Can Multiple Accounts Be Linked to a Single Debit Card?
Part of the reason why so many people suffer from Exploding Wallet Syndrome (aka the George Costanza wallet) is having too many debit and credit cards taking up all that room, ready to burst into a plume of plastic.
Having a few credit cards is fine -- in fact, it’s encouraged that you do, since a mixture of credit is good for your credit score and overall credit health. But debit cards? Unless you’ve got several different checking or savings accounts with several different banks, thereby necessitating the need for several cards, several debit cards on your person (or in that overstuffed wallet) might seem like a bit of pointless overkill.
A single debit card to manage multiple accounts could simplify your life. But can it be done?
Can You Link Up Multiple Accounts to One Debit Card?
It is possible to link and sync two or more deposit accounts with the same bank to one debit card. But, like all things personal finance, it all depends very much on your bank, their rules, regulations, and capabilities.
There are two things to keep in mind:
- You won’t be able to link a debit card to a credit card account, even if it’s from the same bank;
- A debit card from one bank can’t be cross-linked to an account at another bank. (You can use it at another bank’s ATM, but with a fee; more on that below, too.)
Before the advent of online banking and technology that made banking easier, linking the same debit card to your checking account, savings account, or another account through the same bank (like a money market or other deposit account) was rare, if downright impossible.
In many cases, you’d have needed to get one debit card for checking, and another card (ATM card, for instance) for savings accounts. I remember banking at a major financial institution where a debit card was only offered for checking. All other business had to go through the teller window.
How to link more than one account to a debit card
Today, one debit card has the ability to manage numerous accounts at once: same card number, same PIN, even when account numbers are different. And, it should come automatically.
Say you have a checking account, but you want to take advantage of a new high-yield checking account at your bank to have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited a couple of times a month -- and, you want to keep your original checking account open for everyday purchases. Your existing debit card should give you access to both, allowing you to make deposits, withdrawals, and transfers from and between either account.
Most of these options come standard at most banks, so linking a debit card to an additional deposit account (checking, savings) isn’t something you’ll need to request. But if you have any doubt, or if you see an account that isn’t synced with your debit card, ask your bank first. Some long-term and non-liquid deposit accounts, like CDs, may be held separate from your debit card and can’t be linked up or managed through a debit card.
And like we mentioned above, your debit card can’t double for a credit card. (A debit card won’t build credit, and a credit card can’t debit cash, at least not without paying for a cash advance.) But you can use the same debit card to pay your credit card bill from your checking account(s).
Banks with an auto bill pay function also allow you to sync up outside accounts with your debit card, so your car payment, mortgage, student loan, utility bill, etc. are all paid through the same card.
What If You’re Paying With a Debit Card?
You’re ready to swipe or insert your card at a point of sale, but wait -- which of your two linked-up checking accounts is the money debited from? It’s a big purchase, and it might overdraft your secondary account. But it might debit from the primary account; you’re not sure which, and calling your bank’s customer service might mean holding up the line, or losing your place in it.
Answer: Your debit card will deduct the purchase from your primary checking account. Which one is your primary account? That will depend on what you select through your bank. Normally, if you’ve opened a second checking account, your existing checking remains the primary account, even if it holds a lower total balance. You’ll need to denote which account you select as your primary, but remember that it will be the card that all purchases are made from.
However, you’ll want to check with your bank to avoid debiting money from an account you don’t want, or to select which one becomes your primary account.
What If You’re Accessing ATMs?
Bank ATM interfaces are meeting the functionality of online banking and your bank’s mobile app. You should be able to get a 360-degree, 100 percent view of multiple accounts with your provider, at least the ones that can be transacted from through the ATM with your debit card.
So, if you’re standing there wanting to make a deposit or withdrawal, the screen should ideally list all the accounts that allow deposits and withdrawals with your debit card -- no credit card balances here.
In almost every circumstance, you can use your ATM card at any ATM, and transact from any of your available accounts, but if it’s an out-of-network ATM from another bank, be prepared to pay a service fee.
Tip: We found out that some banks will allow you to submit a loan payment through the ATM and it is possible to access this option through a debit card. Again, this works only if your loan is with the same bank.
Staying Within the Limits
Banks typically impose daily, weekly or monthly purchase, withdrawal and ATM limits on their checking accounts; one, to limit the possibility of fraud, and two, to prevent customers from withdrawing too much money and risk the bank falling below its minimum reserve level.
If you’re managing more than one bank account on a debit card, check if those transaction limits apply to each account, or all accounts together. If your monthly withdrawal limit is $5,000, is that for each checking account, or two combined -- $2,500 each? Knowing beforehand can help you plan how much to transact, and from which account, all with your debit card at hand.
You can always contact your bank and ask for a temporary or permanent increase in your debit card limits.
What About Mixing Personal and Business accounts?
They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, and when it comes to banking, it’s not a good idea to mix a business checking account with a personal checking account. It can be difficult to keep track of dedicated business expenses when they’re mixed in with personal purchases, and vice versa.
Banks also encourage this financial sensibility and normally issue separate business and personal debit cards to segregate their respective expenses. However, many business checking accounts, such as those from Wells Fargo and Bank of America, allow users to view both accounts together. In the case of Bank of America, sole business proprietors who provide a Social Security number and tax ID number can link both their personal and business accounts together.
Again, we do not advise on connecting different types of accounts for bookkeeping purposes and it simply helps to separate those funds.
Your checking account is that all-purpose type of banking product that’s designed for deposits and withdrawals, purchases and saving. Your debit card is an extension of your checking account, and it’s designed to be as much of an all-in-one tool, eliminating the need to juggle several cards if you have multiple accounts, and giving you the ability to access all your finances and financial activity through one card.
Keep in mind that with the chance to review and transact so much through one card, and to link numerous accounts together, that your banking and identity safety is more important than ever before. Never reveal your account information or PIN number to anyone, shield the keypad at an ATM, and use caution at points of sale, especially at retail checkout lines and gas station pumps, where theft is more likely.
Overall, managing different accounts through one card provides a more cohesive banking experience that makes your personal finances easier, quicker and more convenient to manage.