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Can the card be both or can all machines tell the difference?

All machines could tell the difference. Whether or not they do is the manufacturers choice.

It seems that the machine is programmed as if it prefers debit.
Debit transactions are cheaper for the retailer. I don't know if it is still true. Walmart has a history of not allowing debit card transactions to be processed as credit transactions because debit transactions are cheaper.

Both the question and the charge being processed as a debit charge surprised me. It obviously knows me since it frequently asks for my zip code, it seem like it ought to know that it is a credit card that I applied for.

It is an attempt to avoid fraud. You should know what zip code is associated with a debit/credit card. A thief may not know.
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