Is Debit Card and ATM Card Same
12 Jul 2021

Is Debit Card and ATM Card Same

Debit Card vs ATM Card – comparing the differences

Key Takeaways

  • Debit cards have multiple functions; you can use them for cash withdrawals, online transactions etc.
  • ATM cards have single-use—cash withdrawals.
  • Debit cards give discounts and offer additional benefits.
  • You do not get discounts with ATM cards.
  • You can use ATM cards at other bank ATMs.


For years now, banks have been providing plastic cards that you can use to access the funds parked in your savings accounts. Some banks offer ATM cards, while most others provide debit-cum-ATM cards. It is no wonder that most people tend to confuse debit cards and ATM cards. While the two facilities are often merged into one card today, there are some crucial differences between debit cards and ATM cards. Let us understand their meanings before we can proceed to compare the differences.

Debit cards

A debit card is a card offered by your bank as a way to access your bank account. This card is typically linked to your bank account – be it a savings, current, or salary account and you can use it to fund your expenses in several ways. A debit card comprises a 16-digit unique number, card verification value or CVV, and an expiry date embossed on it, reflecting the card's validity. You also get a four-digit secret PIN, which you have to enter when you make purchases or choose to withdraw money at ATMs. It would be best if you did not share this PIN with anyone under any circumstances, nor write it down anywhere as a safety measure. Instead, it would be best if you memorised it.

You can typically use the debit card to pay money from your linked account without withdrawing cash. For instance, you can swipe the card at a retail store to pay for your purchases or input the card number, expiry date and CVV to make online purchases, pay utility bills, recharge devices like phones, DTH, etc. The transaction is instant, and money is withdrawn from your account into the payee account. Enhanced security features make the transactions safe, too.

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ATM Cards

Banks also issue ATM cards. Unlike debit cards, ATM cards have only a single feature—anytime cash withdrawal. Like debit cards, ATM cards are also PIN-based, and the PIN is linked to your bank account. Generally, you can use the ATM card at ATM vestibules provided by your bank for cash withdrawals. You may also withdraw cash from other bank ATMs, up to a specified limit (typically 3-5 transactions per month), but the limit differs from bank to bank. If you exceed the limit of using other bank ATMs, you may have to pay a nominal fee.

Any cash you withdraw using your ATM card is reflected in your bank account in real-time. Also, it would help if you took the same safety precautions as applicable to debit cards with your ATM cards. Furthermore, retailers or payment outlets do not accept ATM cards. So, you cannot use them for shopping purposes.

Debit cards vs ATM cards

Now that we know the fundamental differences between ATM and debit card, let us compare the broader aspects. The table below illustrates the difference between a debit card and an ATM card.

Basic usage

Debit cards come with several features and use, including withdrawals at ATMs online and retail shopping, whereas you can use ATM cards only to withdraw cash at ATMs.


Retailers and online payment outlets accept debit cards, allowing for hassle-free shopping. ATM cards are not accepted for shopping purposes.

Fund transfers

While you can link your debit card to third party applications to initiate fund transfers, you cannot transfer funds using ATM cards.

Online purchases and discounts

With debit cards, you can purchase goods and services online and pay your utility bills as well. You may even be eligible for discounts on your card on online purchases and bill payments. But these facilities are not available with ATM cards.

Overdraft facility

While some debit cards offer an overdraft facility, banks generally do not provide overdraft facilities with ATM cards.

EMI options

You can use your debit card to pay EMIs for your various loans, especially consumer purchase loans offered on online shopping websites. You cannot, however, avail yourself of the ATM facility with debit cards.

Additional benefits

Many banks in India offer some additional benefits that can prove highly advantageous to the debit cardholder. These include complementary insurance, access to airport lounges, reward points and cash back, fuel discounts, etc. With ATM cards, no additional benefits are provided.

How do debit cards work?

Having compared debit vs ATM card, let us understand how the former works. Debit cards work both online and offline.

You can quickly and safely pay for the goods or services bought offline using a debit card. Once the retailer enters the purchase amount, you, as the cardholder, have to key in the four-digit secret PIN. The merchant or the service provider employs a card machine, also called point of sale (PoS). The device reads your debit card linked to your bank account and instantly deducts the amount. The bank then processes the payment request on the card machine.

As for online usage, you need to enter your 16-digit debit card number, the expiry date and the three-digit CVV number. The bank sends you a One-Time Password or OTP on your registered mobile number (RMN) linked to your bank account, which you must enter to authenticate the transaction.


The differences between a debit card and an ATM card are pretty significant in terms of usage. As such, they are not interchangeable. You must therefore ensure you open a bank account that provides benefits of both ATM and debit cards. Both cards are integral to our banking needs today and make bank transactions incredibly easy.

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*Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only. We recommend you get in touch with your income tax advisor or CA for expert advice.