My Accidental Epiphany: Debit Card Two Step Verification

Two things happened to me yesterday almost at the same time that changed the way I will use my debit card forever.

First, some background: I have two different bank accounts. One has all my money and my loan info. I’ll call that my secret account. The other I set up because Amazon demands a bank account to auto-deposit (the very meager) proceeds of my book sales and I wasn’t about to give them the keys to my (admittedly tiny) kingdom. On the rare occasion I sell a book, Amazon puts the token payment in the second account and I manually transfer it to the first. Let’s call that my transaction account. Needless to say, the balance is usually zero, or close to it.

Now the first event: I got a new debit card in the mail. It came in the usual plain envelope from my bank. I immediately took it down to the local branch office to reset my pin number and turned in my old debit card for secure shredding. Here’s what I failed to realize: The debit card they sent me was for the transaction account. The card I gave to the bank to shred was for the secret one! I know, I know. I need to pay closer attention to the paperwork that comes with these dang cards.

The reason I found this out was because of the second event. I love to go almost every Sunday to the local farmer’s market and many vendors there don’t take credit cards. So I visited the local convenience store to take some money out of the ATM. When I inserted the debit card, it told me I could not withdraw money because I had insufficient funds. It was then I realized the mistake I made with the cards. Aw, man! Now, how would I get my fresh-squeezed juice?!

That’s when it hit me. I whipped out my handy smart phone and used the bank’s mobile app to transfer the money I needed from my secret account to the transactional account. Instantly, I was able to use the ATM to retrieve the money I needed and buy my yummy juice. That’s when my epiphany hit me: Why don’t I ALWAYS do my debit transactions this way? Some companies, like CostCo, don’t take credit cards, only debit cards. I always feel a twinge of insecurity when I use my secret debit card there. Security pros know that its always better to use credit cards online or in stores because if the card number is stolen, its better that the bad guys charge to your credit account (which you can then easily dispute and be refunded after signing an affidavit) than have your entire savings or checking account drained of your hard-earned cash and bounce a bunch of checks in the process. Messy. Very messy.

This epiphany, which is really just a play on the two-step verification process, is the answer! Of course, parents have been doing this for years with their college kids’ debit cards, but here’s the step-by-step procedure to set this up if you do a lot of business with your debit card:

  1. Assuming you already have a bank account (we will call that your secret account), set up a second one that will be used SOLEY for individual transactions. Deposit the minimum amount the bank requires and no more. Always try to leave this account empty (or with the minimum balance to avoid fees).
  2. Work with the bank to set up this transactional account so that you can transfer money between it and your secret one.
  3. Request a debit card for this new transactional account. Use ONLY this debit card when conducting business.
  4. Whenever you need to take money out of the ATM or want to make a payment using a debit card (thanks, Costco!), first use your bank’s mobile app to transfer the money you need from your secret account to your transactional account.
  5. Then use the transactional debit card to process the payment (or take out the money!) Easy peasy!
  6. If someone (like Amazon) ever needs to SEND you a payment using your bank account info (danger! danger! always be suspicious of such requests…Paypal may be a better option, but guess what? Paypal needs your account info too), give them the transactional bank account info. As soon as the payment arrives, transfer it to your secret account.

The benefits of this two-step method is that if your debit card info is ever lost by the people or places you do business with it, evil hackers will have access to…an empty bank account. Ha! Take that, villains! I’m kidding guys. Please don’t hurt me. It could also be useful to help manage your money by performing all transactions through a single transactional account.

Anyways. I was thinking about calling my bank to request a new debit card for my secret account. Now I’m thinking I might not need it. Oh, and if more people buy my books, I won’t have to transfer money at all. I could just live off the proceeds of their generosity. Get on it, book fans! 😉

Thanks for reading.

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