Fifth Third’s ‘Duo’: The First U.S. Combined Debit & Credit Card

Fifth Third Bank has just introduced its Duo Card, a combined credit and debit card, making them the first card issuer in the U.S. to offer this dual functionality in one piece of plastic.

With the Duo Card, customers can choose to make purchases using either a line of credit or funds debited from their checking account. To use the Duo as a debit card, cardholders would simply select the debit option at the point of sale and enter their PIN, at which point they can also get cash back from the merchant. Or they can use the card to withdraw money from their checking account at an ATM.

To make a purchase on the Duo using the credit card account, customers would select the credit option and sign to complete the transaction. They would no longer be able to sign for debit card purchases. All online purchases would also count as credit card transactions, which (as the Detroit News points out) may be a big drawback for some customers.

Reality Check: When grocery store clerks ask shoppers, “Debit or credit?”, most consumers are confused. Some mistakenly think their debit card can actually function like a credit card — with a line of credit. So many dismiss the choice, thinking that “if it all comes directly out of my checking account, what difference does it make whether I choose debit or credit?”

If a Duo customer accidentally makes a debit purchase for more than the amount in their checking account, the Duo Card’s credit line automatically kicks in, providing built-in overdraft protection. A customer’s purchase would never be declined unless they had exceeded their available line of credit.

Duo cardholders will receive two separate statements. Debit purchases will appear on monthly checking account statements, while credit card purchases will be itemized on another.

Fifth Third’s Duo Card incorporates the bank’s Real Life Rewards program that gives customers points for credit purchases. Customers earn two reward points for every $1 they spend on gas, grocery, and discount store purchases, and one point for every $1 spent on all other credit purchases. Points can be combined from multiple Fifth Third rewards accounts, and there is no limit on how many points you can earn. Customers can redeem points and view their balance at

The card comes without any annual fees. Depending on the checking account a customer chooses to tie to their Duo Card, Fifth Third charges between $7.50 and $15 for monthly fees, but these can be waived if certain minimum balance requirements are met. Credit card balances carry an interest rate ranging from 13-24% once the 0% offer for the first 12 months expires.

Every signature or credit purchase is covered by MasterCard’s Zero Liability Protection.

“The Duo Card gives these consumers the freedom to choose how to pay and access their cash without having to carry multiple cards.” said Jon Groch, SVP/Director of Bankcard Services for Fifth Third Bank.s “We believe the combination of added convenience, flexibility and security is a key differentiator for this product.”

“Consumers today want payment cards that provide them the ability to make purchases when, where and how they want,” said Tim Murphy, Chief Product Officer, MasterCard Worldwide.

Back in 2008, Virgin Money in South Africa rolled out a similar dual-featured credit card (previous coverage on the outrageous launch campaign here). The Blingola card worked like a credit card with an savings account attached. The card paid a whopping 9.5% interest rate on all positive balances, with a 20.5% on negative/credit balances.

The bank has had the capability to create this card for quite some time,” said Stephanie Honan, PR Manager at Fifth Third. “This card was largely created based on customer response and a desire for such capabilities.”

The Duo Card will likely appeal to consumers who don’t regularly need a credit card, those who don’t like carrying an “extra piece of plastic” in their wallets, and those who struggle with debt/credit but still need some flexibility for emergencies.

Dual Campus ID + Credit Card

The Duo Card isn’t the only thing going on around Fifth Third’s bankcard division. They also recently introduced the cedarville1card, a combined campus ID and debit card for students, faculty and staff. The campus card allows cardholders to use their ID for ATM- and PIN-based debit card transactions both on- and off campus.

The cards became available with the start of the fall 2011 semester. To use the cedarville1card as a debit card, cardholders need to link to a Fifth Third Bank checking account. Students and faculty are not required to open an account if they only want an ID.

Too bad it doesn’t work as a room key for students living in dorms too.

Fifth Third, headquartered in Cincinnati, has $111 billion in assets, 6 million customers and 1,314 branches.

Cedarville University is located in Cedarville, Ohio with an enrollment of more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students. Fifth Third Bank currently operates two ATMs on the 400-acre campus.

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