(The report also explains the shortcomings of gift cards.) Here's the short version of the dangers of debit: 1. Like credit cards, federal law limits your liability for fraudulent transactions on a debit card to .

But that's if you notify your financial institution within two days of discovering the theft.

If you're a space cadet and don't check your bank statements for a couple of months, you could lose everything. Pay Now/Reimburse Later If someone has fraudulently used your credit card, you don't have to pay the charge.

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By the time you find out the goods weren't what was advertised, the merchant has your cash and you're in the unenviable position of having to fight to get your money back. This is not an actual charge--the hold will come off your account at the end of your stay.

But it affects the available balance in your checking account anyway and can lead to overdrafts.

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That means you're out the money while the bank does a leisurely examination of their records to investigate your fraud claim.

Many consumers complaining to Privacy Rights Clearing House said they lost access to their funds for several weeks.

If you pay with a credit card when ordering something online, and that product comes damaged, broken or not at all, you can dispute the charge and stop payment with your credit card.

If you used your debit card, the charge is paid when you made the order. If you use a credit card at a hotel, the hotel takes an imprint when you check in, but doesn't charge your card until you check out. Generally, hotels will put a "hold" on funds in your account . They hold the full amount of your stay, plus an estimated amount for "incidentals," such as meals at the hotel restaurant and dipping into the mini-bar.

When your debit card is skimmed, your bank account can be drained before you know that you've been had.