Bank Card

DEFINITION of 'Bank Card'

A bank card is any card issued against a depositary account, such as an ATM card or a debit card. Sometimes the phrase is also used to refer to Visa and MasterCard, since these are also issued by banks, but they are credit cards and not linked directly to a depositary account.

Bank cards may be limited in their use, some can only be used at ATM machines or for certain purchases.


Withdrawals or payments with bank cards will typically result in an immediate corresponding change in the balance of the account on which it is issued. This contrasts with credit cards, which issue statements at monthly intervals with balances which must be paid by a certain date.

Many bank cards are associated with either Visa or MasterCard; although purchases are debited from deposit accounts, purchases can be made as "credit" anywhere that accepts either Visa or MasterCard.

Features of a Bank Card

Most bank cards feature a magnetic strip that can be swiped in order to conduct a transaction, though more banks are issuing cards with smart chips that offer increased levels of security to prevent accounts from being compromised.

Bank cards may also be used for e-commerce purchases, allowing the cardholder to use the funds from accounts linked to their cards to complete transactions. Purchases made with a bank card, even electronically, might be protected by the issuing bank against fraud.

In many instances, bank cards are tied to checking accounts, which is where funds for purchases will be drawn from. Bank cards could also let cardholders access other types of accounts, such as a savings account, when used at an ATM. This could be for such purposes as checking account balances, making deposits into these accounts, or making transfers between accounts.

Banks may offer cardholders a variety of incentives to use their bank cards, comparable to perks offered to credit card companies. For example, a bank may offer programs where purchases made with bank cards associated with checking accounts also take a nominal portion of money each time the card is used and add those funds to the cardholder’s savings account.

It is possible that a bank will issue its own revolving credit line, associated with a credit card company, which can also be used with an ATM to access the associated accounts. There are also prepaid cards that are loaded with funds, which may be limited and only have access to a declining balance.