How Interac and Debit Cards Work in Canada

How Interac and debit cards work in Canada

Interac is a Canadian-based interbank network allowing customers to access their funds through ATMs, point-of-sale terminals (POS), and sometimes online shopping. It is a non-profit organization owned by the banks and credit unions in Canada, which ensures the security and reliability of all transactions processed through Interac.

Interac was first introduced in 1984, and since then, it has grown into one of the most trusted and widely used payment systems in Canada. Today, millions of Canadians use Interac to make purchases, transfer money, and pay bills, both online and offline. Roughly 25% of transactions in Canada are debit compared to 60% are credit card.

How Interac works in Canada

Interac allows users to access their funds through a variety of channels, including ATMs, debit cards, and sometimes online banking. When a user makes a purchase with their debit card, the transaction is processed through the Interac network, which verifies the funds and transfers them from the user’s account to the merchant’s account.

In addition to debit card transactions, Interac also offers e-transfer services, which allow users to send money to other individuals through their email or mobile phone number. This service is particularly popular among millennials, who prefer the convenience of digital transactions.

An Interac transaction typically works as follows:

  1. Initiation: A cardholder initiates the transaction by presenting their Interac debit card to the merchant, either by swiping, inserting or tapping your card on a payment terminal.

  2. Authorization: The payment terminal sends a request for authorization to the Interac network, which checks the cardholder’s bank account to see if they have enough funds available to complete the transaction. If there are sufficient funds, the authorization is granted, and the transaction proceeds.

  3. Processing: Once the authorization is granted, the payment terminal sends a request to the bank to transfer the funds to the merchant’s bank account. This transfer happens immediately and is typically completed within seconds. The merchant then typically receives the funds within a day.

  4. Confirmation: After the funds have been transferred, the payment terminal confirms that the transaction has been completed and provides a receipt.

Interac also provides a range of security features to protect users from fraud and unauthorized access. For example, all transactions processed through Interac are encrypted, and users are required to enter their personal identification number (PIN) to access their funds. Additionally, Interac employs sophisticated fraud detection and prevention tools, which help to identify and prevent fraudulent activity.

Interac compared to Visa Debit

Interac and Visa Debit are both payment methods that allow cardholders to make purchases, but there are some differences between them. In both Interac and Visa Debit, the funds are immediately withdrawn from the cardholders’ bank account.

Visa Debit, however, is a payment method that combines the functionality of a traditional debit card with the worldwide acceptance of the Visa payment network. Visa Debit cards can be used to make purchases online and in-person, as well as to withdraw cash from ATMs. 

One key difference between Interac and Visa Debit is that Interac in-store transactions can only be processed within Canada, whereas Visa Debit can be used internationally. Cardholder’s with Interac can withdraw cash from ATMs internationally. 

For a merchant, Interac fees are generally low being roughly $0.05 to $0.10 per transaction. Visa Debit, on the other hand, has similar transaction fees plus an interchange fee. Therefore, Interac is way cheaper for merchants than Visa Debit. 

The benefits of Interac

One of the biggest advantages of Interac is its convenience. With Interac, users can access their funds anytime, anywhere, without the need to carry cash or visit a bank branch. This makes it an ideal payment option for busy Canadians who are always on the go.

Interac is also highly secure, which gives users peace of mind when making transactions. With its advanced encryption and fraud detection tools, Interac ensures that all transactions are processed safely and securely.

Another advantage of Interac is its low fees. Compared to other payment systems, such as credit cards, Interac transactions typically cost less, making it an attractive option for businesses and consumers alike.

Start accepting Interac and debit cards

Interac is a highly trusted and reliable payment system that offers a range of benefits to Canadians. From its convenience and security to its low fees and ease of use, Interac is a payment option that has become essential for many Canadians. In order to start accepting Interac, you’ll need a merchant account. Get started with Clearly Payments today.


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