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Top 12 reasons your debit card was declined

Avoid embarrassment when you check out by fixing debit card issues now.

There are 10 reasons why your debit card may have been declined. Here are a few ways to fix the problem and avoid it from happening in the future.

1. You’ve entered the wrong PIN

The personal identification number (PIN) you chose must be entered correctly in order for some transactions to be allowed. If you enter that number incorrectly, the transaction will automatically be declined.

How to avoid it:

Memorize your PIN and try not to confuse the cards if you have more than one account with a linked debit card. It’s never suggested that you write the PIN on the card or keep it in your wallet. This will make it easier for a thief to access your account if your wallet or purse is stolen. If you’ve forgotten your PIN — or are locked out of your account because you’ve entered the wrong number too many times — call your bank to have it reset.

2. You’ve reached your transaction limit

To help protect your funds, most financial institutions won’t let you withdraw more than $500 a day from ATMs or spend more than $5,000 a day with your card. Although these limits may vary by bank.

How to avoid it:

Be familiar with the daily withdrawal limits on your accounts. If you know you’ll need to exceed them, inform the bank ahead of time. In most cases they will extend the daily limit. If your purchase has already been declined, try contacting your bank now to see if they can go ahead and raise the limit. Then, you can try your purchase again.

3. It’s expired

Some debit cards also have expiration dates like credit cards. If yours has expired, it won’t be accepted at ATMs or for purchases.

How to avoid it:

Check the date and know when the debit card is due to expire. Ask for your replacement card well in advance to avoid losing access to your account. Make sure you destroy the old card, as it does contain personal information you don’t want others to get a hold of. If your card has already expired, contact your institution to see if you can get a replacement card expedited.

4. The information you’ve entered doesn’t match your personal details

This is common with online purchases. The merchant takes extra precautions to verify your identity by asking for personal information such as the name on the card and your address. If you have entered anything incorrectly, you won’t be able to make your purchase.

How to avoid it:

Before making a purchase online check that the personal information you entered matches that of the debit card you’re using. If information doesn’t match because it’s outdated, you can update it by logging into your bank account or calling your institution for assistance.

5. Your bank was suspicious of the transaction

Most banks reserve the right to decline any transaction they deem to be out of character with your normal spending or withdrawal habits. In most cases, this can be cleared up at the register with a quick call to the bank, but it still could cause you some embarrassment. Some banks have security features in place and can be a little too safe and block authentic transactions.

How to avoid it:

If you have plans on making a large purchase, notify your bank beforehand to get preauthorization. If your transaction has already been declined, contact your bank now to see if they can approve it. Then, you can try again.

6. You’ve made an international purchase

Many accounts now offer Visa or Mastercard debit cards, which allow you to use them when traveling overseas. This is a convenient and secure way to make your overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work the way you intended, and you could find yourself without access to your money if your debit card is declined.

Compare the best debit cards to use overseas

How to avoid it:

Familiarize yourself with the ATM networks that accept your debit card overseas. Inform the bank before making your trip so they won’t flag your purchases as unusual activity. This should help to make sure your money is available. If you’re currently overseas and have been locked out of using your debit card, call your bank. Let them know where you are and ask them to lift the freeze.

7. Technical issues

While there are many situations where you could be at fault for a declined card, that’s not always the case. Merchants and banks sometimes have issues processing debit transactions, even when you’ve done everything right. It could be due to their Internet connection, too many transactions processed at once, a power failure somewhere along the network or a handful of other reasons.

How to avoid it:

While you can’t avoid having your card declined when it’s the bank’s or merchant’s fault, you can try again. Ask to try another terminal or consider waiting until the system is up and running again.

8. Your joint holder deactivated your card

If you’ve opened a joint banking account with your spouse, partner or other family member they’re allowed to deactivate your debit card without permission from you. If this happens, you won’t be able to make purchases or withdrawing cash.

How to avoid it:

With a joint account you can require that both account holders sign for any major changes, including adding or deactivating any debit cards. Call your bank to see if you can add this security measure to your account.

9. You’re in a geoblocked area

Some financial institutions add geoblocking features to their debit cards, which prohibit you from using your card in certain countries or regions where fraudulent activities may be high.

How to avoid it:

Before visiting a new country, contact your bank to make sure you’ll be able to use your card there. If you’re visiting a geoblocked region, your bank may be able to temporarily lift the block while you’re there.

10. You don’t have enough funds

This is the most common cause of a debit card being declined, and one that you can easily avoid by keeping careful track of your spending money. Unless you have overdraft protection, most banks will not allow you to make a purchase or withdrawal that goes beyond your available balance.

How to avoid it:

See if your financial institution offers a mobile app that shows your up-to-date balances and transactions. Check this before making your purchases to ensure you have enough funds. If you frequently experience overdrafts in your account, consider looking into a checking account, such as Chime, that offers overdraft protection.

11. You’re attempting to withdraw too much

Along the same lines as having insufficient funds in your account is attempting an ATM withdrawal that exceeds your account balance. Trying to do this will automatically result in a declined transaction.

How to avoid it:

Get into the habit of checking your account balance before making a withdrawal. Most ATMs will let you view your balance prior to withdrawing cash, but there may be fees. To avoid such fees, check your balance using your bank’s website or app. Many banks also provide automated balance information via 24/7 phone numbers.

12. You’re purchasing a gift card

Some debit or credit card issuers prohibit the purchase of gift cards due to fraud and the increase of using stolen cards to purchase prepaid gift cards. Also, some retailers like Giant Food grocery stores, have policies put in place disallowing the purchase of gift cards with a credit or debit card to try to minimize potential fraud. Though it’s more common for a credit card to get rejected.

How to avoid it:

First check with your bank to make sure that there are no issues with your card. If you’re using a credit card, try using a debit card or cash instead.

Contacting your bank? Have this required information ready

If you have questions about why your debit card was declined, the best thing to do is call your institution directly. In most situations, a customer service representative can help you reset your PIN, unfreeze your account, verify a purchase, increase your withdrawal limits and more. But make sure you have this information on hand before you call because you’ll need to verify your identity:

  • Full name
  • Physical address tied to your account
  • Answers to any security questions you set up
  • Social Security number

Have a back-up plan

Having your debit card declined can be frustrating and embarrassing. While some declines are out of your control, most can be avoided by taking some simple precautions. It also pays to carry an alternative payment method with you on your travels – a credit card is an ideal back up thanks to their perks and flexibility. And as always, compare your debit card options until you find one that suits your spending habits.

Average credit card debt

The average American is carrying just shy of $4K in debt.

Frequently asked questions

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Peter Carleton is a freelance writer that covers banking and investing, breaking down what you need to know about where you put your money. When Peter's not thinking about cutting-edge banking apps and robo-advisors, he runs a creative agency and spends his spare time cooking or reading. See full bio

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51 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    ChadFebruary 19, 2020

    My transaction was declined even though my balance was enough to make it. It’s showing a balance but also showing a pending transaction. Why was it declined?

      Default Gravatar
      nikkiangcoFebruary 19, 2020

      Hi Chad,

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you are doing well.

      Sorry to hear your debit card was declined. As you mentioned that your card has remaining balance but has a pending transaction means that there may be a floating amount on your account and this may have taken up the remaining balance of your card. It would be best to contact your bank to check on this before proceeding with your other transaction.

      Hope this helps and feel free to reach out to us again for further assistance.


    Default Gravatar
    AmandaMay 15, 2019

    I have been trying to make an online purchase with a particular company, but I keep getting this message : Your card was declined. Your request was in test mode, but used a non test card. What does this mean? I know I have funds.

      JhezMay 16, 2019Finder

      Hello Amanda,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Sorry to hear that. You will usually get that error you stated above when an account is in Test Mode, transactions may be submitted that will not be authorized or charged to the account numbers provided in the transactions. This will usually occur in a certain merchant.

      To take your account out of Test Mode, please follow these steps:

      – Log into the Merchant Interface.
      – Click Account from the main toolbar.
      – Click Settings in the main menu on the left.
      – Click Test Mode under the Security Settings section.
      – Drag the toggle to Live. The interface will confirm that the Test Mode settings have been successfully applied and the account is now in Live Mode.

      You may also turn Test Mode on by following the above steps, and moving the toggle to Test.

      Please also note that you will incur applicable transaction fee charges when Test Mode is turned off, even if you use test credit card numbers. Test credit card transactions should only be processed in Test Mode. When Test Mode is turned off, the merchant will attempt to process all transactions they receive.

      For more information, you may contact your bank.


    Default Gravatar
    EdApril 28, 2019

    I put the wrong PIN in my ATM and it is locked out. How can I unlocked. My bank is closed

      johnbasanesApril 29, 2019Finder

      Hi Ed,

      Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

      For this security concern, you would need to wait for the bank to open so they could unlock your ATM card. This is the only way as the system is secure and only the bank has access to it. Hope this helps!


    Default Gravatar
    JoeJanuary 21, 2019

    I put the wrong PIN on my card so I kinda blocked myself. Is there any way I can fix this issue without calling the bank? It’s a holiday so they won’t answer.

      JhezelynJanuary 22, 2019Finder

      Hi Joe,

      Thank you for your comment.

      If your card is blocked, you won’t be able to make purchases or withdrawing cash. The only way to fix it is to contact your bank right away so they can arrange to send you a new card. If it’s a holiday, you really need to wait for the banking days to resume or you can check if there’s an emergency number to call the bank when something like this happens.


    Default Gravatar
    QuontelOctober 6, 2018

    Can a debit be useed as a credit card

      Default Gravatar
      joelmarceloOctober 6, 2018

      Hi Quontel,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      If you try to use your debit card when there is not enough money in your account to cover the transaction and your account does not allow overdrawing, the transaction will be declined. No fee is charged. If your account allows overdrawing, you can be charged a fee, like with a check.

      Please send me a message if you need anything else. :)


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