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A Switch card leads a Jeckyll and Hyde existance. It can be used as a cheque guarantee card, it can be used INSTEAD of a cheque, and it also acts as your ATM card - so DON't lose it!
Retailers like them because, unlike a credit card payment, their account gets the money almost straight away, improving their cash flow at the expense of yours. Unlike a cheque, they can't get robbed of them, nor is there anything to take to the nightsafe.
Some retailers will also offer a Cashback service, converting hard cash in the till to a larger Switch payment for you, saving you from a separate visit to an ATM. This is also good for their security, since the less they have, the less can get stolen!
They can be used abroad in ATMs, but be careful not to mess it up, and please don't give the machine any excuse to keep the card like forgetting your PIN number- this could be a disaster if you are just "passing through" on a Sunday, for example.