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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.

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 associated checking account.

  • 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 1.800.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:

  • Debit card transaction chip first

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

  • Inserted debit card transaction chip-enabled prompt

    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.

  • Remove debit card from 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

View Our Video

Read Chip Card FAQs

  • 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


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 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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