What Is an Offline Debit Card?

An offline debit card is a type of automated payment card, similar to a traditional (online) debit card, that allows a cardholder to pay for goods and services directly from their bank account. These types of cards are not common in the U.S. and may be available in foreign countries. Offline debit cards may also be known as “check cards.”

Offline Debit Cards Explained

Offline debt cards work in a similar way as traditional debit cards. They can also be compared to the process of check writing.

An offline debit card transaction creates a debit against the cardholder's bank account. These types of cards may be issued to bank customers along with standardized checks. Offline debit cards differ from traditional debit cards in that they do not require a PIN number for the transaction. All that is required during the transaction is the user’s signature.

Offline debit cards are issued by banks in partnership with a card network processing services provider such as Visa or Mastercard. These cards are associated with a customer’s bank account. They can usually only be used for payments and are not available for making withdrawals or deposits from an ATM.

Offline Debit Card Transactions

Offline debit cards typically will often have a maximum daily limit that is lower than a standard debit card. If this is not the case, the maximum amount is based on the funds held in the underlying bank account. Because this debit card is "offline", the bank account is not accessed directly, meaning there's a delay of 24 to 72 hours before the amount of a purchase is debited from the account.

Generally, offline debit cards are similar to check writing. However, they differ from check writing because the transactions are processed through a card network processing services provider. The card network service provider does not process these types of cards with the same processing speed as a standard debit card. While still processed through an automated card network these cards can take approximately twice as long as a standard debit card for full end to end processing.

Users of offline debit card transactions must still be cautious of returned payment fees and overdrafts. While the processing time and services differ for offline debit cards in comparison to traditional debit cards, the repercussions for payments with insufficient funds are still the same. Account holders can expect an overdraft fee of approximately $35 for each transaction that is made with insufficient funds using an offline debt card. In some cases, vendors who offer preliminary acceptance of an offline debt card payment that is not fully authorized at settlement may also incur a returned payment fee.