Our top picks of timely offers from our partners

More details
Rocket Mortgage
Learn More
Terms Apply
Rates recently increased and could continue to rise - look into refinancing with one of our top picks
CIT Bank
Learn More
Terms Apply
Earn 14x the national average with a Savings Connect account. Member FDIC
Chime
Learn More
Terms Apply
No late fees, no monthly service fees, and get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit
BMO Harris Smart Advantage™
Learn More
Terms Apply
$300 bonus after meeting deposit requirements - offer ends October 1st
Rocket Money
Learn More
Terms Apply
Track your spending and net worth, and cancel unwanted subscriptions
Select independently determines what we cover and recommend. We earn a commission from affiliate partners on many offers. Read more about Select on CNBC and on NBC News, and click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
Credit Cards

Here are 3 reasons why paying with a credit card is safer than a debit card or cash

Credit cards offer a number of protections that you won't have when paying with cash or debit.

Share
simonlong | Moment | Getty Images

Everyone has their preferred way of paying for things. Some like using cash and coins, while others choose newer payment methods like Apple Pay. But other than earning heaps of travel rewards in the form of airline miles or hotel points, there are several other benefits of paying with a credit card.

Debit cards and cash offer consumers limited benefits, while using a credit card can help protect you against purchases that go awry. A credit card is guarded from fraudulent activity and some offer benefits like travel insurance and return protection.

Here's what you need to know about the benefits of paying with a credit card over a debit card or cash.

Your money is protected

When you spend on a debit card, the funds are taken directly from your checking account. Now what if your debit card, or even simply the information of your debit card, falls into the wrong hands? This leaves your checking account, your lifeline to pay bills or withdraw cash from an ATM, vulnerable.

And depending on the timeline of when you report it, you could be held liable for some of the damages. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you report your debit card lost or stolen before any malicious charges are made, you won't be charged anything. If it's within two business days that you report the loss, you can be held responsible up to $50. If it's more than two business days but less than 60, your loss can be up to $500. If it's beyond 60 business days, you could be held liable for all charges.

However, if someone makes unauthorized transactions with your debit card number, but you did not lose your card, you are not liable for any charges if you report them within 60 days of your statement being sent to you.

The trouble with this happening is that if a fraudster drains your checking account, this could send ripple effects throughout your personal finances, possibly leading to late bill payments for things such as a mortgage or personal loan. Late and missed payments can have a negative impact on your credit score.

With a credit card, fraudulent charges are much less of a concern, as it is not your money — but rather your credit. And nearly all credit cards come with zero liability protection.

Ensuring your purchases are safe

You've likely experienced buyers remorse at one point or another. It can be for a number of different reasons, from being displeased with the quality of the product, to the vendor not delivering on what it promised. When you purchase with cash or a debit card, your protections mostly rely on the retailer's return policy. With a credit card you won't be at the whim of the vendor, there are other avenues you can take to rectify your purchase.

If you've used a credit card to buy something, you can call your credit card issuer to dispute the charge. Sometimes called a chargeback, this is where you contact your bank to notify them that a purchase was never received or arrived damaged.

This will typically mean filling out a short form, describing what you purchased, and why you aren't satisfied with the purchase. This can also be done if you never received an item. The card issuer will then reach out to the vendor to follow up, and make a decision if you should be refunded.

Consumer protections

In addition to disputing purchases, credit cards come with a long list of consumer protections. However, not all credit cards offer all of these, so it is important to find the best credit card for you by looking into all of their benefits.

Here are a few consumer protections credit cards provide:

Return protection

Some merchants do not have flexible return policies. If you make a purchase, attempt to return the product for a refund, and are refused, this would activate the return protection policy.

Several American Express cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, offer this policy, and it covers each incident up to $300 per item and up to $1,000 per year in claims.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $6,000 within six months of card membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

Pros

  • Up to $200 in annual airline fee credits
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber savings
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card®  on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times (enrollment required)
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.

Cons

  • $695 annual fee
  • No special financing offers on new purchases

Travel insurance protection

Travel insurance has become an increasingly popular benefit for consumers after Covid-19 induced massive travel restrictions and cancellations. By having a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card your trip is protected as long as you pay for your travel expenses with the card. The policy comes with several coverages, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.24% - 25.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Transfer points to leading frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate, including: IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt®
  • Travel protections include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No introductory 0% APR

Cell phone protection

By simply paying for your cell phone bill with the right credit card, your cell phone can be covered up to a specified amount for damage, loss or theft. There is likely a deductible if you file a claim, and documentation may be needed by the insurance company. For example, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers cardholders up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year, with a reasonable $50 deductible.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstore purchases and on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% - 25.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back in select categories upon activation
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card

Cons

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $852
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,844

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Bottom line

Credit cards are a resource which provide consumers certain protections over other forms of payment. However, they must be used responsibly, and it is best to pay them off in full each month in order to avoid costly interest payments. If you can spend responsibly the extra protections offered by credit cards, rather than paying with a debit card or cash, makes using them a worthwhile investment.

For rates and fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
Plenty of rewards and benefits including 4X points per dollar for dining at restaurants worldwide
Enjoy an intro APR on purchases plus, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.