Debit cards that you can use without a PIN number are called Signature Debit cards because you typically sign your name instead of enter a PIN number.
Signature debit cards are processed over the credit card networks, such as Visa, MasterCard and Discover and are processed the same as credit cards.
If a merchant accepts credit cards, they almost always accept signature debit cards as well, as long as the merchant accepts the network tied to the card.
Debit cards are typically tied to a checking account at a financial institution, and are typically offered to you when you sign up for your account. It is similar to a Prepaid card, except debit cards are tied to a bank account, whereas prepaid cards are not.
Each network calls their debit product a slightly different name:
- Visa Check Card
- MasterCard Debit
- Discover Debit
- American Express Debit
Signature debit cards in the United States are issued on the Visa, MasterCard or Discover networks.
Visa Check Card and MasterCard Debit seem to be the most popular in the U.S., while Discover Debit is only available from a small number of banks, like Cadence Bank. American Express does offer debit cards in some countries (for example, for the Bank of Maldives), but in the United States they have moved into the Prepaid card space instead.