Home Banking Can you use a debit card with no money in your account?

Can you use a debit card with no money in your account?

Can you use a debit card with no money in your account?

Payments and cash withdrawals can be made using a debit card. You can read more about the function of the card and the parallels to the Girocard here.

debit card is a payment card that the owner can use for cashless payments. Also, cash withdrawals are possible with the debit card. The debit card is issued by a credit institution or bank. As soon as the owner of the card makes a transaction, the amount will be debited from his current account. It is not possible to withdraw funds in advance with a debit card like a credit card. With a debit card, the conditions of the current account apply with regard to withdrawals and the overdraft facility. Like most payment cards, the debit card is made of plastic (PVC). The term “debit” comes from English and translates as direct debit, debit or debit. 

A debit card is not a credit card

The terms are always confused: a debit card is not a credit card. The most popular debit card in Germany is conventional Girocard. The Girocard system is exclusively a German payment system. So that customers can also pay with their card abroad, we cooperate with payment systems from Visa or MasterCard, for example. 

  • Maestro is the debit card system from MasterCard
  • V-Pay is Visa’s debit card system

The terminology often leads to misunderstandings. Credit cards are payment cards that have their own credit line. Owners are usually billed for expenses they have made after four to eight weeks. Regular account statements can be printed out for debit cards. 

MasterCard Debit and Visa Card Debit

The credit card companies MasterCard and Visa also offer their own debit cards. Since the credit institution’s logo is shown on these cards, these cards also often cause confusion. With a MasterCard Debit and a Visa Card Debit, you can shop and pay on the Internet. This makes them similar to a girocard or a credit card

The Girocard is Germany’s most popular debit card

In 2017 there were 109 million debit cards in Germany. This makes the Girocard the most common debit card in this country. Each debit card is tied directly to an account. With every transaction or cash withdrawal, the card owner can access the account balance or the overdraft facility.

From 2008 to 2013 the debit card gained increasing popularity in Germany. After a brief decline in 2014, the number of debit card holders rose again. 2017 saw a record 3.3 billion transactions.   

The difference between prepaid cards and debit cards

There are also parallels between prepaid cards and debit cards . Both cards are cashless payment methods. However, prepaid cards must be topped up. You can only use it to pay when there is sufficient credit on the card. Another crucial difference is that you generally do not need a credit check for a prepaid card. If you want a debit card, you need an active checking account. Schufa information is required to open a current account. 

This is how the debit card works

Debit card customers can be used at all checkouts that offer card payment. At ATMs, you can withdraw money from your account with your PIN. Transactions can also only be carried out with a PIN or a signature for authorization. This is how banks protect their customers from fraudsters. The fees for the payment process at the till are usually paid by the seller or the dealer. However, there may be costs for the customer if he withdraws money from the machine. For this reason, it is advisable to find out beforehand which machines can be used to withdraw money free of charge. There are various networks to which the credit institutions and banks belong. You can find a list of these networks below:

  • The Sparkassenverband: 25,700 ATMs
  • The BankCard service network of the Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken: 19,600 ATMs
  • The Cash Group: 9,000 ATMs, including cash withdrawals at the tills of around 1,300 Shell petrol stations
  • The cash pool: 3,000 ATMs 

Debit Card Security

Credit cards and debit cards take second place after paying with cash in terms of security for the retailer and for the buyer. The company ‘Oxford Economics’ published this in March 2017 in the “Future of Money Report” . 

Benefits of a debit card


  • Low debt risk

    With a debit card it is unlikely to get into a spiral of debt. When the overdraft facility of a current account has been exhausted, the owner no longer has the option of using the card to make further transactions or to pay for purchases. In addition, the consumer has a good overview of his finances as the account is charged immediately after purchase.

  • Often free of charge

    Normally, bank customers receive the debit card free of charge with their current accounts.

Disadvantages of a debit card


  • Cost outside of Europe

    Many debit cards are only free in other European countries. One example of this is the Girocard with V-Pay from Visa. When using it abroad, additional fees apply. In this case, a credit card should be used. Most credit cards offer free cash withdrawals worldwide.

  • Cannot be used as security

    Since the debit card has no credit line for the customer, it may not be possible to deposit it everywhere as security. For example, for hotels or rental car bookings, providers usually require a credit card with a credit limit as security.

  • High-interest rates on overdraft facilities

    When a customer gets into the overdraft facility of his current account, the card user usually incurs high interest.

  • No additional services

    Compared to a credit card, a debit card does not offer any additional services. The customer would always have to pay extra for travel cancellation insurance or luggage insurance.


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