Debit Card

A debit card, often referred to as a plastic card, check card, ATM card, or bank card, is a type of payment card issued by your lending institution when you open an account with them. Debit cards make financial transactions incredibly easy whether your account is current or savings. By swiping your debit card, you can easily make all sorts of online and offline purchases, complete utility bill payments, and so on. 

Moreover, since the debit cards in the UAE are issued in collaboration with multiple companies like VISA, Maestro, and MasterCard, you can use your card for making payments worldwide where these renowned brands are accepted.

Let’s decode all the major aspects of debit cards in the UAE in this article. 

Types of Debit Cards in UAE

Different types of debit cards are available in UAE, depending on the type of payment platform linked to your debit card. Mentioned below are some of the major available debit cards offered by the multiple financial institutions in the UAE – 

Visa Debit Cards

Visa debit card is one of the major brands of debit cards issued by well-renowned banks such as Mashreq Bank, Citibank, Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, and so on. They are considered to be the most widely accepted card for all sorts of electronic and online transactions.

Visa debit cards can be further classified into various categories – Visa Platinum Debit Card, Visa Classic Debit Card, Visa Signature Debit Card, and more. All these cards have numerous attractive features and have their ATM network spread throughout the UAE and abroad.

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MasterCard Debit Cards

As one of the popular types of debit cards in the UAE, MasterCard offers a horde of benefits to its customers including enticing unique luxury offers on its World Elite MasterCard and so on.  MasterCard debit cards are issued by Commercial Bank of Dubai, Citibank, RAKBANK, Emirates NBD, and so forth.

MasterCard can be classified into 3 main categories, i.e., Standard, World, and World Elite. Each tier offers different features and its unique rewards program, money-saving extras, and a horde of perks. 

Contactless Debit Cards

Contactless debit cards can help you make payments without swiping your debit card. With these cards, you would simply need to wave the card at the terminal or over the payment machine to have your transaction automatically processed.  Expectedly, one of the most notable benefits of contactless debit cards is that they make payments considerably easier.

Major banks in the UAE like Emirates NBD, RAKBANK, Citibank, and others issue contactless debit cards. Contactless debit cards make for a safe way of making transactions by not storing or duplicating the details of your debit card.

Visa Electron Debit Cards

Albeit similar in names, the notable difference between a visa debit card and a visa electron debit card is that the visa electron card does not offer the facility of overdraft. Arab Bank offers visa electron cards with free supplementary card issuance and high withdrawal and purchase limits. However, it is to be noted that visa electron debit cards are not accepted in the USA, Canada, Ireland, and Australia. Moreover, you cannot use these to make offline payments. 

Top ATM/Debit Card Providers in the UAE

If you are looking for the top ATM/debit card providers in the UAE, here are some of the best options that you can consider.

Citibank Mashreq Bank RAKBANK
HSBC First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) Emirates NBD

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Best Debit Cards in UAE for 2024

Before opting for the best debit card in UAE, it is essential to compare the available options based on their features, offered services, rewards program, minimum balance requirement, fees and charges, and so forth. 

Check out the following list of the top 7 debit cards in the UAE

Difference Between Debit Cards and Credit Cards

Check out the table below for an idea of the general points of difference between credit cards and debit cards – 

Parameters Debit Card Credit Card
Meaning When you swipe your debit card, the funds are directly deducted from your bank account The card allows you to borrow funds within a pre-approved credit limit
Source of funds Funds available in your bank account Funds are borrowed from lending institution
Interest Charged No interest fees Interest charged
Billing No bill as funds are directly deducted from the account Compiles a list of all transactions in a billing cycle and formulates a final bill that needs to be paid
Eligibility Criteria You need to have a bank account with the lender Depends on AECB credit score, salary, credit history, and so forth
Spending Limit Depending on the funds in your bank account Set by the credit issuer – it may increase or decrease based on your creditworthiness
Who pays for the purchase? Card holder uses the funds of their own bank account The credit issuer pays for your purchase – you would be liable to pay back to the lending institution

Features and Benefits of ATM/ Debit Cards

In this section, we will discuss the prime features and benefits of ATM/debit cards – 

  • Debit cards help you make real-time payments from your linked bank account
  • They are among the most convenient payment tools and also facilitate contactless payments
  • Debit cards are protected by a four-digit number called Personal Identification Number (PIN) which is set by the cardholder 
  • Debit cards double up as ATM cards and enable you to withdraw money from Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
  • With different reward options, debit card holders can avail benefits on some perks like cashback offers, loyalty program points, tap and go technology, free event tickets, and so on
  • Owning a debit card can help you access money from anywhere in the world, which can serve as an emergency fund
  • With debit cards, you can keep a track of your earning and spending habits.  Each time your debit card is swiped, you will be informed about the details of the transactions via regular email and SMS alerts.
  • Debit cards provide high security through the chip and pin verification system which secures your card and account from fraudulent activities

How to Apply for Debit Card in UAE?

Generally, banks and financial institutions in the UAE provide debit card at the time of opening the account. Whether you have a current account, salary account or savings account, you may receive get a debit card in the welcome kit. However, if you want to upgrade your debit card or apply for a supplementary debit card, you can raise the request for the same by following the given steps–

Online Mode

To obtain a debit card, you can visit the official website of your bank and apply for the same. With the developments in the banking industry, you can also apply for a debit card using the mobile banking application or the net banking portal. 

The said financial institution will review your application along with the supporting documents after your submission. If your application is approved, you will receive the debit card along with a welcome letter, a confirmation email, or SMS within the stipulated time frame.

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You can also head to and apply for bank accounts to get complimentary debit cards. After filling out the lead form on the bank account section on our site, you can go through all the available options and select the most suitable one. You can contact our customer support team and get the required assistance to open a bank account as well.

Offline Mode

As an alternative to the online modes above, you can also visit your preferred bank or financial institution to apply for a debit card of your choice. It is advisable to apply for a debit card with the branch where you hold your account.

Safety Tips for First-Time Debit Card Users

While debit cards from the leading banks and financial institutions have numerous features for security, you should still keep a few tips in mind to keep your credit card secure – 

  • It is not advisable to use an unsecured connection like a public network while making transactions. Due to the lack of proper firewalls, your data can be stolen over public networks.
  • Don’t share the debit card PIN with anyone else. Make sure that no one is able to watch you enter your PIN while making transactions.
  • It is recommended to change your ATM PIN frequently, at least once a month
  • Never leave the transaction record at any ATM and shred the record before throwing it into a bin
  • Cross-check transaction receipts with the bank statement once a month. This would help you detect and report unauthorised transactions, if any.
  • Avoid storing your debit card information on any merchant site
  • Lending institutions would never ask for details of your card over call
  • Make sure your mobile number is registered with your bank account so that you will be notified of every transaction you made
  • As soon as you receive the debit card, sign on the back side of your new debit card

Debit Card Fees and Charges

Listed below are some of the debit card fees and charges to watch out for before applying for a debit card – 

  • Annual Fee: It is charged by the lending institutions for the use of debit cards on annual basis. Generally, banks do not charge annual fees on debit cards.
  • Replacement Fee: In case of replacement or upgrade of your debit card, issuance fees or replacement fees will be charged by the bank.
  • Sales Voucher Fee: This voucher is a document or log file produced by the payment terminal to keep a record of transactions. Generally, the bank charges a minimum of AED 20 if you seek to obtain the sales voucher copy.
  • Supplementary Debit Card Fee: Supplementary debit card allows you to share limited access to your bank account with your family member. While some banks issue supplementary debit cards for free, others may charge a fee for the same.
  • Withdraw Cash from ATMs: Banks don’t charge for withdrawing cash from the same bank ATMs within UAE. However, they do charge for transactions done via other bank ATMs in the UAE or outside the UAE.
  • Currency Conversion Fee: These charges are levied by the debit card payment processor or ATM network for the conversion of one currency to the other as a part of the transaction. Generally, banks in the UAE deduct some percentage of the transaction amount to compute the currency conversion fee.
  • Declined Transaction:  In case a payment or transaction is declined by the bank due to insufficient funds in your bank account, the bank will penalise you and charge the transaction decline fee.

How Does a Debit Card Work?

When you open a savings or current account with any of the lending institutions in the UAE, they provide you with an ATM/debit card as a part of the welcome kit. There are two key purposes of a debit card – to withdraw money from ATMs and for online transactions at online stores to purchase goods or avail of services. Keep in mind that the PIN is required for each transaction.

Let’s have a look at how debit cards work in the UAE – 

For Offline Purchases

When you use your debit card for offline purchases, you are required to swipe or insert your card in the specified slot or utilise the contactless feature by simply waving your card at the terminal. Following that, you would be required to enter the PIN to confirm the transaction. Once the transaction is authorised, the merchant will receive the funds in their account and a notification would be immediately sent to you.

In case the screen displays that your purchase is pending or that the transaction failed, it means that your card issuer has not sent the funds to the merchant and that money is not debited from your account.

For Online Purchases

As a cardholder, you would have to enter the details of your debit card such as your name, CVV number, the 16-digit debit card number, card’s expiry date, and more to make online transactions. Once the details are submitted, an OTP will be sent to your registered mobile number. Upon entering the number in the specified space, the funds will be transferred to the merchant’s account.

For ATMs

To withdraw money from an ATM, you would be required to insert the debit card into the ATM, select the account type, enter the amount in AED, and the PIN. Upon entering the details, you can collect the cash from the machine.

How to Get a Debit Card?

As mentioned earlier, a debit card linked to your bank account is a part of the welcome kit that you receive when you open a bank account. However, you can also apply for prepaid debit cards if you don’t have a bank account with the concerned lending institution.  

Keep in mind that if you opt for prepaid debit cards, you would be required to pay the specified monthly charges that can cut into your savings.

How to Activate Debit Card?

To perform transactions through your debit card, you would need to first activate it after receiving it. However, the debit card activation process is fairly straightforward.  Depending on the available platforms of the lending institution, you can mostly activate your card with a few clicks. Some of the major modes through which you can activate your debit card in the UAE are mobile banking, the official website of the lender, ATM, SMS service, and phone service.

How to Deactivate your Debit Card?

If your debit card is lost or stolen, it is crucial to deactivate or block your card. Most of the leading banks and lending institutions allow you to deactivate your debit card online through their net banking portal or official website, although some may require you to call their customer service team and inform them about your situation. 

Pros and Cons of Debit Card

Though a debit card is a powerful financial tool that can greatly simplify your transactions, it has its own drawbacks as well.  To use debit cards wisely, it is necessary to understand their pros and cons.

Pros of Debit Card Cons of Debit Card
  • Most lending institutions in the UAE do not charge issuance fees for debit cards and provide them as a complimentary benefit with your bank account
  • Since debit cards in UAE are issued in collaboration with well-renowned companies like Visa and MasterCard, they can be used at millions of retail outlets, online merchants, and ATMs
  • One of the remarkable benefits of debit cards is that they can even be added to digital wallets like PayPal
  • Debit cards help you improve your spending habits as they only allow you to spend money available in your bank account – the credit facility is not available with debit cards
  • If you are applying for a prepaid debit card, be aware that these debit cards often have monthly maintenance charges. Moreover, with the overdraft facility available with prepaid debit cards, the bank will likely charge a fee for the same as well.
  • Debit cards are suitable for small purchases. If you use a debit card for large purchases, it could take a big chunk out of your deposits.
  • Balancing your account is a challenging task unless you keep track of every transaction
  • As the PIN is required for all transactions through a debit card, the loss of the PIN could render your debit card unusable. It could often take a few days for the completion of the recovery process of your PIN.

Do’s and Don’ts of Debit Card

Have a look at some quick tips for using your debit card better – 

Do’s of Debit Card Don’ts of Debit Card
  • In case your card is lost or stolen, immediately approach the bank and notify them about the same
  • It is advisable to authenticate every transaction using OTP/PIN  to avoid fraudulent transactions taking place
  • Many lending institutions in the UAE provide contactless or chip-enabled technology – use this instead of swiping the magnetic strip
  • It is recommended to memorise your debit card PIN instead of storing it with your card
  • Block the view of keypads while entering the PIN at merchant outlets or ATMs
  • Take the transaction receipt with you and keep it for verification against your statement
  • It is advisable to do shopping online and other online transactions on a secured (SSL) site.  The website is secure if it has ‘https:’ instead of ‘http:’.
  • Cancel all your inactive debit cards
  • Avoid exposing your card to magnetic devices
  • Keep the PIN of your debit card confidential
  • Never give the information of your debit card over call – the information includes the card number, CVV, or PIN
  • Try not to use your birth date, car number, or parts of your phone number as your PIN 
  • Do not hand over your debit card and PIN to anyone else under any circumstances
  • Don’t allow merchants to swipe your card in your absence
  • Do not keep your replacement card along with your newly issued debit card for safety reasons
  • While performing online transactions, do not refresh the window while the transaction is in process

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the selected PIN number same for purchases at the point of sale (POS) as well as at the ATM?

Yes, the PIN is the same for both the purchases at the POS as well as at the ATM.

What will happen if the incorrect PIN number is keyed in?

If you fail to enter the correct PIN beyond a specified number of times, your card may be blocked and become invalid for further usage for a certain time limit.

Will the transactions conducted through debit card appear on the bank statement?

Yes, all the transactions done via your debit card will appear on your bank statement.

How do I get started once I have received the debit card in the UAE?

After receiving a debit card in the UAE, you must activate your debit card and set up the PIN.

Is it mandatory to sign on the signature panel on the back of your debit card?

The requirement for a signature on the signature panel on the back of your debit card would depend on the card, the transaction, and other factors. In case you are required to do so, it is advisable to sign on the back of your debit card using a ballpoint pen for security reasons.

For how long my debit card is valid in the UAE?

The validity of your debit card would depend on the card as well as the bank. The details regarding the validity would be mentioned on your card.

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