It’s a common question at the checkout counter. Are you paying with credit or debit? Does it matter one way or the other? We’ll explain the difference and how to decide which card to use.

You probably know that a debit card is attached to your bank account, meaning the money is gone immediately, while a credit card is attached to a credit account, which means the transaction is added to your balance as debt. But what about those tricky bank cards that can be used either as debit or credit? They’re actually a little deceiving.

The only difference between credit and debit with these type of cards is the way the transaction is processed. If you run it as debit, the money is drafted from your bank account right away and shows up as a transaction almost instantly. If you run it as credit, the money is not drafted from your bank account until the merchant processes the transaction. This could be anywhere from 24 hours to a few days later.

The bad thing about running your debit card as credit is that there’s a greater chance you might miscalculate your balance, especially when charges take several days to show up. If you don’t keep a careful record of your purchases, you might be tricked into thinking you have more money in your account than you actually do.

The good thing about running your card as credit is that there’s an added layer of protection. The credit card company usually has a fraud alert system in place that lets you know about malicious activity on your card and makes it easier to get your money back if you’re scammed.

It’s also safer to run your card as credit in certain instances, like when you’re booking a hotel room or shopping online. It’s more secure, and any security holds associated with the purchase won’t affect your bank account. Some credit card programs offer rewards for every dollar spent on your card.

A good rule of thumb is this: use your debit card for smaller, local purchases, like at the grocery store or mall. Also stick to debit if you’re in debt and trying to keep a close eye on your finances. Use credit for larger, less secure purchases, like items bought online or travel expenses. Just make sure you pay the balance off each month to avoid accruing interest charges!