The prompts from EMV terminals are solely for debit card holders, and the reason is a 2010 federal law.

The Durbin Amendment, passed as part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street reform law, created rules that, in addition to setting limits on debit fees, require debit card issuers to support at least two competing networks when processing debit transactions.

“On most EMV chip cards, one option is to route the transaction to the global brand on the card (i.e. Visa debit or Mastercard debit) or one of the regional debit networks, such as NYCE, STAR or PULSE,” said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Secure Technology Alliance.

The two debit transaction options

While you can click either the credit or debit option using your debit card, your payment will still process as an EMV transaction.

“Both options are compliant with EMV and Durbin rules, but it makes it confusing to consumers,” Vanderhoof said.

  • If you want to process your debit card as credit, select the U.S. network option, such as “Visa debit.” Keep in mind that credit-routed debit transactions may take a few business days to process.
  • If you want to make a true debit card payment, click the U.S. debit option and then enter your PIN. These transactions are real-time, and the total will be deducted from your checking account balance immediately.

Which is better? It depends. Some debit cards offer rewards or special offers, but only if you process them with a signature over the credit card network.

But under federal laws, debit cards offer slimmer fraud protection than credit cards do. If peace of mind is critical, it’s best to stick with the PIN debit option. “Any transaction that has a PIN will be more secure than a transaction that doesn’t,”