Debit cards are increasingly popular alternatives to credit cards, offering a secure and convenient way to access cash and make purchases within Australia and overseas through the Visa and MasterCard networks.
Unlike credit cards, debit cards only give you access to the money you have in the account, so you can avoid the temptation to overspend and rack up future debt. They’re fuss-free and are a great tool for budgeting and spending wisely.
With your debit card, you can withdraw money from an ATM, use it to make direct purchases and even spend online.
What should I look for when I compare debit cards?
Mozo helps you to compare Visa and MasterCard debit cards from leading Australian banking providers. While debit cards are fairly straightforward financial products, there are a few key areas you'll want to compare to ensure you pick the right debit card for your needs.
Fees: Comparing fees is a good place to start, and if saving money is on your mind you'll likely be wanting to find a debit card account that doesn’t charge a service fee. Other fees to compare include ATM fees, international ATM fees and overseas transaction fees.
Payment options: If you’re looking for alternative payment options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay, it’s worth comparing which debit cards offer these options.
These features and more can be compared below, so you can rest assured knowing you’re getting the right debit card for your spending needs.
Page last updated April 5, 2020
Debit card comparisons on Mozo - rates updated daily Mozo has robust processes to ensure our site is updated to reflect the latest information from providers. There may be the odd occasion where updates are delayed, so please confirm information before purchasing.
Free ATM use in Australia and overseas and free international transactions when you deposit at least $1,000 from an external bank account and make at least 5 card purchases using your ING debit card each month.
Designed from the ground up for mobile. No minimum deposits, intro periods or minimum payments. 100% fee free, instant sign up via Mobile app. Travel-friendly with no international ATM, card or currency conversion fees. Plus, instant account freeze if you lose your card.
Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin, Fitbit
The UBank Ultra Transaction Account works hand in hand with the USaver. Receive a generous 2.10% ongoing bonus rate when you deposit at least $200 into either account each month. No international fees. Winner of the Mozo Experts Choice Awards 2019 as Savings Bank of the Year.
Send and receive foreign currency with no Citi transfer fees & consolidate your international bank accounts with account details for up to 10 currencies. Currently offering special exchange rate on New Zealand Dollar
No overseas ATM fees & up to 10 currencies in one account. Switch between currencies instantly 24/7 wherever you are using the mobile app.$100 Bonus for new HSBC customers and earn 2% cashback on tap and pay under $100 (T&Cs apply)
$6.00$0 monthly account fee if you deposit min. $2,000 per month
Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayID, Payment Ring
Bankwest packs a heap of value into their Hero Transaction Account, with 0.75% interest on balances up to $5,000, unlimited free transactions online, over the phone, at network ATMs or with debit card purchases, plus no account fee as long as you deposit $2,000 each month.
Enjoy $0 monthly account fees and unlimited fee-free card, phone and online transactions. Tap and pay with Google Pay, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Refund of overdrawn fees and international ATM withdrawal fees and international card transaction fees^.
Is a debit card right for your wallet? Read on as we run through everything you'll need to know about these handy bank cards and how to choose the right one to suit your needs.
What is a debit card?
When you open a bank account in Australia, you'll have the option of choosing a debit card. A debit card allows you to make purchases from stores and ATM withdrawals which get debited from your bank account. Some people also refer to these cards as 'EFTPOS' or 'ATM' cards.
Another option available from banks and credit unions is a Visa Debit or MasterCard Debit card. This guide (and section of our site) mainly deals with Visa and MasterCard Debit Cards.
Why would I need a debit card?
Debit cards can help simplify your day to day spending by reducing the need to carry too much cash at any point. You can use your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, pay bills and make purchases in Australia or overseas using your own money.
Your debit card is directly linked with your bank account and uses the money in that account when you make a transaction.
It's a simpler and more secure way to make payments because your bank would protect you from fraudulent transactions and in the case that you lose your card, you can call your bank to block further transactions.
Visa or MasterCard?
Both Visa and MasterCard debit cards offer similar features and benefits. Whether you receive a Visa or MasterCard will depend on which bank you are with as each bank is usually aligned with one card provider.
Interested in finding out which debit cards people think are great? Head on over to our debit card reviews section. Thousands of customers have reviewed their debit cards and you can find out how they rank on price, features and fees.
What's the difference between credit and debit cards?
Both credit cards and debit cards let you make transactions online as well as offline. The main difference between the two is that while a credit card allows you to 'borrow' money from the bank at a fixed interest rate, a debit card uses your own money so that you spend only what you have in your bank account.
While you won't build up debt using a debit card, the main advantage with a credit card is that it gives you the liberty to split your expenditure as you want.
For instance, if you're making a big purchase, but don't have enough money to cover it, or you just don't want to empty out your account, you can pay with your credit card and control the actual money outflow.
Both card types have their own pros and cons and how much you choose to use one over the other is a matter of personal choice and finances.
What are the advantages of a debit card?
No debt: Debit cards are safer in terms of not being associated with the danger of falling into debt because you will only use the money you have.
No credit rating risk: Because you're not borrowing or repaying any money to the bank, there is no danger of your credit rating being affected. This also implies that your credit history will have no effect on your application for a debit card.
No extra fee for ATM withdrawals: While you can use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM because it's technically a 'loan' from the bank, you'll be charged interest on the cash withdrawal. On the other hand, since your money on the debit card is treated like cash, you won't have to pay an extra fee while withdrawing money from your own bank's ATM.
Security: Carrying a debit card instead of a stash of cash in your wallet is generally much safer because if you were to lose your wallet, you would be protected under your bank's anti-fraud policy and could get the card blocked from further transactions.
Cashback and rewards: While the rewards programs for debit cards aren't usually as extensive as those for credit card rewards programs, with the growing use of debit cards, many providers have started offering cashback options and rewards, such as special offers on home entertainment products or movie tickets. Check with your bank about any such schemes applicable to your debit card.
Purchase protection: Generally, the products that you buy using your Visa or MasterCard debit card, should also be eligible for purchase protection. This is an insurance which covers your purchases against loss, theft or accidental damage to an item that you've purchased with your debit card for up to 90 days. Usually, the provider would require you to press 'credit' instead of 'savings' while making a transaction on EFTPOS to be eligible for purchase protection. Be sure to read the exact requirements for eligibility in the terms and conditions for your debit card.
Tap and Go: Both Visa and Mastercard offer contactless payments, also known as PayPass or payWave. This means that when you make a purchase of less than $100, you don't need to swipe your card or enter your pin. You can just tap or hover your debit card over the machine to complete your payment. You'll know if your transaction was successful through an illuminated light or a confirmation message on the display screen. It's really that simple.
Kelly Emmerton was the Money Editor at Mozo until March 2020. With over 4 years experience writing exclusively in the Australian finance space her in-depth knowledge spans all areas of personal finance, from home loans to travel money. Kelly has a background in communications and when she’s not delving into finance industry stats and product disclosure statements, you’ll find her on the beach reading classic sci-fi.
Daily withdrawal limits: Most debit cards will have daily limits for cash withdrawals so if you are planning on making a major purchase (over $1000) you may need to plan in advance.
Merchant surcharges: Some merchants will charge a percentage surcharge for Visa and Mastercard debit transactions. These can be as high as 10% of the transaction amount.
Holding deposits: Some venues such as hotels will not accept debit cards for room security deposits. If you are travelling overseas it is also recommended that you also carry a credit card for this purpose.
Online shopping: Not all overseas online stores will accept debit card payments.
Debit cards don’t incur fees or interest in the same way credit accounts do, but there are still a few fees you should be aware of:
Surcharges: EFTPOS surcharges may apply in some cases when you pay with a debit card instead of using cash. These are generally low (the recommended amount is 0.5%), and are most commonly seen at cafes and restaurants.
Overdraft fees: Overdraft fees occur when you use more money than what’s available in your account when making a purchase. Doing this puts your account balance into negative, and means that you might have to pay an amount to your bank to make up the difference.
Withdrawal fees: Whilst generally avoidable, there are still some circumstances in which you’ll be charged between $2 and $5 for taking money out of an independent ATM. If you’re travelling, a good way to avoid these is by using a travel debit card.
While you can use your normal debit card overseas, you generally have to pay fees for overseas withdrawals and currency convenience fees, which are around 3%. If you'd like to see how much these fees are, check out our debit card fee finder tool. Simply select the card and we'll show you how much you'll need to pay for overseas ATM withdrawals and purchases.
An alternative for travelling is to get a prepaid travel card, which is basically a debit card loaded with foreign currency that you can conveniently use while you are overseas. You can easily add multiple currencies on the card if you are going to different countries. Unlike your standard debit card, you do not need to have a bank account linked to the prepaid card. This is an efficient way to avoid overseas conversion fees every time you make a transaction in a foreign country.
Prepaid travel cards allow you to lock in an exchange rate before you travel so you don't have to worry about negative fluctuations while on holiday. You may, however, need to pay an initial card issuance fee or a money loading fee, as well as fees for withdrawing cash from an ATM from your travel card so it is important that you compare prepaid travel cards in the market before you choose one.
A debit card is directly linked to your bank account and uses the money available in the account. So first you'd need to apply for an everyday transaction account. These days, when you apply for an account you automatically receive a debit card as well. If you already have an account but not a debit card, you can visit a local branch or call your bank to apply for a card. Generally, to be eligible for a debit card, you have to be at least 16 years of age and have an Australian residential address.
Debit cards are perfect for keeping a check on your expenditure and making sure you don't go beyond what you can afford. But if you need that extra help to figure out how much you are spending every month and how much you should be left with so you can plan your finances more efficiently, use our handy online budget calculator.