What Is an Offline Debit Card?

Offline Debit Card Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

A customer uses a debit card to make a purchase.
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An offline debit card is a debit card that is run offline as a credit card instead of as a debit through electronic-funds-transfer (EFT) networks. In an offline debit transaction, you don’t need to enter a PIN, and funds won’t be deducted from your account for one to two business days. The card is also known as a check card.

Using terms like "offline" and "online" to describe debit-card transactions can be confusing, so it helps to know what's happening behind the scenes when you do an offline debit card transaction. Learn more about how it works and the differences between offline and online debit cards.

Definition and Example of an Offline Debit Card

An offline debit card, or check card, is a payment card where the funds can’t be immediately deducted from your account. In most cases, it is the same as your regular debit card. When it is read by a POS device, you can choose whether to have the card processed as “credit.” In that case, it is taken offline and processed through the credit card networks instead of as an EFT.

  • Alternate name: check card

If you bank with Chase, for example, you’ve likely been issued a debit card for your account. Your debit card can either be processed online or offline. While you may choose “debit” when running your debit card through a POS terminal, it would become an offline debit card if you were to choose “credit” instead. Choosing credit doesn't mean your card goes offline in the literal sense. Rather, it refers to the fact that the transaction is not processed instantaneously.

Consumers don’t need separate cards to run offline debit transactions. It is the same plastic debit card we use in place of a check.

How an Offline Debit Card Works

There are two main characteristics of an offline debit transaction: You do not need a PIN, and the funds are deducted one to two days after the transaction.

Consumers swiping their debit cards are often given two options for processing the card: credit or debit. When “credit” is selected instead of “debit” for your debit card, you’re actually choosing to have the card processed offline. This means you do not need to enter your PIN.

Next, your information is sent through the credit card networks. Offline debit card networks are run by either Visa or Mastercard, which are respectively named Visa Check Card and MasterMoney. Money will be deducted from your account and settled with the merchant within a few days.

Offline Debit Card vs. Online Debit Card

The major difference between an offline debit card and an online debit card is how they are processed. An online debit card uses the EFT network to deduct funds from the consumer’s account immediately. On the other hand, the offline debit card uses credit card networks to process the transaction in one to two business days.

When you choose to bypass your PIN to complete the transaction, your purchase is taken offline. This distinction is important because funds are not immediately deducted from the consumer’s account when run through credit card networks as an offline debit card.

Here are some other key differences between the two.

Offline Debit Card Online Debit Card
Funds are most often deducted in one to two business days Funds are deducted immediately
No PIN required Secured with a PIN to complete transactions
Funds can’t be checked immediately Funds can be checked at the POS terminal
Processed over a credit card network Processed over an EFT network
Consumer not allowed to obtain cash back Consumer allowed to obtain cash back

Key Takeaways

  • Offline debit cards are debit cards that are processed offline, which simply means they are sent through a credit card network to deduct funds from your account.
  • Offline debit cards are also known as check cards and can be run as regular debit transactions as well.
  • Funds are deducted in one to two business days in an offline debit transaction; in an online debit transaction, they’re deducted immediately as an EFT.