Type of payment cards

There is a wide range of payment cards with different trade names and functions. Knowing their main features will help you choose the card that best suits your needs.

Depending on the type of issuer, there are:

  • Bank cards, issued by banks. In Spain, bank card transactions are managed by Sistemas de Tarjetas y Medios de Pago, S.A.
  • Store cards, which can only be used in the issuer´s establishments (shops, franchises, department stores, etc.). However, a significant number of shopping centres in Spain have agreements with a major bank, in which case the card will be issued by the bank, instead of the shopping centre.
  • Loyalty cards, issued by commercial establishments and businesses (e.g. airlines). With these cards you accumulate points that can be redeemed for discounts when purchasing items or paying for services offered by the issuer

 Types of bank cards:

  • Debit cards enable to use  the funds deposited in the associated current or savings account to be used. The card must be linked to an account.

    Debit cards can be used for paying at stores or withdrawing cash at bank branches and ATMs, as well as for checking account balances and transactions. Payments made with debit cards are instantly debited from the account. This is the main difference between debit cards and credit cards.

    A daily limit is usually set, especially for cash withdrawals at ATMs, for security reasons.

  • Charge and credit cards allow payments to be made and funds obtained, up to a certain credit limit. The money must be repaid within an agreed period.

    Many banks offer charge and credit cards without requiring customers to hold a current account with them, charging direct debits to the customer’s current account at another bank. When the card is issued by a specialised lending institution or a payment institution this will always be the case as these institutions cannot open current accounts for customers.

    Remember that using a charge or credit card has the same consequences as any other form of borrowing: you must repay the money and pay the agreed interest.

    The credit limit must be included in thet card contract, and can be changed by both the bank and the cardholder. The bank can adjust this limit in accordance with its risk policy and the personal and solvency characteristics of the customer. However, you can also request a change in your credit limit, which will always be granted in the case of a reduction, although the bank will have to decide whether to authorise a rise. There is usually a maximum credit limit for each card category ("standard", "silver", "gold", etc.).

    The borrowed money must be repaid in the manner and within the period agreed, which is usually the first few days of each month. You may choose between various payment methods.

  • Credit cards arepayment cards for which a flexible payment method is chosen. The cardholder can defer repayment of the credit by paying periodic instalments that vary according to the balance outstanding on the card. You can choose the amount of the instalments within the limits set by your bank, but you should be aware that with each instalment you pay, the amount of capital repaid becomes available as credit again.

    Find more about credit cards in our

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  • Prepaid cards allow customers to make small payments or withdraw cash, up to the limit of the funds previously uploaded. They may be topped up again at any time.

  • This technology may be incorporated in charge, credit and debit cards. Payments can be made without having to insert the card in the point-of-sale (POS) terminal, but simply by holding the card close to the terminal. However, if the amount to be paid exceeds €20 (temporary increase the limit from 20 to 50 euros from April 2020) you must enter the card PIN. The number of businesses with POS terminals that allow contactless payments is increasing. When using contactless ATMs, it is not necessary to insert the card. Simply holding the card close to the contactless reader will provide access to the main menu, although you will be asked to enter your PIN before any transactions can be carried out.

    Contactless payments can be made when you seethis symbol:   

    Find more about credit cards in our 2017 Complaints Report (in Spanish)  (77 KB)

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