You have the money in your checking account, but that doesn't mean you can access it. It's better to know your daily spending limit on your debit cards before you have an embarrassing moment at the store.

Does your debit card have a daily spending limit? Most likely, yes. A debit card spending maximum is set by the individual bank or credit union that issues the debit card. Some debit cards have spending capped at $1,000, $2,000, or $3,000 daily.

Try to spend more than the maximum allowed, and your debit card will be declined even if you have enough money in your checking account. Very embarrassing. There are, however, some steps you can take to deal with debit card spending limits.

Why worry about debit card spending limits?

It’s not every day we need to spend more than $1,000 on a debit card. But it happens. Especially if you don’t have or wish to use a credit card for major purchases, you may find yourself needing to pay a big car repair bill, book a vacation, or make another large purchase that will cost more than your debit card spending limit.

Daily limits are placed on your card for security reasons. This way your bank account won’t be drained of funds if theft or fraud occurs.

Related: Charge Cards—A smart alternative to debit and credit cards

Ask your bank or credit union what your debit card limits are

Before you can deal with a debit card spending limit, you need to know what it is. A few banks publish this information on their Web sites, or print the information on the paperwork that comes with your card.

If not, you’ll need to call up your bank or credit union or ask a teller the next time you’re in. Be sure to determine both your ATM cash withdrawal daily limit and you debit card spending limit. They’re different.

Typically, your cash withdrawal limit will be lower. Many banks set ATM withdrawal limits at $500 in a 24 hour period. Sometimes it’s $1,000. Typically, your ATM spending limit will be higher. Also ask your bank if ATM transactions count towards your daily spending limit. (If so, and you have a $1,000 total spending limit, when you withdraw $200 from an ATM you could not then make a $900 purchase on your card).

Ask to change your debit card spending limits

Most banks will increase debit card limits if you ask. This increase can be either permanent or temporary, with some raises only lasting for a 24 hour period, so make sure you find out ahead of time.

Also be sure to find out when the increase will take effect. Sometimes it’s instantaneous, other times it may take 24 or 48 hours, so if you go to make a big purchase right after hanging up with the bank, the transaction may still not go through.

Credit vs. Debit, Is Credit a Good Idea for You?

Alternatively, there are times when it is better to use a credit card than a debit card. If you have good credit or you would like to build up your credit history for use later on, then applying for a credit card is a good idea. If you use your credit card responsibly, spending can actually create positive credit history, making you a more likely candidate for approval on better cards in the future. Here’s when it’s a better idea to reach for a credit card than your debit card:

  • If you are short on cash but will be getting more soon
  • If you need to make a purchase that can be broken up into monthly installments
  • If you are paying a lot of interest on a previous debt and wish to consolidate under a lower interest rate

Of course, the one caveat to this is that you must use your credit card responsibly. This means paying at least your monthly minimum and not letting the interest accrue unnecessarily. If you can handle that, then a credit card is an excellent idea for you for several reasons, for example:

Credit cards help you build your credit

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Poor
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Start off with an initial credit line of $200 w/ a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

As mentioned above, responsible credit card spending will actually build your credit and help you raise your credit score. Cards like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® or the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card allow people with bad or no credit to start building their credit anew. Debit cards do not offer this type of advantage.

You can earn amazing rewards from credit card programs

Most credit cards today offer some sort of rewards program. These programs can often be highly lucrative, giving you real cash back, gift cards, and statement credits for the spending you are doing anyway. Even if you don’t have great credit, you can earn rewards with a card like the Discover it® Student Cash Back.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back has no annual fee and gives you a tremendous bonus. At the end of the first year Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned. It also earns you a generous 5% cash back on rotating categories every quarter, up to a $1,500 quarterly maximum. Quarterly activation is required for the bonus.

Credit cards offer other benefits too

Disclaimer – The information about the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

In addition to rewards points, credit cards offer valuable benefits including airport services, travel insurance and perks, and shopping advantages like extended warranty and purchase protection. Take, for example, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back rewards and get benefits like cell phone insurance, 24/7 fraud monitoring, and an intro APR for balance transfers and new purchases.

Credit cards are an emergency line of credit

While we hope we’ll never need it, a credit card is a good emergency fund in case the need ever does arise. Whether it’s a medical emergency, an unexpected repair needed on your house, or a car part replacement that ends up costing you thousands of dollars you just don’t have, credit cards offer you the flexibility to stay covered in these unpredictable times.

Debt consolidation

Another perk to credit cards is the introductory offers. Some will give you 0% APR for a limited amount of time. If you have debt or need to make a large purchase, this can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars by cancelling the interest payments for that introductory period of time.

The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card that we mentioned earlier offers a great rate on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, the perfect solution for debt consolidation. By transferring your debt that is sitting on credit cards with higher interest to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card, you will be able to apply your total payment amount to the debt instead of taking off a chunk of it to pay for the interest. In this way, you can systematically reduce your debt dramatically.

Summary

Still using only your debit card for daily purchases? Debit cards can be great at times—and sometimes credit cards are a better choice (if you use them responsibly).

Or, you may even consider using a check to make larger purchases. While checks seem outdated compared to debit or credit cards, it makes sense to use them if you need to purchase something that exceeds your debit card limit. As long as the check will clear, there is no limit to how much you can spend with a personal check. Here’s how to fill out a check.

Read more:

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About the author

Total Articles: 353
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Article comments

We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30. Comments have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser, nor are they reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.
16 comments
J Cam says:

I had to pay an attorney bill and tried to use my debit card to do so. My daily balance was $3000 and i was not aware of that. I asked them to raise to 4000 but they said they would not. I asked why its says my available balance is much more.
I said if i come into the bank can i withdraw all the cash they said yes. The only problem the bill was trying to pay was in a different state so cash would do me no good. So frustrating i had to pay the attorney today. This is with Chase bank and i have been with them for nearly 12 years. time to close that account!

Lucy says:

I’m literally going through this with them as we speak! My account is 9 years old, and they’re denying a limit increase. The money is there, but they told me it will take 2 to 3 days to process my request. Umm no! I need that money now. Goodbye Chase Bank

Spencer says:

Had this happen to me a couple times — fortunately, wasn’t too embarrassing as the people working there were incredibly friendly, and reminded me to get in contact with the Bank to confirm if I had any daily limits. I’m sure they’ve seen this same problem many times before – Sure enough, I did indeed have a daily limit. Just completely forgot about it, which caused me to dig through old files and later found a page that clearly stated how much my limit was.

Always check to see if you have a daily limit – it may save you possible embarrassment in front of friends, family, or anyone else. Hard to tell how many people don’t realize they have a daily limit, and then think something’s wrong with their account because nothing will be approved.

Linda says:

It happened to me at my son’s wedding rehearsal. We had traveled and I paid for the hotel with my debit card. Then I was supposed to pay for the rehearsal supper. They came with the bill, and declined my card. I was SO embarassed in front of all my relatives and his fiancee’s family. Even my ex-husand. The restaraunt was nice enough to take a check from me. And I found out later that the credit union I go has a daily limit. Never again will I take that chance. Now if I have a couple things I need it for, I just have to use my credit card, and then immediately pay it back online.

alex says:

i went to costco to buy a hdtv, and i was so embarrased that my card was declined, even though I had money on my account, still i could not buy it. 🙁
bank of america sucks

Mary Fallon says:

I was not aware that my Wells Fargo bank account had a debit card spending limit of $500 per day until yesterday when I was purchasing a motor scooter online. I called my bank and explained the situation to them and asked that the purchase be allowed for this one time. THEY REFUSED! How is it legal for a bank to tell me that I cannot spend the money in my account in ANY way that I chose to??? I deposited cash into the account just for this purchase and had more than enough money in the account to cover the purchase!! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!! According to the bank the limit is set according to your credit score. WHAT DOES MY CREDIT SCORE HAVE TO DO WITH ME SPENDING MY MONEY?? I WASN’T ASKING FOR CREDIT, I HAVE NEVER USED CREDIT IN MY LIFE AND NEVER WILL. I WILL BE CLOSING MY ACCOUNT TODAY WITH WELLS FARGO AND WILL TELL ANYONE WHO ASKS ABOUT THIS!

Zack Lloyd says:

I am going through this same nonsense with my credit union….
They have SO MANY limits, and conditions of what I am allowed to spend MY money on, it is getting tiresome to me, and I am considering switching to a different bank because of this foolishness. Today I tried to pay off my car insurance for 6 months, but it was declined by the bank because it was a $500+charge on my debit card.
Now I have to wait until later to call, because neither of them is open this early. I am truly getting sick of being declined when I KNOW I have more than enough in my account to pay the charges, just because my banking institution is ridiculously paranoid about fraud!!

Lisa Hignutt says:

The banks do have a point. If your card is stolen and your account is emptied out, you are only liable for $50. However, the bank is liable for the rest. They are trying to protect themselves and you really can’t blame them since debit and credit cards are stolen so often. It is your money but it is their money if your card is compromised. I am not really defending them, I just simply want people to know that they do have a reason for what they are doing.

Mary Fallon says:

My bank(Wells Fargo) refused a debit card purchase because it was over the daily ALLOWED LIMIT on my account. I called them and explained what I was purchasing and asked for the limit to be raised for this one purchase. THEY REFUSED! I felt as you do that they might have had a valid reason,, such as protecting me from theft, but after speaking with them and offering to come in if necessary to get this purchase approved and they still would not allow it……I am closing my account today! IT IS MY MONEY AND NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME HOW MUCH I CAN SPEND!!!!

Shawn says:

The spending limit is there in case the card is lost, stolen or compromised. It prevents a thief from emptying your checking account in one day. This is why I have a credit card AND a debit card. I use the credit card for large purchases and pay it off each month so as not to pay finance charges.

Joshua L Brown says:

Daily limits are a BIG pain in the A$$!! How is someone gonna tell u how much of ur money u can spend??!! RIDICULOUS!! It’s like being on a Elementary school field trip where they tell u when to pay for things and when not to. ABSURD!!

ahndk says:

i ran into a debit card spending limit with capital one. needed to pay rent, could only pull out 400 or so. verbally wrestled with the less than reasonable customer support agents who repeatedly told me they could not increase the limit. i persisted and someone finally temporarily upped it for the day. as for the immediacy, the person had to tell me to “ok, try it now” about 5 times before it actually ended up going through.

i wonder how many times the woman behind the glass has seen the watched the same situation occur.

Mark says:

I actually ran into this problem a few years ago when I bought a big screen television. I had the funds available but my debit card wouldn’t allow the transaction because it went over my daily spending limit. The debit card was through my local regional bank. After this happened, I proceeded to open an account at a national bank and have never had this problem again.

L.T. says:

That’s happened to me as well. All I had to do was to call the bank and request a ‘temporary” increase so I was able to make that big purchase.

Wow, I just finished reading that. Thanks for sharing. That makes me so glad to use a small credit union and not BofA. I can deal with crap customer service when it comes to airlines, cable companies, even credit cards, but when it’s YOUR money in THEIR bank and they treat you like that it’s almost criminal.

If you don’t have time for the story, it basically says “Everyone in the United States that uses Bank of America has a daily spending limit [on debit cards] of 5000.00 no matter what.”

And it sounds like it’s a BIG pain in the ass to make an exception.

Grant says:

According to this story, BofA accounts have a daily limit:
http://consumerist.com/360064/bank-of-america-wont-let-you-access-your-money