Top 9 reasons why your debit card was declined

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

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There are quite a few reasons why your debit card may have been declined. Here’s how to fix the problem and avoid it 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:

Memorise your PIN and try not to confuse the cards if you have more than one account with a particular bank. Never write the PIN on the card or keep it in your wallet, as this will make it even 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 withdrawal limit

To help protect your funds, most financial institutions will have daily withdrawal limits on your accounts. This will often be a combination of cash withdrawals and purchases, and could prohibit you from getting the cash you need.

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 it can go ahead and raise the limit. Then you can try your purchase again.

3. It’s expired

Like credit cards, most debit cards also have expiration dates, and if yours has expired, it won’t be accepted at cashpoints 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 – although most banks will usually send your new card in good time before the old one expires. And make sure you destroy the old card.

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 something incorrectly, or haven’t updated any new personal details, you won’t be able to make your purchase.

How to avoid it:

Before buying something online check that the personal information you entered matches that of the debit card you’re using. If the information doesn’t match because it’s outdated, you can update it by logging into your bank account or calling the bank’s customer service team.

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 till with a quick call to the bank, but it still could cause you some embarrassment. Some banks’ security features can be a little too risk-averse and block authentic transactions.

How to avoid it:

If you’re planning on making a large purchase, let your bank know beforehand to get pre-authorisation. If your transaction has already been declined, contact your bank now to see if it can approve it. Then you can try again.

6. You’ve made an international purchase

Many accounts now offer Visa or Mastercard debit cards that you can use when travelling overseas. This is a convenient and secure way to make your overseas purchases and cash withdrawals. But 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.

How to avoid it:

Familiarise yourself with the cashpoint networks that accept your debit card overseas. Let the bank know you’re going away before you leave so it 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.

7. Technical issues

While there are many situations where you could be at fault for a declined card, that’s not always the case. Sometimes retailers and banks have issues processing debit transactions, even when you’ve done everything right. It could be due to its Internet connection, too many transactions being 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 the retailer’s fault, you can try again. Ask to try another till, or consider waiting until the system is up and running again.

8. Your joint account holder deactivated your card

If you’ve opened a joint bank account with your spouse, partner or other family member they’re allowed to deactivate your debit card without permission from you by cancelling the madate and freezing the account. If this happens, you won’t be able to make purchases or withdraw any 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 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 an overdraft, 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 bank offers a mobile app that shows up-to-the-minute balances and transactions, so you can check you have enough money before buying something. Also consider a current account that offers an arranged overdraft.

Compare current accounts

Data indicated here is updated daily
Name Product Ratings Interest (AER) Arranged overdraft Key benefits Link Representative example
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
39.9% EAR variable
£125 when you switch
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Plus earn 2.75% AER / gross interest with the linked HSBC Regular Saver
To be eligible for HSBC Advance, customers will need to pay in a minimum of £1,750 per month or £10,500 over 6 months and must qualify for a minimum £1,000 arranged overdraft. To be eligible for the £125 switching offer, customers must switch from a non-HSBC Group current account product. Other T&Cs apply. Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200, you’ll be charged interest at 38.9% (0% EAR variable on first £25, 39.9% thereafter).
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
15% EAR variable
Award-winning current account, apply in minutes
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
No fees for spending or withdrawing cash overseas - currencies are converted at Mastercard’s standard exchange rate
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 15% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
You say
★★★★★
0%
39.94% EAR variable
Interest and fee free overdraft
for first four months when you switch
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Up to 15% cashback at a range of major retailers
Representative example: If you use an arranged overdraft of £1,200 you'll be charged interest at 39.94% EAR variable.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance plus a credit building feature
Go to site
Account fee of £5.95 per month.
We say
★★★★★
0%
N/A
Guaranteed acceptance
Go to site
Current account switch service guarantee badge
Earn cashback on your purchases when you shop through the ThinkMoney rewards portal
Account fee of £10 per month or £15 per month.
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Contacting your bank? Have the following details with you

If you have questions about why your debit card was declined, the best thing to do is call your bank directly. In most situations, someone from customer service can help you reset your PIN, unfreeze your account, verify a purchase, increase your withdrawal limits and more. You’ll need to verify your identity, so make sure you have these details to hand before you call:

  • Your full name
  • The physical address tied to your account
  • Answers to any security questions you set up

Bottom line

It can be frustrating and embarrassing to have your debit card declined. While sometimes it’s out of your control, often you can avoid it just by taking some simple precautions. And, as always, compare your debit card options until you find one that suits your spending habits.

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