A few days ago, rather jetlagged, I was very stumped when the person serving me in a cafe at the airport asked "Cheque, Savings or Credit" when I handed over my (overseas / foreign card) to pay for a much-needed coffee. It actually took them asking several times for me to even work out what they were asking (jetlag + accents = fun!), and I'm still not sure what they pressed when I said "umm, mastercard?", but it worked... Since then, I've found most card machines or staff asking me the same question when I've gone to pay.

As someone holding a non-Australian issued card, what's the right response?

(I'd guess that I'd answer "Credit" for a Credit card, but that'd be good to confirm, then there's also non-Australian Debit cards and pre-paid/pre-loaded cards to consider too!)

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    In fact I wonder if it matters at all. I've never been to Australia, but in the US they ask "Debit or credit?" when I use my (French) card. I've tried both answers, and could not notice any difference (both worked fine).
    – fkraiem
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 6:46
  • It would be great if OP could clarify where his card was issued, as I believe it makes a huge difference: compare the answer of Tom below and my experience which matches that of @fkraiem for EU-issued cards e.g. in US. Otherwise this Q risks being too broad / unclear.
    – mts
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 8:31
  • @fkraiem in most cases to a consumer they're equivalent. Your bank gets paid each time the card is used, so it's too their benefit to be on as many different payment networks as possible. To retailers it matters because different payment systems charge different amounts to their users (in the US debit card transactions are cheaper for the retailer than credit card transactions). The only consequence of guessing wrong if you card doesn't support both is potential mild embarrassment if if doesn't go through and the time spent having to redo it as the other type of transaction. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 11:53
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    Oh what fun if I ever visit Oz ... I have two cards from the same bank both the same colour and pattern with the same Visa logo, apart from being labelled "CREDIT" and "DEBIT" so I know which is which. And if I follow the above correctly, the right answer for the DEBIT card abroad, is "credit". Although for misc.legal reasons I never use anything except credit cards outside the UK. (Legally, with a credit card, the company has to prove in law that I owe them money should I ever dispute that assertion, with the other sort they'd have already taken my money).
    – nigel222
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 12:23
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    @fkraiem in Australia it does matter. If you choose Cheque or Savings, it will be processed through a totally different banking system than if you choose Credit (and will be declined) Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 18:30

7 Answers 7


At point-of-sale terminals, cheque and savings transactions are processed through the domestic EFTPOS debit card system. As far as I know they only accept locally issued debit cards.

Credit transactions are processed through the relevant international card scheme (Visa, Mastercard, etc). Despite its name, they accept both debit and credit cards issued under the scheme.

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    Aussie here - this is the correct answer. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:14
  • @k2moo4 Hi! Thanks for the answer, now I understand better. What if the choice at the ATM is Current/Saving/Credit? Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 14:53
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    @MattAllegro The answer is the same - choose "Credit" to access the international scheme's debit system (eg. Maestro or Electron)
    – molypot
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 20:12

Depends on who issued your card. Visa / MasterCard branded debit cards or check cards as they are also called, issued from the USA need to be processed as credit cards outside the USA (except in ATMs).

Some systems in Asia that I have noticed (using my US issued debit cards) ask "cheque, savings or credit" other ask "current, savings or credit", you are supposed to select the type of account your debit card is tied to when asked this. At an ATM I select the correct bank account type, but on a POS system I always select credit. I haven't noticed the same query when using my credit cards.

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    Do you know what happens if you pick the wrong option?
    – Belle
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 9:47
  • @Belle - I suppose it depends on how many points are checked during authorization by the system you are using. I have hit the wrong button on ATMs a couple of times, one time declined, one time it went through (the ATMs were different banks).
    – user13044
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 10:04
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    If your card was issued overseas, the only correct option is "credit". Cheque/savings are for Australian bank cards only. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 20:15
  • @jpatokal- that is definitively not the case in most of Asia. I have lived in Asia the last 7 years, 20 different countries. I have NEVER selected "credit" using a foreign (usually European) card, whether debit or credit. I choose either "current/checking" or "savings" and it makes no difference which. I also have a Thai visa debit card and I have noticed with that, on the domestic network in Thailand, I do have to choose the correct account, it will reject it if I choose wrong. But internationally it makes no difference, with either the Thai or European cards.
    – Ivan McA
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 4:50
  • The question has a point because, in my experience, also the other options work allowing (in my case) to withdrawl money Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 5:58

I'm pretty sure Credit is the answer you want.

The major credit card networks (visa and mastercard) operate pretty much worldwide. Debit card networks on the other hand tend to be more localised. To provide worldwide cover debit card issuers work with Visa or Mastercard allowing their debit cards to be processed as-if they were a credit card.

So when you use your debit card abroad you generally want it to be treated as a credit card.


In your scenario I'd say "Credit", but I believe it mostly only matters if you have multiple accounts linked to your card: they're allowing you to choose.


Some banks and their ATMs can't tell what type of account your card is linked to, so they ask.

I've had the same question from several foreign ATMs. Choosing 'checking' when using my UK issued, VISA debit card worked as expected. So did choosing 'Credit' when using my VISA credit card.


ATMs in China used to ask me a similar question when inserting my european MasterCard (tied to only one account).

This may be anecdotal, but I've tried all three, all of them worked and I saw no difference on my bank statements. I'd offer the rule of thumb to always try checking first and credit second.


As another data point, two USA-issued debit (not credit) cards of mine work best with 'Checking', both inside the USA and in those countries where the question has been asked.

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