When to use a credit card, when to use a debit card

Credit card reader

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – At Spot of Tea in downtown Mobile, Ala., customers can pay in safety.

“They actually pay the cashier — we have two of them up front — and we swipe their cards, separate their checks,” says marketing director Donna Shoaf.

But other restaurants usually have you pay your server, who often takes it out of your sight to run it through the credit card terminal. Experts say in this case, it’s better to pay with cash or a credit card.

At these other restaurants, servers have the ability to swipe your card through a skimmer and download your card and banking information.

But when it comes to cash, Shoaf is like most of us. “Yeah, I never carry cash, it’s usually my debit card.”

Financial rate monitoring site GoBankRates.com says there are situations where you should put that debit card away and use your credit card: Shopping online, hotels and vacation rentals, restaurants, non-bank ATMs and self-service kiosks, and gas pumps.

In recent months skimmers have been found at gas pumps in Green Bay, Appleton, Oskhosh, Madison, Mequon, Brookfield and other cities around Wisconsin.

It looks like you’re putting a credit card through a regular card reader. There are two types of readers: A lookalike mounted in front of the real card reader, which may be loose or jiggles excessively, or a device planted inside the gas pump itself. Either way, it gives thieves a copy of everyone’s information who used that skimmer.

Using a credit card is often much safer than using a debit card. Credit cards tend to have more protection, and federal law says you can’t be held liable for more than $50 in purchases you didn’t make if you report the card missing or stolen within two days. Your debit card, however, is a direct link to your bank account and a thief can wipe out your entire account in seconds.

Save the money you would’ve withdrawn from your bank account if you’d used the debit card, earn a little more interest on it, then use it to pay off the credit card bill each month.

Originally published by our Media General sister station WKRG. WBAY-TV contributed to this report