sets them apart?

If you’ve just opened a savings account, you’d probably come across both ATM cards and debit cards. Learn more about the difference between a debit card and ATM card, as well as the features of each card.

Compare debit cards in Singapore

Name Product Annual Fee Minimum Income Minimum Age Requirement Mobile payments
Aspire Corporate Card
S$0
S$0
N/A
Apple Pay, Google Pay
A corporate debit card for SMEs and Startups with no annual fee and low FX fees. Enjoy 1% cashback on marketing and SaaS spend. T&Cs apply.
OCBC Frank Debit Card
S$0
N/A
16 years old
Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Get unlimited 1% cashback on selected categories, access to exclusive deals and cashback with this stylish debit card.
BOC Chinese Cultural Debit Card
S$0
N/A
16 years old
Apple Pay, Google Pay
Enjoy all debit card features and exclusive privileges at China Cultural Centre, including discounts for performances and workshops.
DBS Visa Debit Card
S$0
N/A
16 years old
Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, NETSPay, PayLah!
A rewards debit card that offers up to 10% cashback on food delivery, local transport, contactless payments and foreign currency.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Debit cards and ATM cards: What’s the difference?

ATM and debit cards may seem rather similar in terms of their functions and use, but there are a few differentiating factors between them. So before we delve into their differences, lets take a detailed look at the purposes for which these cards can be used.

What is an ATM card?

When you open a savings account, the bank will issue a simple PIN-based Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card to you. This card is primarily used for cash withdrawal or and make banking transactions at ATMs located nationwide (and overseas). In addition, you can also make cashless payments to pay for purchases at point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

DBS ATM Card Sample
Image: Sample of an ATM card from DBS bank.

You’ll typically find the following details on the front of an ATM card:

  • Logo of the card issuer
  • Embedded microchip with your account details
  • The validity period in MM/YY format
  • Contactless payment symbol (if any)

On the back of the ATM card, you’ll find the following:

  • Magnetic stripe
  • Logos of of electronic ATM networks (e.g. Cirrus and Maestro)

What is a debit card?

A debit card offers all the features that come with an ATM card, but can also be used for payments anywhere credit cards are accepted.

Debit cards are linked to payment processing networks such as Mastercard and Visa, which allows you to transact conveniently at any retail or online stores as long as debit payments are accepted. The payment amount will then be deducted directly from your account balance. You can apply for a debit card after you’ve successfully opened a bank account.

DBS Debit Card Sample

Image: Sample of a debit card from DBS bank.

You’ll typically find the following details on the front of an ATM card:

  • Logo of the card issuer
  • Embedded microchip with your account details
  • Your 16-digit card number
  • The validity period in MM/YY format
  • Cardholder’s name
  • Card network provider (e.g. Mastercard, Visa etc)
  • Contactless payment symbol (if any)

On the reverse side of the card, you’d typically find:

  • Magnetic strip
  • Signature bar
  • 3-digit CVC
  • Logos of electronic ATM networks (e.g. Cirrus, Maestro, NETS etc)
  • Helpline numbers to reach you bank in case of emergencies

ATM cards vs debit cards

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of between ATM and debit cards:

FeaturesATM cardDebit card
Purchase/withdrawal
  • Funds deducted from account balance in real-time
  • Funds deducted from account balance in real-time
ATM access
  • Yes
  • Yes
Usage
  • ATM transactions
  • POS terminals (PIN required)
  • ATM transactions
  • POS terminals (PIN or contactless)
  • Online checkout
Transaction authorisation
  • Pin
  • Pin
  • Signature
Data storage
  • Magnetic stripe
  • EMV chip (comes with most ATM cards)
  • Magnetic stripe
  • EMV chip
Rewards
  • No
  • Limited, depends on the card’s reward programme
Annual fee
  • No
  • Typically free or waivable with minimum annual transactions
Payment network
  • Interbank
  • Interbank
  • Mastercard, Visa and more

Bottom line

In a nutshell, a debit card has much more to offer than a basic ATM card. You can access all the features of an ATM card with a debit card, plus enjoy fast, easy and convenient transactions – whether it’s an online or offline, cash or cashless payment. Some debit cards even comes with merchant discounts, cashback rewards and other perks. Hence, most people prefer to carry a single debit card instead of both cards in their wallets.

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