By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO viewers Ryan and Bart were chatting about debit cards, when they wondered: Why do stores offer the choice of debit or credit when using a debit card?

Choosing debit on a debit card usually means entering a pin, but choosing credit on that same card does not.

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According to TCF Bank, merchants can choose to offer credit, debit or both. Merchants make these decisions on what to offer for several reasons — one of which is speed of transaction.

Some stores might not offer debit, so merchants will give the choice of credit on a debit card.

Consumers don’t see any difference when they choose between credit or debit on their debit cards, says Kevin Miller, senior vice president of products, marketing and customer experience at TCF Bank.

(credit: CBS)

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“It has to do with the inner workings of how transactions are processed,” Miller said. “So whatever you select, it kind of drives the route it goes. For the consumer, it doesn’t matter.”

MasterCard said in a statement that using debit means the money comes out of an account immediately. Using credit might take two to three days before the money comes out of the account.

Miller says the security and protection is the same for either choice now that chip technology is widely available for cards. Most companies and all large companies now offer zero liability protection if there is fraud on any account.

“In theory, everyone believes the pin is more secure, and it probably is,” he said. “But the good news is with the security we have today, it’s not dramatically different anymore.”

Miller says merchants are charged fees when customers use credit or debit, but those fees differ by merchant and by type of store.

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“For some transaction types, a debit may be cheaper for a merchant than a credit,” Miller said. “In other instances, credit might be cheaper than debit.”

Heather Brown