Why You Shouldn't use Your Debit Card at a Bar

Why You Shouldn't use Your Debit Card at a Bar

Written by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated September 5, 2014

Using your debit card to pay for drinks and food at a bar is an obvious choice for most, and it’s probably even helped a lot of people cut down on their credit card debt. The convenience factor is high, no worrying about racking up a huge credit card bill and ruining your credit, it’s small and easy to store in your pocket and you can create a tab with it so you only have to pay once at the end of the night.

But, what you probably don’t know is that debit cards are just as susceptible to fraud as credit cards and the ramifications are sometimes way worse. Your debit card is attached to all your hard earned money and it could potentially be all gone with a simple swipe of your card one Friday night, so think hard before you take your debit card to the bar with you.

Below are six reasons why you shouldn’t use your debit card at a bar.

1. Dishonest Employees

Whether it’s the bartender or the waiter, leaving your card with them can be a seriously bad idea. Almost all bars require you to give your card to your server to open a tab which means it’ll be out of your sight all night long and probably won’t be stored in a safest place. Obviously not all people working at bars are criminals or out to rip you off but even if you trust the bar or your server there are countless other people (who have been drinking) wander around the bar and who knows that they’re all up to or what might happen.

2. ATM Fees

Now that you’re too scared to open a tab at your local bar you’ll probably head to the sketchy ATM conveniently located right next to the door when you first walk in. This is also a bad idea as the fees you’ll pay to use the ATM could pay for another drink that night or another night. Instead make a quick pit stop at your bank before you head out for the night or better yet do it on your lunch break or first thing in the morning that way you won’t be tempted to skip the stop before the bar.

3. ATM Fraud

Let’s say you decide (against your better judgment) to use the ATM at the bar, well not only will you have to pay the fees but someone has put a “skimmer” on the machine to read all your card and bank information and can now use your money to pay for their drinks. It’s a bar not a bank so people probably aren’t paying that much attention to the ATM in the corner, identity fraud is not what you want to wake up to in the morning so go to the bank.

4. No Points

Using your debit card to pay for fun activities and nights out is technically a great idea because you’ll be spending the money you actually have and won’t be tempted to rack up a huge credit card bill. But, if used properly and responsibly a credit card can earn you points that you can use towards a vacation, a fun purchase or even to simply buy more drinks the next time you go out.

5. Over Spending

Going to the bank to withdraw cash before heading to the bar for the night has many advantages, like the ones we discussed above. But it could also prevent you from over spending especially if that’s a bad habit of yours. Taking out X amount of cash from the bank as a sort of budget for yourself is a great way to keep your spending in check.

6. Dealing with Fraud

Dealing with fraud associated with your debit account is one of the biggest hassles you never want to face. It’s different for every bank and every situation but let’s put it this way, if you happen to miss the fraudulent activity and only realize months later you could have some serious trouble getting your money back or you might never see it again.

Debit is convenient but in certain situations the risk out ways the convenience. There are countless benefits for choosing to take cash to a bar over using your debit card, think smart and plan in advance before you head out for the night. Because if your card is stolen or copied and all your money is taken we can guarantee that your landlord won’t care when you don’t have the money to pay your rent.

Caitlin is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security. One of the main ways she’s built good financial habits is by budgeting and tracking her spending through the YNAB budgeting app. She also automates her savings so she never forgets to put aside a portion of her income into her TFSA. She believes investing and passive income is key to earning financial freedom. She also uses her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect Aeroplan points so that she can save money when she travels.

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