How To Get A Debit Card (3 Simple Steps)

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: December 28, 2020

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How to get a debit card in 3 simple steps | Be The Budget

Are you looking for a step-by-step guide on how to get a debit card? Well, you’re in the right place. In this post, I’m going to walk you through the three simple steps you need to take in order to get, and start using a debit card.

Additionally, I’ll cover some of the main benefits of debit cards, as well as answer a few of the other common questions you might have.

Oh, and to top it all off, I’ll even introduce you to one of my all-time favorite apps that allows you to earn cash back with your debit card. (Seriously, getting cash back from a debit card purchase is a game changer.)

So, if you’re ready to get a debit card and start experiencing all the benefits that come with it, keep reading. This guide is for you!

How To Get A Debit Card

If you’ve never owned, or used a debit card, I can understand why the process might be a little intimidating. Between managing a checking account, utilizing a new method of payment, and just stepping into unfamiliar territory, it’s completely normal to feel a sense of uncertainty.

Like any other area of personal finance, when you step into something new, there are all sorts of things to consider, and unknowns to assess.

But here’s the good news, the process of opening a checking account and getting a debit card is actually quite simple. Beyond that, banks and other financial institutions have streamlined the process to a point where it only takes a few minutes to get started.

So, how do you get a debit card? Well, all you have to do is follow these 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Open A Checking Account

If you want to get a debit card, the first step you need to take is to open a checking account.

Now, these days, there are seemingly unlimited banking options. From local and regional banks, to credit unions, and even the national banks, the choices are endless. However, of all the steps in this process, choosing the right checking account is the most important thing you can do.

So, before you walk into the first bank you see, here are a few things you should look for in a checking account:

  • No Fees – If you are going to put your money into a checking account, the last thing you want is a bank that is going to charge you a bunch of fees. After all, what’s the point of keeping your money in a bank account if they’re just going to take money away from you? That’s not right. At minimum, your checking account should have: no monthly maintenance fees, no low minimum balance fees, no overdraft fees, and domestic ATM fee reimbursements.
  • Mobile Banking – If you want to manage your debit card effectively, even when you’re on the go, mobile banking is a really nice feature to have. Whether you want to make a transfer, check your account, or mobile deposit a check, having a mobile banking app is a really nice thing to have.
  • Insurance – If you’re going to trust a financial institution with your money, then make sure they are insured. So, when selecting a checking account, look for the phrase “FDIC Insured”, or “NCUA Insured”. Honestly, I have yet to see a bank that isn’t insured, but if they aren’t, then run in the opposite direction.

If you’re looking for a checking account that meets all the requirements we just mentioned, we recommend opening a free Axos Essential Checking Account. Not only is it a no-fee checking account, but you can open an account entirely online, in less than 15 minutes.

Step 2: Request/Receive Your Debit Card

In some cases (although, this has never happened to me), if you open a checking account in-person, you may receive your debit card (or a temporary debit card) right then and there. That said, in most cases, after you open a checking account, you will have to wait a few days for your debit card to arrive in the mail. In my experience, this can take anywhere from a couple business days, to two weeks.

Additionally, unless you were given the option to select a 4-digit PIN (Personal Identification Number) when you signed up for your checking account, in many cases, you will also receive a separate piece of mail with your PIN inside. It is important for you to either memorize your pin, or keep it in a safe, secret place. (I recommend you do both.)

Since your pin is essentially your secret password that allows you to make debit purchases, it’s important for you to commit it to memory–and never share it with anyone. Though, if you don’t receive a pin, you may need to create one when you activate your card, which leads me to step 3.

Step 3: Activate Your Debit Card

Once you receive your debit card, and PIN, in the mail, you will need to activate your card.

Now, your debit card should come with a little sticker on the front of it that explains exactly how to go about doing this. Typically, in order to activate your card, you will have one of three options:

  1. Call the phone number provided to you when your card was sent in the mail, and follow the prompts to activate it. (If you did not select a PIN, or receive one in the mail, you may have to create one over the phone in this step.) This is the method I recommend when activating your card.
  2. Insert your card into an ATM and enter your PIN.
  3. Enter your PIN when making a purchase with your new debit card. (I don’t recommend this method, because if something goes wrong, then you may have to put your purchase on hold and call your bank to activate your card–which you could’ve just done in the first place.)

How To Get A Debit Card (3 Simple Steps) | Be The Budget

Why Should You Get A Debit Card?

If you didn’t know this already, here at Be The Budget, we are huge fans of debit cards. Since we live a completely debt-free (and credit-card-free) lifestyle, we use debit cards for nearly every purchase we make.

Seriously, the only time we don’t use a debit card is when we have to pay actual cash for something, and that is pretty rare.

So, why, exactly, are we such big advocates for debit cards? Well, I can boil it down to a few very important reasons:

No Debt

Unlike a credit card, when you use a debit card, you don’t take on any debt. Rather, the money just comes straight out of your checking account, and the transaction is over. You don’t have to make any other payments, and you don’t have to worry about any interest accruing. In fact, once the transaction takes place, you don’t have to think about it at all.

When it comes to personal finance, I always say that simplicity leads to success. And debit cards are about as simple as it gets.

Related Post: Credit Card or Debit Card: Which Should You Avoid?

No More Spare Change Wasted

Ok, I know that using cash for every purchase might lead to less spending, but whenever I pay with cash, I almost always end up with spare change. And if I’m being honest, all that extra change is more likely to end up under my seat cushion than it is to end up being used.

In other words, whenever I pay with cash, I almost always end up wasting all the spare change I receive in return. And that just gets under my skin.

Meanwhile, when I use a debit card, I get to spend the exact amount of money I need. That means no more spare change falling under the driver’s seat of my car, no more spare change at the bottom of my wife’s purse, and no more wasted money.

Thank you, Debit Card.

Simplified Budgeting

One of the biggest benefits of using a debit card is that it seriously simplifies budgeting. As opposed to juggling balances on multiple credit cards, or holding onto receipts for all your cash purchases, whenever you want to log your debit card purchases into your budget, all you have to do is log into one account.

This is especially beneficial if you are married. You see, when you share a checking account with your spouse, at any one time, either one of you can log into the checking account and update your budget. That’s about as simple as things can get.

Related Posts:

What Documents Are Required For a Debit Card? In order to open a checking account, for which you will receive a debit card, you should expect to provide your social security number, birth date, physical address, and a copy of your photo ID (i.e. a driver’s license, passport, or state-issued ID).

Can I Get A Debit Card Online? Yes, you can get a debit card online. In fact, if you don’t have a debit card, you can open a checking account entirely online, and have a debit card mailed to you. On the other hand, if you already have a checking account, and just want a new debit card, most banks and financial institutions will allow you to request a new card online.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Debit Card? In most cases, it should take between 3 and 7 business days to receive a new debit card through the mail. That said, in some cases it can take up to two weeks. If you need to receive your debit card sooner than that, many banks offer expedited delivery for a small fee.

How Much Money Do You Need To Get A Debit Card? In most cases, banks will require a minimum opening deposit to open a checking account and receive a debit card. Depending on the financial institution, you should expect this to range between $25 and $500.

Bonus: How To Get Cash Back With A Debit Card

Ok, for a long time, one of the biggest arguments for using a credit card over a debit card was that you could earn cash back.

However, that argument has gone out the window, because these days, there are quite a few apps that allow you to earn cash back with your debit card! And here at Be The Budget, our absolute favorite cashback app is Rakuten.

With Rakuten, all you have to do is sign up for a free account, download their free extension to your browser, and activate cash back whenever you make a purchase from a qualifying website. And here’s the best news, with Rakuten, depending on where you are making a purchase, you could end up earning way more than 1% cash back. Seriously, I have seen stores offer anywhere from 1%, all the way up to 15% cash back.

how to get a debit card | Be The Budget

Final Notes

Getting a debit card is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is:

  1. Open a checking account
  2. Receive your debit card (and PIN) in the mail
  3. Activate your debit card

Additionally, there are quite a few benefits to having a debit card. From avoiding debt, to simplifying your budgeting process, to reducing the amount of spare change you have rolling around in your car, a debit card is a great thing to keep in your wallet.

Did you find this post helpful? If so, be sure to subscribe to Be The Budget. We are on a mission to help people save more money, improve their financial situation, make more money, and finally live a life free from the burden of financial struggle. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, enter your email in any of the forms on this page. We can’t wait to have you!

Recommendations In This Post:

  • Axos Essential Checking Account – A free, no-fee checking account with a ton of awesome features.
  • Rakuten – Our favorite app to earn cashback with your new debit card. (Just be sure to install the browser extension and activate it whenever you make a purchase from a qualifying retailer.)

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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