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4 reasons not to use your credit card at a bar

When you're out for a night of fun, the last thing you need is to worry about getting ripped off.

By Credit.com Aug 28, 2014 11:35AM
This post comes from Adam Levin at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyYou’ve watched enough Tarantino to know you should only bring a knife to a gunfight if you’re Uma Thurman. Bringing a debit card to a bar is like the proverbial knife at a gunfight: a shoot-ready script for getting killed by the bill.


Credit card © Tetra Images, CorbisBar = party, but you don’t want to run up debt and wreck your credit, so you make a conscious effort to use a debit card. For most of us, cash and debit cards are pretty synonymous. Maybe your phone case doubles as a wallet.


Even a modest amount of cash is bulky for today’s skinny jean pockets, and if it falls out it's gone for good. Want a free drink from that tattoo-sleeved bartender? It’s not going to happen if you hand him or her sweat-damp legal tender that’s been stored in your sock.


But if you think you’re protected from losing cash by using a debit card, perhaps you need to rethink your definition of protection. Debit cards get scammed the same as credit cards, but that’s where the similarity ends.


A credit card is borrowed money, so when a fraudster runs up a big bill, other than dealing with a few hassles, the financial hit isn’t as immediate as it would be with your bank account -- especially if you report it ASAP. Yeah, you have to call the bank and get a new card (don’t forget to notify other creditors that your billing information has changed), but you’re only liable for up to $50 associated with whatever fraudulent use occurs, and most companies have adopted a zero liability policy. With debit cards, the story's a little different: Fail to report fraudulent activity on your debit card (or cash disappearing from your bank account) within 48 hours and you’re liable for up to $50, but miss it entirely during a 60-day period, and you could be on the hook for $500 (or maybe the entire missing amount).


If your debit card gets hit, there goes much, if not all, of your available cash. Say goodbye to your decaf double cap.


While banks are typically required to get your money back to you within 10 days of a fraudulent attack on your bank account, and some companies like Visa and Mastercard have a policy of getting it back to you in five days, that’s not going to do you much good if you’re not accustomed to carrying large amounts of cash and someone empties out your checking account. Landlords won't understand. Grocery stores don’t care. No Powerball tickets for you. So the best course of action here is to leave the debit card in your wallet.


Not convinced? Here are some more reasons to leave that debit card out of your adventures in bar-land:


1. A dishonest bartender

That bartender may not be working at a bar to pay for seminary training. In fact, he or she, or the bar back, may be a criminal. If you open a tab, your debit card (aka your checking account) will be out of your purse or wallet -- and in their custody -- for hours. It will reside by the cash register where there are pens and paper and plenty of time for some mean-spirited thief to write down your card information in preparation for a late-night shopping spree.


2. ATM fees

Even if you decide to forgo the use of your debit card to open a tab at the bar, you may decide to use the ATM machine conveniently located in that dark corner of the bar. I suggest you do this early in the evening when you will be more likely to notice the $3 to $4 convenience fee. Get some cash at your bank before you go, and save that money for a can of PBR.


3. Skimmers

Another reason to forgo those bar ATMs is the dreaded skimmer -- a magnetic strip reader that criminals use to record your card information. You often won’t see a skimmer device even in the light of day (if the fraudsters know what they’re doing), but you definitely aren’t going to see anything is amiss in a dark bar. Repeat after me: "I am going to a bank."

4. No points

In today’s swipe fee-limited environment, almost no debit cards offer rewards anymore, and the few that do have plans that are nowhere near as robust as the ones associated with most credit cards. Credit can be the same as cash, as long as you think of it as an advance on a payment to be made at the end of the month -- and a possible flight to somewhere warm this winter. 


Losing your line of credit or your available funds to a fraudster can set off a nightmarish chain reaction in your finances -- the sooner you can resolve the problem, the better. One of your best lines of defense upfront, whether it’s your debit card or credit card, is checking your statements -- daily. If giving your statements a quick once-over every day sounds like too big of a commitment, consider the fact that trying to undo the damage from a criminal is way more tedious.


Your credit standing is also at risk -- from maxed-out cards, to missing payments because your bank account is empty -- so that’s all the more reason to keep an eagle eye on things. Checking your credit reports for signs of fraud -- like accounts that don’t belong to you -- and monitoring your credit scores for big, unexpected changes, also need to be a regular part of your routine. You’re entitled to your credit reports for free every year, and you can monitor your scores every month for free through Credit.com


More from Credit.com


50Comments
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I guess if you have nice tits and azz you wouldn't need a debit or credit card.
Aug 28, 2014 9:51PM
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One reason to use your credit card at a bar:  Beer.
Sep 6, 2014 4:30PM
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and kids this is why you should only go to creditable bars and whore houses
Sep 6, 2014 10:29AM
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"Was I in here last night and did I spend a $100 bill?"

"I was? Thank goodness, I thought I lost it!"

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don't need the credit card when I just buy the beer, bring it home and enjoy it without the drama and risk of any DUI trying to get home, that's the part that has gotten way out of hand, you can't smell the bottle top without wondering if you could pass the ridiculously low BAC levels anymore,

but as the people who claim to be drug free and alcohol free who can't go a month without a visit to the pharmacy that are far worse than anyone on a bottle of vodka and a 12 pack,


you know the people,

the people who claim the gas peddle and break peddles switched places.

Sep 6, 2014 11:36AM
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I go prepared with a pocket full of 20s
except for when I go to the bars where a pocket full 
of 1s and 5s is the rule.

Sep 6, 2014 12:58PM
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How 'bout the obvious:  Getting drunk and spending too much money you don't have.
Aug 28, 2014 8:38PM
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So, why didn't they just say it?  "Stay out of bars"!!!  (Or, did I miss something?)
Aug 28, 2014 3:13PM
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Yeah, because we all know alcohol can do wonders for a broad.
Sep 6, 2014 4:23PM
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a termite went into a bar and asked,'is the bar tender here'?

a guy comes in with a frog on his head,and the bartender says,'where did you get that? and the frog says,'it started out as a little bump on my butt'.

into the bar comes a grasshopper.and the bartender says,'hey,we've got a drink named after you!'
  and the grasshopper says,'is that right?why would anyone name a drink Bob?'
and then a horse walks into the place.and the bartender says,'how come the long face?'

a bear walks into a bar and says,'i'd like a beer and.........a pack of peanuts'.the barman says,'why the big pause?'
Aug 28, 2014 9:56PM
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I use my credit card all the time. I want the points to use on my vacations. But I have a debit/credit card. Which I never use.
Sep 6, 2014 2:47PM
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what a crock... this idiot gets paid to write this horse manure? 
why is it the bartender and service staff are the bad guys?  yes i get it, sometimes people take or copy a credit number at a restaurant.  guess what, that's a Federal crime and when those people get caught (they always do) they're looking at 5-7 years minimum in a Federal pen.  Not to mention under new (as of 2011) credit laws, bartenders, restaurants etc. are not allowed to hold/detain your credit or debit card for a tab.  they only take your card when you pay the bill.  AND the info on debit cards is incorrect in this "article".  Check the fine print on your silly debit cards and you'll see that most Banks are only liable UP TO $50 (the bank is not responsible for your idiocy), anything over that and a fraud investigation takes over.  Your money is gone and the bank is going to do everything it can to not have to pay for your mistake.  One last thing; the bartender is ALWAYS going to appreciate cold hard cash instead of your silly card because.... there's no paper trail with cash! 


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but in some bars it takes more than a pocket full of cash to make some of the bar flies begin to look as good as you want them too. ;-)
Sep 6, 2014 8:00AM
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Duh...  Slide your card out, and you will pay more?  How well do you know the bartender and trust them?  They can easily 'jack' your bill and double your bill.  YOU were drinking and running a tab.  I won't allow this in my bar, but it can happen.  I don't allow a tab.   


Get cash at an ATM associated with you bank before going to the bar?  Pay cash on the bar for all drinks. Do NOT use an ATM at a bar? Skimmers are so small and undetectable in the dark of a bar, you wouldn't notice them?


Hey, when you drink, you ain't exactly 'smart'...  But you are used to using cash money? 


I own a bar on a lake in a vacation area...  It's a red-neck/logger/rough-neck place.  We have an ATM in a well-lighted area.  In the summer I get tourists who act totally stupid.  In the winter, we just have fun.  Only time I ever call the cops is for some drunk Chicago vacationist that thinks he's tougher than a lumberjack? 

Sep 6, 2014 10:34AM
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I NEVER use a debit card for a bar tab, many bars in the Denver area put $50-$100 hold on your card when you open a tab, many times the holds are on your account for 5-7 days. 
Sep 6, 2014 4:36PM
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Pay cash, but never flash it around. Safest way and when you pee out the beer all night you don't have to pay for it 30 days later...Just stay sober enough to read the bill and count the cash.Credit cards are a scourge. 
Sep 6, 2014 6:02PM
Sep 6, 2014 2:00PM
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Four more reasons to do cash! I try to make sure that I have enough lettuce on me before hitting my favorite watering hole.
Sep 6, 2014 9:50PM
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Oh, the days of 25 cent long necks - too bad we'll never see you again...  Back when you could eat, party and get laid all for under $20 and still have enough left over to fill your gas tank! 
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