I've been asked by a student whether 'bank card' is a common synonym for debit card.

I started by checking wikipedia whose article on bank cards points towards it including both debit, credit and other cards. However, the article on debit cards seems to imply that bank card is indeed a synonym of debit card.

While searching EL&U, I found an answer to the question that clearly states that, at least in Canada, bank card is a synonym for debit card.

So... Is bank card a general synonym for debit card, or is this true only in some English-speaking countries? And if so, which countries? In the countries where this is true, which term is preferred in everyday speech?

  • All I can see in your link backing up the statement in Canada, bank card is a synonym for debit card is this comment which has been upvoted by a couple of people. There are far more people on that page saying different, with far more upvotes. Years ago in the UK we used to have things called "bank cards" which simply asserted that you were the signatory, for identification. You couldn't actually use them to get money without a cheque. Feb 25, 2014 at 17:36
  • @FumbleFingers: That comment was one of the few which mentioned bank card = debit card and added a specific country. Rightly or wrongly, I assumed that it might hold true in Canada but not in other countries. Feb 25, 2014 at 21:02

3 Answers 3


A debit card is a card issued by a bank, therefore it qualifies as a bank card.

A bank card is not necessarily a debit card, because it could be a credit card etc., as explained in one of the answers to the question you linked to.

debit card -> bank card

bank card -> debit card, credit card, etc.

Because of the relationship, I would say that a debit card is a type of bank card, but not a synonym. The best way to check if bank card works as a synonym of debit card is a simple substitution. If someone said:

Please give me your bank card

Someone who had both a debit or credit card in their pocket might hand the person a credit card, instead of a debit card. Sometimes, you would know based on context which card they wanted you to give them, but it is not explicit. It is however, very obvious which card the person wants if they say:

PLease give me your debit card
  • Some credit cards, e.g. American Express Cards, can be used at ATMs. And many credit cards are issued by banks.
    – Barmar
    Feb 25, 2014 at 17:23
  • @Barmar I'm not arguing that you can't use a credit card at an ATM. I'm pointing out that if the ATM asks you for a PIN number it would not be applicable for credit cards.
    – Alex W
    Feb 25, 2014 at 17:24
  • @Alex: Perhaps US usage is different. My UK bank supplies both my debit and credit cards, and the documentation for both refer to PINs (I can use the credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs if I want; I just choose not to). Feb 25, 2014 at 17:31
  • I have to enter a PIN if I use my AmEx card in an ATM. I don't have to do so if I use it at a POS terminal, although they might require a signature (see money.stackexchange.com/questions/20775/…)
    – Barmar
    Feb 25, 2014 at 18:11
  • I have made the answer more generally applicable, in order to avoid any difference between debit/credit mechanisms.
    – Alex W
    Feb 25, 2014 at 18:40

In the US bank card is rather ambiguous therefor not really used much unless there is some context.

If someone told me that they had a "bank card" I would think it was just an ATM card. If you open a bank account in the US you get an ATM card from the bank to get your money out. Some of these have a debit card function.

Although it is not wrong to declare your credit or debit card a "bank card" (especially when one is backed by a local bank) but it generally isn't used for that purpose. You would normal say you credit card or debit card and sometimes these two terms are affixed to whatever said person uses the most.

This question has variance because the standards outside the US are for the most part much higher as far as security and because of this cards are wrapped up into one. I still find it ridiculous that people would even use a debit card in the US meaning an informed person probably has an ATM card with various credit cards.

  • Could you please clarify that last statement, even if it isn't directly related to my original question? I can't quite understand the reason behind it. Feb 25, 2014 at 21:08
  • P.S.: In Portugal, debit cards are used everywhere whether for withdrawing money from an ATM, direct purchasing or payments to several entities or the State. In fact, there are quite a number of people without credit cards or who use them only for online purchases, since owning several credit cards tends to conjure the idea of being debt prone. What would make this preference ridiculous in the US? Feb 25, 2014 at 21:12
  • @SaraCosta - We have no chips or ID in our cards in the US. Also 99% of stores accepts credit. So there is little reason to use a debit card (other than trying not to overspend). Basically if someone gets your debit card (they don't even physically have to get it in some cases) and know your PIN then they will have no problem clearing out your bank account. Getting your money back in these situations is far different from getting rid of some bogus charges on your credit card. It is two different worlds - the US is 30 years behind. Feb 25, 2014 at 21:18
  • @SaraCosta - Also will add (and I have been a security consultant for a few large companies) that the way some places store your data is archaic. Some places still store your full card number - and when these are stolen and said card is also a debit card then your bank account is at risk. I purposely tell all credit card companies and banks to make sure the card has no debit functionality. The card companies are cool with this and just build it into their rates. In the smarter part of the world they require chip interface not just card number/PIN for cash... Feb 25, 2014 at 21:23
  • Well, that sure puts things in a whole new perspective for me. Feb 26, 2014 at 11:16

To add to the ambiguity, and the history of the term: the first widely used credit card in Australia and New Zealand, introduced in 1974, was called Bankcard.

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