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Ask Dave

Debit Card Access For a Collector?

Susan has heard Dave say she shouldn't give collectors access to her checking account. Does that include payments with her debit card?

QUESTION: Susan in Florida has heard Dave say she shouldn’t give collectors access to her checking account. Does that include payments with her debit card?

ANSWER: If it’s with a collector, it does. A collector is someone you owe money to that’s a bad debt. But if you’re scheduling your utility—your electric bill—to come through your debit card, I’d do that. I don’t use my debit card; I use my personal checking account. But if you schedule payments through a debit card other ways, that’s fine. You do not ever give collectors electronic access to your checking account.

What are some other ways to pay them? Money order overnight. You can wire them. You can get a cashier’s check. One way people have done it is with a prepaid debit card that is not attached to any account with your bank. Then when that account is gone, it’s gone.

The problem is this, Susan: They take more out than they said they were going to take out, and you’re screwed. They’ll take the money out for your house payment, and you can’t pay your house payment. That’s just a huge deal. Or they take the money out, and you haven’t got the money for the electric bill or the money to feed your kids this week, and they do it all the time. We work with them all the time.

The collections business has some good people in it, but it has a high percentage of people that are complete scum, particularly in the credit card collections side. They’re complete scum. We deal with them every day. They lie. You can tell they’re lying if their mouth’s moving. It’s a huge, huge problem.

You’ve got to protect yourself from that and not be naïve and go, “Well, it’s a debit card.” No, they’ll rip the debit card to shreds too—just like they would anything else.

A prepaid debit card is a possible way of doing it, but it’s not my favorite. My favorite is just mail them a check or send them a cashier’s check. Even if you pay an overnight fee, it’s better than giving them electronic access to clean you out and to completely mess you over.