One of the great things about using a debit card is that you can use it in many places where you would normally write a check without having to actually write a check. The funds are verified in your account immediately, so you don’t have to worry about whether the transaction will go through. Sometimes, though, the funds aren’t actually withdrawn from your account the moment the transaction is completed.
Debit-card transactions for which you enter a PIN, called point-of-sale transactions (POS), clear through the same system that ATM withdrawals do, so those funds usually come out of your account right away.
Transactions for which you swipe your debit card, as you would a credit card, clear through the VISA network and can take a few days to post to your account. During that time the funds for that transaction are put on hold, which is OK, since you’ve technically already spent them. Once the transaction clears through the VISA network, the funds that were on hold are removed from your account.
While the transaction is waiting to clear from your account, you’ll notice a difference between your Account Balance and Available Balance. There are other reasons your Available Balance may be different from your Account Balance, such as deposit holds, but most of the time the difference can be attributed to debit-card transactions that haven’t posted.
During the time the transaction is on hold, only the Available Balance amount is used to clear checks and approve future debit-card purchases. It is therefore important to keep track of your debit-card purchases the same way you keep track of outstanding checks to ensure that when you make another debit-card purchase, you have sufficient funds available to cover it. The easiest way to track your purchases is to log into SMCU’s free Online Banking service. Online Banking shows your transactions in real time as soon as they post to our system. (You may have to sign out and sign back in if transactions are posting while you are logged in.) If you have questions about outstanding debit-card transactions, you can speak to a live representative in SMCU’s Contact Center or stop by a branch.
If you need to make an emergency purchase and your Available Balance is not enough to cover it, you may want to use SMCU’s Premium Overdraft service. Premium Overdraft can cover transactions made to your checking account when you accidentally overdraw it, up to $1,000. Remember that after August 15, 2010 you must opt in to have everyday debit-card transactions covered by SMCU’s Premium Overdraft service.
Debit cards are the most convenient way to access the funds in your checking account. Understanding how the transactions are processed can help you manage your account balance to avoid unnecessary fees or rejected transactions.