Although the four largest bank card issuers (American Express, Discover Card, Master Card, and Visa) all offer debit cards, there are many other types of debit card, each accepted only within a particular country or region, for example Switch (now: Maestro) and Solo in the United Kingdom, Interac in Canada, Carte Bleue in France, EC electronic cash (formerly Eurocheque) in Germany, Union Pay in China, Ru Pay in India and EFTPOS cards in Australia and New Zealand.The need for cross-border compatibility and the advent of the euro recently led to many of these card networks (such as Switzerland's "EC direkt", Austria's "Bankomatkasse" and Switch in the United Kingdom) being re-branded with the internationally recognised Maestro logo, which is part of the Master Card brand.
It is similar to a credit card, but unlike a credit card, the money comes directly from the user's bank account when using a debit card.
Some cards may bear a stored value with which a payment is made, while most relay a message to the cardholder's bank to withdraw funds from a payer's designated bank account.
In some cases, the primary account number is assigned exclusively for use on the Internet and there is no physical card.
In many countries, the use of debit cards has become so widespread that their volume has overtaken or entirely replaced cheques and, in some instances, cash transactions.
The development of debit cards, unlike credit cards and charge cards, has generally been country specific resulting in a number of different systems around the world, which were often incompatible.
Since the mid-2000s, a number of initiatives have allowed debit cards issued in one country to be used in other countries and allowed their use for internet and phone purchases.Unlike credit and charge cards, payments using a debit card are immediately transferred from the cardholder's designated bank account, instead of them paying the money back at a later date.Debit cards usually also allow for instant withdrawal of cash, acting as the ATM card for withdrawing cash.Merchants may also offer cashback facilities to customers, where a customer can withdraw cash along with their purchase.There are currently three ways that debit card transactions are processed: EFTPOS (also known as online debit or PIN debit), offline debit (also known as signature debit) and the Electronic Purse Card System.One physical card can include the functions of all three types, so that it can be used in a number of different circumstances.