Debit card cashback (also known as cash out in Australia and New Zealand) is a service offered to retail customers whereby an amount is added to the total purchase price of a transaction paid by debit card and the customer receives that amount in cash along with the purchase. Debit card cashback is offered either by various banks only to some card holders or by companies like VISA, Mastercard or American Express.
For example, a customer purchasing $18.99 worth of goods at a supermarket might ask for twenty dollars cashback. They would pay a total of $38.99 ($18.99 + $20.00) with their debit card and receive $20 in cash along with their goods.
This benefits the store as it reduces the amount of cash banking the store has to do. Many customers find it a useful way to obtain cash as it avoids them having to use a cash machine, which may incur additional fees.
The idea was originally that of British retail chain Tesco in order to reduce the amount of cash banking the stores needed to carry out, the customer service aspect being a side effect of this.
The service is offered by both banks and merchants in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain and Australia because of the fee structures in use in these countries:
- When accepting payment by debit card, merchants pay a fixed commission fee (as opposed to a percentage) to their bank or merchant service provider. (This is because the commission paid by the merchant for accepting debit cards, unlike credit cards, does not need to fund interest free credit or other incentives).
- Accepting payments in cash can be costly for merchants, given that many British banks charge around 0.5% for depositing cash into a business bank account, along with the costs of transporting and insuring the cash.
The combination of these two factors means that the retailer can save money by offering the cashback service. It does not cost the retailer more in commission to add cashback to a debit card purchase, but in the process of giving cashback, the retailer can “offload” cash which they would otherwise have to pay to deposit at the bank.
Fees, operation and advantages
The services are restricted to debit cards where the merchant pays a fixed fee for the transaction, it is not offered on payments by credit card because they would pay a percentage commission on the additional cash amount to their bank or merchant service provider.
Some vendors enforce a minimum purchase amount or add a fixed fee when providing cashback to a customer.
In many cases, retailers require customers to initial the cashback entry on the till receipt to confirm they have received the cash. This system is used to prevent cashiers surreptitiously adding cashback amounts to a transaction and keeping the money for themselves (or accusations of same), but more importantly, to ensure that customers cannot return to the store with allegations that the attendant “forgot” to hand over the requested cash.
Cashback can have benefits for the customer in many scenarios. In locations where there are no cash machines nearby, or the nearby machines are out of order or empty, a local retailer may be able to supply the required cash instead and to offer more flexibility in note denominations. Sometimes it is simply more convenient to combine the transactions at the retailer and ATM into a single cashback transaction with the retailer.
Additionally, although fees for debit card ATM usage are very rare in countries such as the UK, this is not the case in some other countries. In Canada and the United States, fees of $1~4 are typical when using an ATM from a different bank than the one with which the customer has an account, from both the bank and the atm owner. The fees in some other countries are even higher. In Germany, for instance, usual fees are €4~5 when using an ATM of another bank network than the one of his bank. This gives rise to another potential cashback advantage for the consumer: by making use of the cashback procedure, this ATM fee can be avoided for the cardholder.
Poland: For standard payment transactions merchants have to pay interest fees as a percentage of payment value, not as a fixed tax. In opposite, for cashback service the merchant receive the fixed fee from the card issuer (~$0.15–0.30), but the one time cashback withdrawal cannot be higher than 300zł (~$80). The cashback service is available at ~1/6 of POS in Poland (2014).
Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder of TBIL.co STATX Fund.