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8 reasons your card can be declined, and how to deal with it

If your card is declined, don't worry — it happens to everyone, and it can be easily resolved

Summary

There are many reasons your credit card purchase may be declined, including incorrect information, hitting your credit limit or card expiration. Here’s how to resolve the issue and prevent future card purchases from being declined.

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If you’ve ever had your credit card declined, you know how frustrating and awkward it can be.

You hand your card to the cashier or dip it into the terminal, expecting to be on your way home with your new items in a matter of moments. But then, the transaction fails and the cashier and other restless shoppers wait as you fumble through your wallet for a different card or a wad of cash.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent this kind of situation. In this article, we’ll go over seven of the most common reasons your credit card may be declined, as well as what you can do to fix the problem.

8 common reasons your credit card is declined

Sometimes your purchase will be declined for a reason that you can easily resolve. Other times, the issuer won’t approve your purchase because it doesn’t want you to accumulate debt that you won’t be able to pay off in full at the end of the month.

Here are the most common factors that trigger a declined credit card purchase:

1. Incorrect card information

You may have improperly written down or entered your information when you signed up for your card online or when you’ve tried to make a purchase.

If you’re buying something online, check if you’ve entered the correct credit card number, CVV security code and expiration date. If you’re using a physical card, be sure it hasn’t expired.

You should also double-check with your card issuer if it has your correct billing address on file. If you recently moved, the issuer may decline your purchase because the company is waiting on you to update your address.

2. Hitting your credit limit

If you’ve made a lot of purchases recently, you may have hit your credit limit. This can happen even if you have a high limit, so you’ll still want to keep track of your spending.

3. Expiration

If you try to use a card that’s past its expiration date, your purchase will be declined because the card is no longer valid.

4. Fraud prevention

If you’re using your card while traveling abroad or domestic, your issuer may assume that your card was stolen and lock the account.

Additionally, your card issuer may decline your purchase if it doesn’t recognize your purchase pattern. For example, you may receive a temporary decline if you’ve never made a purchase of that amount before or if you’re attempting to make a purchase in a country where you don’t usually shop.

5. Deactivation by the primary cardmember

If you’re an authorized user and the primary cardmember removes you or reports the card as lost or stolen, your card may be declined.

6. Being behind on payments

When you’re delinquent on payments, your credit card issuer can choose to decline your purchase for any amount, even if you haven’t hit the credit limit.

7. Closed account

If you have a credit card that you rarely use, your account may be closed without your knowledge due to inactivity.

8. Card damage

If your credit card’s magnetic stripe or EMV chip is damaged, your attempted transaction may not process at all. Fortunately, many cards in the U.S. still feature both stripes and chips, and card readers typically offer both options as well. So unless your card has truly gone through the wringer, your chances of not being able to use it for an in-person transaction are relatively low.

What to do if your credit card is declined

If your credit card gets declined, the first thing to do is stay calm. It may be a bit embarrassing, but there’s no need to get stressed out.

Many times, you’ll be able to quickly resolve the issue that’s preventing your card from working. If you’re at a store when your card gets declined, ask the cashier to swipe your card again. If the purchase still isn’t approved, you may be able to use another payment method to complete the transaction.

If your card doesn’t work even after you’ve tried swiping it a few times, you’ll want to get in touch with your card issuer’s customer service as soon as possible.

You can find the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card, or you can find it on the issuer’s website. Once you’ve resolved the issue, you should be able to use your card again without any problems.

How to prevent a declined credit card

There are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of a declined card and to be prepared when it happens, including setting up credit limit notifications, updating your contact information, carrying back-up payment methods, setting up travel alerts and staying on top of your payments.

Know your credit limit

To stay below your credit limit, you need to know what it is. You can always check your most recent credit card statement to see your credit limit, or you can call your issuer and ask for it. If you’re worried about going over, you can also sign up for credit limit notifications from your card issuer.

Always pay on time

You can also set up account alerts for when your payment is due so you won’t forget. Other options include setting up automatic payments or adding a reminder to your calendar or smartphone.

Sign up for security alerts

Other alerts to consider include notifications for when a transaction on your card is greater than a certain amount and when foreign transactions are made.

Notify your bank or credit card issuer of your travel plans

If you plan on traveling and using your credit card for purchases or ATM withdrawals, it’s a good idea to notify your bank or credit card issuer in advance. That way, they can update your account with your travel plans so your card doesn’t get declined because it looks like suspicious activity.

There’s typically an option to set up travel alerts within your card issuer’s app or website. Some issuers even allow you to set up alerts within their mobile apps.

Bottom line

Whether you’re at home or out in the world, it can be frustrating to realize that your credit card won’t work. If your card is declined for any reason, stay calm and get in touch with your issuer as soon as you can.

You can get your card back up and running quickly, and you can go back to stress-free swiping.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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