11 Risky Places You Should NEVER Use Your Debit Card

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Using a debit card can help curb those large, impulse buys that might otherwise break the bank. However, it’s wise to be cautious about where you use it, as some locations could put your hard-earned money and sensitive information at risk of theft.

Sketchy ATMs


Skimming incidents at ATMs in non-bank locations (like convenience stores or hotels, have dramatically increased), posing a serious risk to your financial security. These machines are less likely to be monitored effectively, making them prime targets for fraudsters. To protect yourself, avoid withdrawing cash from these ATMs whenever possible.

Even ATMs at banks aren’t immune to threats—skimming attacks on these machines have also surged! Before using an ATM, inspect it for any signs of tampering such as loose or crooked components. The FBI suggests using ATMs within bank premises as they are generally more secure and less prone to tampering.


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The airport is a hotspot for financial transactions—from checking bags and paying for parking to grabbing a bite before your flight. With everything happening in such a rush, it’s easy to become a target for identity thieves who exploit these hurried moments. 

To protect your bank account during these vulnerable times, opting for a credit card over a debit card is wise, ensuring that your finances remain secure while you’re on the move.

Gas Stations


Despite technological advances, many gas stations still use outdated payment terminals, making them hotspots for skimming devices. 

Experts strongly advise against using debit cards at gas pumps due to their susceptibility to fraud. Paying inside or using a credit card (which includes robust consumer fraud protections not available with debit cards) remains a safer choice.



While the allure of online shopping is undeniable—imagine easily adding a plush toy and a large appliance to your cart within minutes—it also presents significant risks. The primary concern is the potential for hackers to access your debit card information and spend what they can spend. 

Even though debit card theft is often capped at a loss of $50, the real issue lies in the lengthy, often 30-day process required to reclaim your funds and restore account access. Opting for a credit card during online transactions is a more secure alternative, ensuring greater peace of mind.

Restaurants and Bars


Handing over your debit card to start a tab at a bar or settle a restaurant bill exposes you to potential risks—from unauthorized swiping to data theft.

 A safer strategy involves utilizing contactless payment methods where available, which prevent your card from leaving your sight and protect against magnetic stripe skimming. Alternatively, consider using cash or a credit card, which offer stronger fraud protection measures.

Retail Stores


In retail environments, the convenience of debit card payments is often ruined by the risk of skimming. 

While contactless payments offer a layer of security by limiting the data available for theft, using a credit card or employing a debit card with chip technology are preferable methods for safeguarding your financial information against fraud.



When you check into a hotel, beware of holds on your card for potential extra charges—ranging from minibar usage to damages. While these holds are barely noticeable on credit cards, they can cause significant issues on debit cards, especially if your balance is just enough to cover your planned expenses. 

It is highly advised to inquire about any holds before using your debit card to avoid unexpected blocks on your funds.

Tourist Attractions


Popular tourist locations are notorious for skimming scams. The relaxed atmosphere and the crowd’s distraction make it easy for scammers to operate. 

To minimize the risk of fraud while enjoying your vacation, using a credit card is advisable. Not only does it offer fraud protection, but it also sidesteps foreign transaction fees (which can add up when traveling abroad).

Vacation Rentals


Vacation rentals are a popular choice for travelers seeking a home away from home, but they come with their own set of risks, particularly scams involving fake listings. To avoid the pitfall of paying for a nonexistent property, it’s critical not to use debit cards, which provide direct access to your bank account. 

Leading vacation rental platforms suggest using a credit card as the safest payment method. Credit cards offer significant protections, including the ability to dispute charges, which can be especially useful given the high costs associated with rental deposits or installment payments.

Self-Service Kiosks

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Self-service kiosks—found in locations ranging from parking lots to transit stations—offer convenience but also pose significant risks. 

These machines, which allow customers to make purchases without human interaction, can be prime targets for tampering. If you encounter a kiosk with a loose or ill-fitting card reader, it’s a strong indicator of potential skimming devices. Opting to use a credit card can be wiser in such cases, protecting your bank account from unauthorized access and potential theft.

Festivals, Fairs, and Sporting Events

Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

The allure of festivals and pop-up events can sometimes lead to financial disappointment. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has highlighted a rise in scams involving fake tickets to such gatherings. 

Victims often report purchasing tickets for events that turn out to be nonexistent, leading to unauthorized debit card charges. To combat this, using a credit for ticket purchases is recommended. Steering clear of ticket purchases from informal platforms like online marketplaces is also crucial.

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.