Terry Savage just covered the subject of using check cards in public places here.
With check cards (generally, hybrid ATM and VISA cards) having become a de facto currency these days, it’s important to be careful as to how you use them.
For example, if you’re going to use a check card, always choose the “credit” vs. the “debit” option. The idea of entering a PIN on a public terminal is unnerving enough, but you also don’t get some key protection in case the card is used fraudulently.
But at the end of the day, I strongly believe that these check cards should only be used for ATM withdrawals at bank ATM machines — not for credit transactions in general (even more so for online transactions).
Practically speaking, it’s more of a hassle to reconcile your bank statement at the end of the month with lots of little charges compared to the simplicity and hard copy backup of checks (and you do reconcile your bank statements, right?), but more importantly, the risk of fraud tied to your bank account is too great a risk.
Of course, I recognize that some people can’t get normal credit cards, because of age or credit history, and all they have access to is a check card. In that case, simply use caution and regularly stay on top of the charges as reported from your bank. And don’t choose the “debit” option when making a purchase.
(Hat tip to Marc)