Debit vs. Credit Card: Which Should You Holiday Shop With?

The holidays are finally here! And with them, the familiar sounds of the season: Children laughing, festive music, snow falling—and the proverbial cha ching of all the holiday shopping you need to do. From decorations and food to presents for the whole family (and more), this can be a very expensive time of year. That’s why you may find yourself debating over whether you should use your debit card or credit card when it’s time to check out. While they each have their perks, they also have downsides—let’s examine them both:


Debit Cards


  • Pros
    • No debt: Debit cards don’t put you in a position where you can rack up debt. You can only spend as much money as you have available in your checking account (unless you enroll in overdraft protection, like Suffolk’s Courtesy Pay), which, while it has its financial limitations, also protects you from costly debt and interest fees.
    • No annual fees: Unlike many credit cards, debit cards don’t carry annual fees. The exception to this is the maintenance fees that may be charged by the checking account to which your debit card is connected. To truly spend without fees, find a 100 percent free checking account, like Suffolk’s Free Advantage Checking.
    • No credit score requirement: Many credit cards won’t approve you without a decent credit score, and the ones that will often charge you a much higher interest rate. A debit card carries all the convenience of credit card purchases, but none of the credit requirements.
    • Perks: Many debit cards offer perks and rewards just for using them, like Suffolk’s MasterCard® Debit Card’s uChoose Rewards.


  • Cons
    • Purchase limitations: When you’re restricted to only spending the amount of money in your checking account, you may not have the opportunity to make big purchases.
    • You pay in real time: Even if you have more money in your account than a purchase may cost, you may not be prepared to part with so much so soon. All of your purchases make an immediate impact on your cash-in-hand.


Credit Cards


  • Pros
    • Greater purchase potential: There are few things worse than seeing the perfect holiday gift and not being able to buy it. Whether it’s because you don’t have the money in your account or because you need it for other purchases, this is a huge limitation of debit cards. Credit cards give you greater freedom with your spending.
    • Spend now, pay later: Don’t take this responsibility lightly and assume debt you can’t manage, but credit cards enable you to pay off your purchases over time, rather than all at once.
    • Boost your credit score: In order to build and improve your credit score, you need to have a proven history of properly managing your debt.
    • Perks: Many credit cards offer perks and rewards just for using them, like Suffolk’s MasterCard® Platinum credit card.
  • Cons
    • Greater risk of long-term debt: As nice as the freedom to make big purchases feels, it can be very easy to let your spending get out of hand. If you only pay the minimum amount on your card every month, that one purchase can end up costing you big in the end.
    • A lower credit score: Just like a well-maintained credit card can boost your score, a poorly managed one can have a negative effect on that important number.
    • Annual fees: Most credit cards charge you a fee, even if you don’t use them. When searching for a credit card, always look for one that carries no annual fee, like Suffolk’s MasterCard® – Platinum and Rewards – credit cards.


Now that you know the pros and cons of making your holiday purchases with a debit card and credit card, it’s time to get out there and start shopping (responsibly, of course)!

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