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Why was my credit card declined?

From fraudulent purchases to no available credit, the reasons could vary.

Updated

Fact checked

Even if you pay your balance on time and you keep your account in good standing, you could still get your card declined. Sometimes, the issue is trivial, like entering the wrong credit card information, but sometimes it could be significant and your card issuer is protecting you from credit card fraud.

Why was my credit card declined?

Your credit card can be declined for a number of reasons, some of which are outside of your control.

Suspected fraudulent purchase

Credit card providers are keen on keeping your account safe. Because of that, they may flag out-of-the-ordinary-purchases as fraudulent. This includes purchases you made outside of your residential area, large purchases or purchases made abroad that you haven’t reported.

This may seem overprotective, but sometimes your card provider could save you from unauthorized purchases made by someone else. If this occurs, your credit card account may be locked until the issue is resolved or a new credit card is issued.

  • What to do. Call your card provider and ask why your credit card purchase was declined. If they suspect fraud for that particular purchase, explain that you are using the card for that amount.

Purchase made abroad

Always inform your credit card provider that you’ll be traveling abroad. You can do this via their mobile app, online banking or calling customer support. Otherwise, you could end up with a blocked card and it could take time, nerves and money to resolve the issue.

  • What to do. If you forgot to inform your card provider, do it as soon as you can and ask your them to unlock your card.

You are making a big purchase

If you often use your card for small purchases — like coffee or sandwiches — and then buy a TV, your card issuer could consider this to be risky or fraudulent. Inform your credit card provider beforehand to avoid unpleasant situations.

  • What to do. In case you didn’t notify your card provider before you make the purchase, do it as soon as your card purchase was declined. Ask them to remove any restrictions on purchasing amounts.

Entered incorrect card information

This could be an issue for online purchases where you have to enter your credit card number, expiry date and the code at the back of your card. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with your card.

  • What to do. Double-check that you’re using the correct credit card number, expiry date and CVC code. If your card is declined even though you entered the right card numbers, call your credit card provider and ask what’s the problem.

No available credit

If you’ve maxed out your credit limit, expect to be blocked from making new purchases. Keep an eye on your credit limit and always pay your balance on time to avoid accruing interest and fees.

  • What to do. Pay off part of your credit card balance to free up your credit limit. As an alternative, request a credit limit increase if you keep maxing out your card.

Credit card account closed without your knowledge

Credit card providers aren’t required to inform you before they close your credit card account. The reason for closing your account can be:

  • Inactivity
  • Breach of the agreement terms
  • You are no longer an authorized user to the card
  • Card provider error
  • What to do. Call your provider and ask why your account was closed, and then request to reactivate your card if possible.

Credit card expired

Typically, you’ll receive your new credit card before your old one expires. But if for some reason your card doesn’t arrive — say you changed address and failed to update it — you won’t be able to use your old card after it expires.

  • What to do. Log in to your online credit card account and make sure your contact information and address are updated. But if your information is updated and you still haven’t received your new card, call your card provider and verify that they have sent the card.

Balance payment past due

If you failed to pay your credit card balance after the due date, your card provider may restrict further purchases. Unfortunately, late payments will stain your credit score, and prevent you from making further purchases.

You accidentally locked your card

Some card providers let you lock and unlock your credit card whenever you want. This is also known as a credit card freeze. Locking your card is meant to prevent anyone from using your card if you lose it.

  • What to do. Check your mobile app or online banking account to see if you accidentally locked it. Unlock it if that’s the case.

Credit card type not accepted

Sometimes, your credit card type is not accepted. This can often happen abroad if you’re trying to use a Discover or an American Express card where they aren’t as popular as Visa or Mastercard. Another issue could be using a mag stripe card where EMV chip cards are only accepted.

  • What to do. Ask the merchant if your credit card type is accepted and use an alternate card if it isn’t.

What to do if your card is declined

First, use another payment method — a debit card, another credit card or cash. If you don’t have any other method with you, ask if you could come back later and pay the bill. Sometimes, a merchant may ask for something as collateral to ensure you return.

Next, call your card provider and ask what the issue is. In some cases, your provider can quickly resolve the issue.

Other times, arm yourself with patience until you can use your card again. If the situation calls for it, consider applying for a new card.

Bottom line

There are various reasons your credit card could be declined, including a closed credit card without notice, no available credit, suspected fraud and more. Try to pay the bill with an alternative method and call your provider to resolve the issue.

Sometimes, applying for a new credit card could solve your problem. Make sure you compare multiple options to choose the right card for your financial needs.

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