Overdraft vs Credit Card: Difference and Comparison

Overdraft provides a temporary negative balance in a bank account, with higher interest rates. A credit card allows borrowing up to a predefined limit, with interest charged on the outstanding balance if not paid in full monthly. Both offer short-term financing but differ in terms of access and cost.

Key Takeaways

  1. An overdraft is a banking facility that allows account holders to withdraw more money than they have in their account up to a predetermined limit. At the same time, a credit card is a financial product that enables users to borrow money from a credit line to make purchases or obtain cash advances.
  2. Overdrafts and credit cards provide access to funds when needed and can help manage short-term cash flow issues, but credit cards are specifically designed for making transactions. In contrast, overdrafts are linked to a bank account and accessed through regular banking channels.
  3. Overdrafts and credit cards have different fee structures and interest rates. Credit cards offer interest-free grace periods for new purchases if the balance is paid monthly.

Overdraft vs Credit Card

The difference between an Overdraft and a Credit Card is that the providers charge you an annual fee, whereas overdraft charges only apply if your overdraft is above a specific limit.

Overdraft vs Credit Card


Comparison Table

FeatureOverdraftCredit Card
DefinitionAn extension of your checking account that allows you to spend more money than you have available, up to a limitA revolving line of credit issued by a bank or credit union that allows you to borrow money and make purchases
PurposeCovers accidental overspending or small cash shortfallsFinances larger purchases or ongoing expenses
How it worksBank automatically advances funds to cover spending beyond your account balance, incurring an overdraft feeMerchant provides goods or services, you pay later with interest and potential fees
RepaymentPay back the borrowed amount plus fees within a short period (next business day)Make minimum payments monthly, with remaining balance accruing interest
Interest & FeesTypically high overdraft fees per transaction, sometimes daily feesVaries depending on card issuer and creditworthiness, high APR and potential annual fees
Impact on credit scoreGenerally doesn’t affect credit score unless chronically overdrawn and unpaidRegular late payments or exceeding credit limit can negatively impact score
ApprovalUsually offered to existing checking account holders, may require good banking historyRequires credit card application and credit check
ConvenienceCan be convenient for small, unexpected expensesMore convenient for larger purchases and online shopping
FlexibilityLimited repayment flexibilityMore flexible repayment options, can carry a balance over time
Overall costCan be very expensive due to high overdraft feesCan be expensive if not managed responsibly, but potential rewards and lower interest rates for good credit


What is Overdraft?

An overdraft is a financial arrangement where a bank allows an account holder to withdraw more money than their account balance, creating a temporary negative balance.

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Key Features:

  1. Flexible Borrowing: Account holders can access additional funds, up to an agreed-upon overdraft limit, providing flexibility in managing short-term financial needs.
  2. Interest Charges: Interest is charged on the overdraft amount utilized, and the rates may be higher than other forms of credit.
  3. Pre-approval: Overdrafts are pre-approved based on the account holder’s credit history and banking relationship, making them readily available when needed.
  4. Repayment Terms: Overdrafts are repayable on demand, but some may have specific terms for repayment. Repaying the overdraft restores the account to a positive balance.
  5. Fees: In addition to interest charges, banks may impose fees for maintaining an overdraft facility, whether it is used or not.
  6. Common Usage: Overdrafts are commonly used for covering short-term expenses, unexpected bills, or managing cash flow fluctuations.

What is Credit Card?

A credit card is a financial tool that enables users to make purchases or withdraw cash on credit, up to a predetermined limit. It is issued by banks or financial institutions, offering a convenient and widely accepted means of payment.

Key Features of Credit Cards

  1. Credit Limit: Each card comes with a predefined credit limit, representing the maximum amount a cardholder can borrow.
  2. Interest Rates: Credit cards may have variable interest rates, applied to the outstanding balance if not paid in full by the due date.
  3. Minimum Payments: Cardholders are required to make minimum monthly payments, a percentage of the outstanding balance.
  4. Rewards and Perks: Many credit cards offer rewards programs, cashback, or travel perks based on the amount spent.
  5. Fees: Various fees may apply, including annual fees, late payment fees, and cash advance fees.
  6. Grace Period: Some cards provide a grace period during which no interest is charged if the full balance is paid by the due date.
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Advantages of Credit Cards

  • Convenience: Credit cards offer a convenient and secure way to make transactions globally.
  • Build Credit History: Responsible credit card use can contribute to building a positive credit history, impacting future borrowing opportunities.
  • Emergency Fund: Credit cards can serve as a financial backup for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Considerations and Caution

  • Interest Costs: Failing to pay the full balance on time can result in high-interest charges, leading to debt accumulation.
  • Credit Score Impact: Late payments or high credit utilization can negatively affect the cardholder’s credit score.
  • Financial Discipline: Responsible usage requires disciplined spending and timely payments to avoid financial pitfalls.
Visa Card

Main Differences Between Overdraft and Credit Card

  • Nature of Facility:
    • Overdraft: Provides a temporary negative balance in a bank account, allowing withdrawals exceeding the available balance.
    • Credit Card: Allows borrowing up to a predetermined limit, separate from a bank account, for making purchases or cash withdrawals.
  • Access:
    • Overdraft: Linked directly to a bank account, and the overdraft limit is determined by the account holder’s relationship with the bank.
    • Credit Card: Issued by banks or financial institutions as a standalone credit facility with a predefined credit limit.
  • Interest and Repayment:
    • Overdraft: Typically incurs higher interest rates, and repayments are made based on the negative balance, with flexibility.
    • Credit Card: Involves interest charges on the outstanding balance if not paid in full monthly, and minimum payments are required.
  • Usage:
    • Overdraft: Primarily used for covering short-term liquidity gaps in a bank account.
    • Credit Card: Used for making purchases, online transactions, and cash withdrawals, offering a broader range of financial flexibility.
  • Cost Structure:
    • Overdraft: May have fees and higher interest rates, especially for unauthorized overdrafts.
    • Credit Card: Involves various fees (annual fees, late payment fees) and interest charges, depending on the card terms and usage patterns.
  • Associated Accounts:
    • Overdraft: Directly linked to a specific bank account.
    • Credit Card: Operates independently of a bank account, with a separate billing cycle and statement.
Difference Between Overdraft and Credit Card
  1. https://brill.com/view/journals/flc/6/3/article-p369_2.xml
  2. https://www.law.gmu.edu/assets/files/publications/working_papers/1360.pdf

Last Updated : 11 February, 2024

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