Check cards, usually referred to as debit cards, work by swiping them at a register or using the number on the card for a transaction before a deduction takes place in the cardholder's bank account, according to Bankrate. Debit cards are considered more secure and convenient than cash.
Once a debit card is authorized after being swiped, the transaction clears, notes Bankrate. Clearing involves authorized transactions being sent to card-processing networks as well as debit card issuers. The debit card issuer also notes the authorized transaction on the cardholder's account.
There are situations in which a card issuer places a temporary hold on the cardholder's account while a transaction authorizes, according to Bankrate. Such situations include pumping gas, where the transaction total appears after the card has been swiped instead of before, and dining in a restaurant, where the total may need to be adjusted to account for a tip left after the card has been swiped.
Disadvantages exist with using debit cards, notes Quick and Dirty Tips. Some charges are challenging to dispute, especially purchases for defective products and those that are never delivered. There are also fees involved with most debit cards, such as service charges, overdraft fees and minimum balance fees. Debit cards also may not be as secure as credit cards.