How to Choose a Debit Card

Quick Answer

You can get a debit card by opening a checking account and requesting a card. If you already have an account, you can request a debit card over the phone, online, through the mobile app or at a local branch.

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A debit card allows convenient access to money in your checking account for purchases, cash withdrawals, bill payments and sending money to family and friends. You get a debit card by opening a checking account and requesting a card.

How to Get a Debit Card

There are a few straightforward steps to getting a debit card, starting with opening a checking account.

1. Open a Checking Account

Before getting a debit card, you need to open a checking account with a bank or credit union. Start by comparing your options and choosing a financial institution that fits your needs. Then gather the documents and information to open your account.

You'll generally need:

  • A government-issued photo ID, driver's license or passport
  • Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill or mortgage document

Next, complete and submit an application. If you're opening an account at a traditional bank, you can complete an application online, over the phone or at a branch. For online-only banks, you'll complete an online application.

Some banks require a minimum initial deposit. You'll need money in your account, even if a deposit isn't required, to avoid fees when using your debit card. You can fund your account with cash at a local branch, a debit card or transfer from another bank account.

2. Request a Debit Card

Many banks will automatically mail a debit card to you after your checking account has been approved. Otherwise, you may have several options to request a debit card for an existing checking account:

  • Through the mobile app
  • By logging in to your online account
  • By calling customer service
  • At a local bank branch

3. Activate the Card

Once your debit card arrives, you'll need to activate your card before you can use it. Banks typically offer several convenient options to activate your new card:

  • Calling customer service
  • Online or through the mobile app
  • At an ATM using your PIN (which will arrive separately in the mail)
  • Scanning a code with your phone
  • Taking it to a bank branch

Your new debit card will come with instructions for activating it.

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How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Debit Card?

The minimum age for getting a debit card varies by financial institution. Some banks offer debit cards for students and teens as young as 13 through teen or student checking accounts, though additional requirements may apply. For example, individuals under 18 may have to apply in person or open a joint account with an adult.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Debit Card?

After opening a new checking account, it may take four to 10 business days to receive your debit card by mail, depending on the bank or credit union.

If you need a replacement debit card because your card has been lost or stolen, you'll first want to report the missing card by calling your bank or logging in to your online account. You can then request expedited delivery to receive your debit card in two to three business days. Some banks offer same-day replacement cards at local branches. Alternatively, you may be able to access a digital version of your card for immediate use with a digital wallet while you wait for your physical card to arrive.

The Bottom Line

A debit card is a good tool to help you easily access your money and keep track of your spending, making it easier to stick to a budget. Using your debit card to pay bills like rent, utilities and insurance could even help improve your credit scores. The Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card can help you build credit without debt by linking to Experian Boost®ø, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments after three months of payments. See terms at