Devirginizing my debit card

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I got my own bank account when I was 16. I had just started working part-time at a certain fast food establishment with a very famous red-headed clown mascot, and I needed some place for my fat pay cheques to grow. So my mom trucked me on down to the Royal Bank in Sackville to open up my very first little checking account. I felt so adult. I'd had a savings account as a kid, but it was in my parents' name. This was my money--I'd earned it and I could spend it how I pleased. Plus, the piece de resistance...I now had a debit card.

I held the blue plastic rectangle in my hand and traced my fingers over my name embossed on gold. The virgin magnetic strip had never been swiped. This card was the key to financial freedom! No more dirty bills and coins. If I wanted to buy something I could just go buy it, anytime, anywhere. My palms started to sweat.

As soon as we got out of the bank, my mother hissed, "I don't trust those cards."

My heart sank. "It's just a DEBIT CARD, Mom," I whined. "I can't spend money I don't have."

"Yes, but you hear stories all the time about people breaking into bank accounts because there's no security on those things. I don't trust them. 'They' can hack into the machines and steal your information," she insisted.

Paranoid, I tucked the untrustworthy card into the back of my wallet, where it remained for more than a year, unused, unswiped. I went to the bank every time I needed cash, waited in line for a teller, and withdrew $20 or $40 or whatever amount I'd need to get me through the next couple of weeks. I gave ATMs the hairy eyeball as I passed them by, expecting them to sprout arms and rip my wallet from my backpack any second.

Then, one day at work, I was really hungry on my break. I had no cash on me. And contrary to popular belief, Ronald McDonald does not provide unlimited free food to his slaves. I wanted, no, NEEDED, an Egg McMuffin, hashbrown, and chocolate milk, which just so happens to be the breakfast of champions. I remembered the devil card in my wallet.

I slinked to the ATM and looked over both shoulders as I slid Satan's cash source out from behind my student ID and slipped it into the machine. Hunkering low over the buttons and shielding them with my left hand (PROTECT YOUR PIN!!!!) I carefully tapped out the four-digit code I had so craftily compiled many months earlier. The machine whirred and spit out a $5 bill. And...everything was OK. The world kept turning. People kept coming in and ordering greasy breakfasts. The coffee continued to burn. I had used my debit card, and everything was OK. My mind? Blown.

That Egg McMuffin was the breaking of the seal. From that day forward, my life changed. I bought shit. Everywhere. I. Went. I took money out every time I saw an ATM. The power of the card was unreal. The bank teller's grandmotherly face became a foggy memory. And then. AND THEN? I realized I'd paid more than $30 in bank fees in a month FOR WITHDRAWING MY OWN MONEY. No big deal? No big deal?! I was earning $5.60 an hour...30 bones was totally a big deal.

Mom was right.

The card was not to be trusted.

This post was inspired by the 20SB Blog Carnival theme: Friends and Money. Head on over to see the other participants! While you're there, try out the Charles Schwab Community Services Financial Check Up tool, which I tried and scored a 90.

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  1. Hahaha....loved it. I recently had $400 stolen from my account by - you guessed it - debit card fraud. I got my money back, but they wouldn't tell me where in the province it happened so I could avoid a repeat, which didn't impress me much. I also swore off the devil card, but it lasted, like, a week.

  2. WHERE did you find an ATM that only gave you 5$ ??! And why didn't you just use the debit machine at the cash??

  3. Kim--Oh no!! Glad you got your money back but it must have been a hassle in the meantime!

    Sarah--Believe it or not, this was before that McD's had debit at cash. And the ATM gave out multiples of $5 at the time for whatever reason! The good ol' days!