Both ATM and debit cards are safe, convenient ways to get cash, make deposits, transfer funds, and make purchases. They look almost the same, but each have a different purpose and do different things. This resource will help you learn the differences between ATM cards and debit cards.

ATM Cards

The purpose of an ATM card is to get cash from your account. An ATM card is a PIN-based card and can be linked to a checking or savings account. The money taken out will lower your account balance right away, so be sure to know how much money you have in your account.

front of an atm card
back of an atm card icon

The front of an ATM card has:

  • Bank’s name/logo
  • Your name
  • ATM card number
  • Card expiration date
  • **ATM cards do not have a Visa® or Mastercard® logo on it

The back of an ATM card has:

  • Customer service phone number
  • Signature bar
  • Card verification number (CVV)

Debit Cards

front of a debit card

A debit card looks similar to an ATM card and you can use it at ATMs. But when you make a purchase, the funds come out of your checking account. Also, debit cards have a Visa®, Mastercard® or American Express® logo on their front. That means you can use a debit card wherever Visa®, Mastercard® or American Express® debit cards are accepted, for example, department stores, restaurants, or online.


When you open a saving or checking account, your bank will probably offer you the opportunity to apply for at ATM card and/or a debit card.

To use your card at the ATM, you must enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN), a secret combination of numbers that you create. Your PIN is like a secret password. If someone else has it, they can take money out of your account — so don’t share it with anyone. If you do give it out, you may be held responsible for any money you lose. So to keep your money safe, keep your PIN a secret.

Because most ATMs give out cash and many accept deposits, it makes sense to be alert and aware of your surroundings every time you use an ATM. If your ATM or debit card is ever lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately.

Not all ATMs work exactly the same way, but they’re all designed to be easy to use. Just follow the directions on the ATM screen that you’re using.

Your ATM or debit card will work in machines operated by your own bank. It may also work in ATMs operated by other financial institutions. This flexibility is great, but be careful about fees you may be charged by both your bank and the ATM company.

Be sure you have enough money to cover your ATM withdrawals, repeating payments, other withdrawals, and outstanding checks. When you make a withdrawal using your ATM or debit card, the money will be taken from your checking or savings account. Heads up when you deposit a check, the money may not be available right away.

Make a habit of keeping track of all your banking transactions. Compare the amounts on your receipts to those on your bank statement every month to ensure that they match.