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#15185 - 07/18/02 01:53 PM Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8
sdhannah Offline
sdhannah  Offline
Hi - what is the verdict on use of atm cards that carry the visa logo? It seems that use of foreign atm cards is a problem, save for at a couple of banks, but has anyone tried to use their visa check card (either as a credit card to make purchases or to obtain a cash advance at a bank)? The bank that issued the card here in the U.S. says it can be used anywhere that accepts visa, just like a credit card. However, I don't want to rely on being able to get cash and then get stuck! We plan on bringing plenty of travller's checks, but just in case...

Has anyone used to Amex office in Belize City? I'm thinking that we could visit that office in a pinch and buy more US dollar traveller's checks with the visa check card?


#15186 - 07/18/02 03:36 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Lan Sluder/Belize First  Offline
There's a thread in the Ambergris Caye section here on this subject. Believe at least one person said there was no problem using a debit card at places that accept credit cards.

You can also get a cash advance on a bank credit card at just about any bank in Belize. Typically the charge is US$2.50 to $5 fee, plus whatever your bank card charges you.

On debit cards, keep in mind that unlike credit cards with debit cards there is no US$50 maximum limit on your liability. If you lose or someone steals your debit card, your total bank account can be wiped out before you even know it. While you may be able to get most of the money back, at the very least it will be a hassle. I've heard lots of horror stories about debit card theft, and for that reason I would never use a debit card on the Internet, for example.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
#15187 - 07/18/02 03:36 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 918
o jackie Offline
o jackie  Offline
I just asked question on the AC board. I guess we should call the bank and ask them. But bring back up,just in case. ONe person answered and said that she used hers for the whole trip. I do not see why we couldnt. It bears the logo and I think that is all that matters.

#15188 - 07/18/02 04:37 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8
sdhannah Offline
sdhannah  Offline
Thanks for your input.

O Jackie, I read your comments in the thread posted on the AC board (thanks for pointing it out Lan). I agree - I want to be able to use my check card too! It's much easier to keep to a budget if you're effectively working with cash (without having the carry any), as opposed to a credit limit!

I did call the bank (Bank of America) and they were not very helpful. They stand by that the card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted, and that it can be used at any ATM that displays the visa logo, or the other logos on the card (star, cirrus, plus, etc.). However, I know this not to be true. I lived in Scotland for a number of years, and maintained a bank account with BofA through that time, and certain banks in Scotland would not accept U.S.-issued atm cards, despite the fact that they were part of the right network (star or cirrus, for example). Also, some businesses will not accept them at all (car rental companies come to mind), despite the fact that they work exactly the same as a credit card. So I'm not sure what the story is. I guess I'll find out.

I'm not concerned about losing all the money in my account, any more than I am about a credit card being maxed out by someone who steals it, or having traveller's checks stolen. You get the same benefits through visa or mastercard whether you have a check card bearing their logo, or a credit card. You are not liable for unauthorized purchases. You would go through the same steps with a debit card as you would a credit card if it was stolen. Any way you look at it it's a hassle!

And here's my two cents about online shopping: unless you are making purchses on pretty dodgy websites, purchasing online is far more secure than handing someone your credit card in person and having them walk across a restaurant or into another room to process it, or giving a credit card number over the phone! That leaves a huge paper trail with your credit card details on several copies of receipts, which then go through any number of hands. Anyone wanting to steal credit card numbers would have far more luck looking through a trash can for receipts, than trying to hack online. Most online retailers have security features in place so that even they cannot access your credit card information once given. Using a debit card bearing the visa or mastercard logo does not change this.

Hopefully we'll have a great time in Belize and won't have to deal with any of the above! We just booked at Chaa Creek for 5 nights in mid-august, and then will be spending a week at Hamanasi. Can't wait!

#15189 - 07/18/02 06:14 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
To the person who believes that the same credit card protections apply to debit cards: I have not researched the law on this issue so I do not know if you are right or if Lan is right. If you have WRITTEN documentation from your card issuer that says that you are protected if your card number is stolen, that's fine. In the absence of such written promise, I would err on the side of caution. The basis for the "$50 cap" on liability for unauthorized use of credit cards is based on a federal statute and I am not sanguine that the statute is applicable when "credit" is not being used. And I would not choose to get into a legal pissing contest with a bank (been there done that), they can out-lawyer you any day of the week.
You are correct that the incidence of theft of credit card numbers used the old fashioned way is a thousand times higher (at least) than online theft. Unfortunately, theft of credit card numbers is high in Belize.
I personally would not use a debit card in Belize. If you do not have a credit card, then perhaps you have no choice and at that point, its up to you whether you feel secure enough to do so. If you do have a credit card, I would strongly recommend that you leave your debit card at home and use your credit card if you find yourself needing plastic. Just my 2 cents...Remember that you cannot use a debit card in any ATM's in Belize unless it was issued by a Belizean bank (which I assume it wasn't...)

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#15190 - 07/18/02 06:28 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8
sdhannah Offline
sdhannah  Offline
Whether or not the $50 liability limit policy was instituted due to federal regulation, Visa has apparently improved on its policy. The following is pasted directly from Visa's website, and as it notes, is applicable to both credit and debit/check cards:

Zero Liability

"Visa's Zero Liability policy took effect
April 4, 2000, and is a great improvement on the previous policy. The former policy required that you report fraudulent activity within two business days of discovery. After this two-day period, you could be held responsible for up to $50 of the unauthorized charges. With the new Zero Liability policy, you're no longer required to report fraudulent activity within two days and you're not responsible for any fraudulent transactions made over the Visa network...

The Zero Liability policy covers all Visa credit and debit card transactions processed over the Visa network—online or off...

It's safer to use your Visa check card than cash or checks. Visa's Zero Liability policy is maximum protection for you. So if your card is ever lost or stolen, you'll pay nothing for any fraudulent purchases. Simply report the incident to your financial institution."

I still don't understand why it is more risky to use a debit card than a credit card in Belize. I cannot think of a reason why a credit card would be inherently safer than a debit card...please explain.

#15191 - 07/18/02 06:31 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8
sdhannah Offline
sdhannah  Offline
Also, from reading previous posts, it seems that you can use foreign-issued atm cards to get cash in the Barclays and Scotiabank atms...anybody?

#15192 - 07/18/02 06:42 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
good research job, Hannah! Glad to see a financial institution being consumer friendly (for a change!). I will save this splurb in case it ever comes up!
I wonder if Mastercard has the same policy...probably does, they usually don't let one or the other get too far out front!

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#15193 - 07/18/02 07:08 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8
sdhannah Offline
sdhannah  Offline
Out-lawyered?! Never! [Linked Image]

#15194 - 07/18/02 07:23 PM Re: Visa Debit/Check Cards  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Lan Sluder/Belize First  Offline
At the very basic level, the difference between a credit card and a debit card is that the credit card involves a charge to someone else's pocket, in this case the bank.
A debit card involves taking money from your personal checking account.

If my credit card is stolen (mine was a few months ago) at most I'm faced with working out with the bank details of what I charged and what was charged by the thief, but in this case I'm not too concerned because I'm dealing with OPM (Other People's Money).

If my debit card is stolen, it is possible that before I'm even aware of it the $8000 in my checking account (let's say it's $8000) can be withdrawn. This means that all the checks I've written on the account recently will bounce. Any I write in the next few days will bounce. The next time I try to use the debit card it will be denied. At the very least I will be embarrassed. At the best I will have to prove to the bank which is my money and which is the stolen money. I will have to work hard to get MY money back.

Regardless of how user friendly the bank is,(and, boy, banks are known for being user friendly!) it's still a matter of dealing with the loss of my cash or someone else's cash.

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
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