CHICAGO (CBS) – What’s in your wallet? Probably both a credit card and a debit card. As CBS 2’s Susan Carlson reports, more Americans are choosing one form of plastic over the other. But is that always the best choice for you?

Credit or debit? It’s a decision you’ll make dozens of times this holiday season. A rapidly growing number of Americans now choose debit.

Marian Virgara owns a credit card, but says she never uses it because she wants to keep better track of her spending.

“It’s all I use. I don’t bring cash. I just bring my debit card,” Virgara said.

“In 2008, 87 percent of people had recently used a credit card. In 2009, that dropped to 56 percent,” said James Van Dyke, president of Javelin Strategy & Research. “And, if trends continue through this year’s holiday shopping season, that number could drop to under 50 percent by the end of 2010.”

Credit card debt in the U.S. fell 4.1 percent to an average of just under $4,600 in the third quarter this year.

It’s the first time that figure has dropped below $5,000 since 2002.

Debit cards can help you manage your budget better by making it virtually impossible to accumulate debt. However, you could be slapped with overdraft fees if you don’t have enough money in your bank account to cover your purchases.

Another factor in the switch to debit:

“People who like technology and like real time information, are getting more and more comfortable with payments that come out of your bank account right away,” said Van Dyke.

“Running my entire financial life through mobile life is inevitable,” said Alicia Archer, debit card user.

For big ticket items, or in cases of card loss or fraud, your credit card gives you the most protection.

However, debit cards with Visa and Mastercard logos will protect you against fraud, too, if you choose credit at checkout.

But, you have a shorter time to report a disputed charge and it may take longer to resolve the issue.

And, just like credit cards, more debit cards these days are offering rewards in points or cash.

One more advantage with credit cards: they help improve your credit score if you use them wisely and pay your bills on time.

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