Debit Card Transactions

How does a debit card work, and how can it benefit me?

Today, debit cards are a highly common form of payment. You've probably used one yourself. We want to help you understand a bit more about how your debit card transactions work, and more importantly, how using your card can benefit you.

How does a debit card work, and how can it benefit me?

Debit Card Basics

What is a debit card?


A debit card is a plastic payment card that gives you immediate access to your checking account. Meaning when a debit card purchase is made, funds are drawn directly from the associate checking accounts and your available balance is updated.


Where to use a debit card

Debit card purchases can be made in stores, online and over the phone—with or without the use of a PIN. Debit cards can also be used at ATMs for cash withdrawals and other services like funds transfer and deposits.

Debit card authorization and settlement

Card authorization is a process that confirms if a debit card is valid and that there are sufficient funds to support the transaction to purchase goods and services. Settlement occurs when the purchase is funded and the merchant clears the transaction.

Traveling with a debit card

Visit a branch or call 800.SUNTRUST to notify us of your plans to travel and ensure uninterrupted card use. To access cash while traveling, be sure you know your Personal Identification Number (PIN). To reach SunTrust customer services while outside the U.S., please call 1.800.STTRAVEL.

What are recurring debit card transactions?

Recurring transactions occur one of two ways. The first is when you provide a merchant with your debit card information and authorize them to charge you on an ongoing, regular basis, say for a monthly gym membership or quarterly magazine subscription. The second is when you provide your debit card information to a merchant for them to charge you one or more times at a future date, for instance when you use a taxi service app on your phone or reload your toll gate transponder. It’s important to remember that Overdraft Coverage does not apply to recurring debit card transactions. Learn more about Overdraft Coverage.

Debit Card Transactions

Chip-enabled transactions
At retailers with chip terminals, you’ll need to insert your card and follow the prompts on the terminal to either enter your 4-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) or provide your signature. Chip technology is already in wide use around the world and has proven to help reduce fraud by making it more difficult to duplicate the card or make purchases without authorization.

Use your chip-enabled card in three simple steps:

Illustration of a chip card being inserted into chip reader

Step 1: Insert your card “chip first” into the chip-enabled reader on the terminal.

Prompts on chip reader

Step 2: Follow the prompts on the terminal to either enter your PIN or provide your signature and wait for the transaction to be processed. The card needs to remain in the terminal until the validation is complete.

Illustration of a chip card removed from chip reader

Step 3: Remove the chip card after the transaction is approved and you are prompted to do so.

To learn more about chip-enabled cards and transactions

Signature-based transactions

A signature transaction occurs when you provide a signature to complete the transaction rather than entering a PIN number at point of sale. Please note that in many circumstances, a signature is not required for transactions under $50.

PIN-based transactions

A PIN debit transaction occurs when a debit card is processed using a 4-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) in order to complete the transaction.

Debit Card Benefits

  • Convenience and Control

    • Convenience

      • 24/7 account monitoring and management with Online and Mobile Banking
      • ATM capabilities—access funds, transfer funds, make deposits
      • No need to carry cash or write checks
      • Worldwide payment acceptance
      • Pay bills at retailers and service providers online and by phone
      • Ability to partner your card with digital payment solutions like Apply Pay®, Samsung Pay and more.


      • Enjoy enhanced card security by controlling how and where your card is used with SunTrust Debit Card Controls. Learn more at
      • Offers alerts via Online Banking and Mobile Banking—opt in to be notified about account balance and profile changes
      • Helps you keep a budget—no interest charges or late fees, and funds are automatically deducted
      • Provides a safe alternative to carrying cash
      • Gives you the option to request additional cards at no cost
  • Purchase Protections and Security

    • Zero Liability1 ensures you’re not liable for unauthorized purchases.

      Satisfaction Guarantee2 offers you a refund (up to $250) in the event you are dissatisfied with your item within 60 days of purchase and the store will not accept the item for return.

      Extended Warranty2 doubles the original manufacturer's warranty for up to one year.

      Purchase Assurance3 provides coverage for most items that are damaged or stolen within 90 days of the purchase date and is available with the SunTrust MasterCard® World Debit Card.

      EMV Chip Technology gives you greater international payment acceptance and extra levels of security against card fraud thanks to the chip embedded in the card.

      Mastercard ID Theft Protection2: once enrolled, it will alert you about possible identity theft by monitoring, the surface, dark and deep web to detect fraud.  

  • Rewards

    • SunTrust Deals

      Get cash back when you shop with your SunTrust card.

      Delta SkyMiles®


      Earn Delta SkyMiles® with every purchase when you upgrade your Advantage Checking Debit Card to a Delta SkyMiles® World Debit Card.


1As a cardholder, you will not be held responsible for unauthorized transactions if you have used reasonable care in protecting your card from loss or theft; and you promptly reported loss or theft to SunTrust. Does not apply to certain prepaid cards, or corporate cards. Certain conditions and restrictions apply.  Please see for more details.

2Available on SunTrust Mastercard® Classic, Gold and World Debit Cards. Certain terms, conditions and exclusions apply. See your Mastercard® Guide to Benefits for complete details.

3Available on SunTrust Mastercard® World Debit Cards. Certain terms, conditions and exclusions apply. See your Mastercard® Guide to Benefits for complete details.


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