11 Legit (But Annoying) Reasons Your Credit Card Could Be Declined

NEWS & TRENDING - CREDIT CARD NEWS
Declines are never welcome, but they may not be disastrous.
Updated May 8, 2024
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You’ve seen the dreaded and sometimes embarrassing words on the point-of-sale screen: Card declined.

Take a deep breath. There are many reasons why your credit card may not be accepted. Some may be due to your own neglect, but others pop up even when you haven’t done anything wrong. You may be using one of the best rewards cards and have never had a problem.

Here are some of the most common reasons your credit card might be declined.

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You’ve maxed out your credit limit

Krakenimages.com/Adobe holding credit card

Each credit card comes with a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can charge before you pay off some of your balance. Once you exceed your credit limit, the issuer may decline your purchases unless you’ve enrolled in an over-limit plan or are a customer with a strong payment history. Nevertheless, you may incur a fee each time you make a purchase that exceeds your credit limit and your interest rate may increase.

Pro tip: If you’ve maxed out a credit card and are looking for ways to crush your debt, start by not using that card until you’ve paid down the balance.

You’re traveling away from home

Supavadee/Adobe waiting to connect at the airport

Some credit card companies block or put a hold on foreign purchases or purchases made far from your home to prevent fraud. When you’re planning to travel, call your credit card company to let them know so they won’t decline these transactions. The apps for most credit cards allow you to notify the company when you’re traveling.

Your purchase was marked as potential fraud

Rawpixel.com/Adobe Computer fraud alert warning

Large purchases or ones outside of your normal spending pattern may be flagged as fraud, even if there is nothing wrong with your account. When this happens, your credit card company may put a hold on your card and decline purchases until you call to resolve the issue.

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You incorrectly entered card information

kkolosov/Adobe woman makes a purchase on the Internet with credit card

If you’re making a credit card purchase online, the merchant uses each data point (your name, address, ZIP code, etc.) to verify that it’s you using the card. If you mistype or omit one element of the information, your card may be declined.

You locked your card

weerapat1003/Adobe credit card data encryption

Most card issuers let you freeze or lock your own card. You might do this if you lose it or misplace it, for example. If you haven’t used the card in a while, you might have put a lock on your card and forgotten to lift it. Your purchases will likely decline until you do so.

You missed payments

fizkes/Adobe couple concerned of financial problem

If you are late paying your credit card bill, you’ll not only be responsible for late fees and interest (unless you have a no-interest credit card) but your card may not be accepted anymore. The credit card company may freeze your account until you catch up on your bills.

Your card has expired

M-Production/Adobe cutting credit card with scissors

Even if you still have an active account with your credit card company, the card itself expires after a few years. Your card issuer usually sends you a new card when the old one is set to expire. Check the expiration date if you can’t figure out why your card was declined.

Your card was deactivated

chartphoto/Adobe frustrated man cutting cards with scissors

If you’ve ordered a new card, the old one gets deactivated immediately and won’t be accepted anymore even if the account is still open. This is to protect someone from finding your old card and using it to purchase things in your name, but it can get confusing if your old and new cards look alike.

Your card has a hold

Nattakorn/Adobe using credit card for payment

Often a rental car or hotel company will place a hold on your card until you’ve checked out or paid the final bill. If this hold is large enough and you are close to your credit limit, it could result in the card being declined.

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You’ve reached your cash-advance limit

Otvalo/Adobe easy credit

Your card has an overall credit limit, but not all of that can be used for cash advances. Card issuers typically limit your cash advances to 20% to 50% of your credit limit. If you have made too many cash withdrawals, your card may be declined, even if you haven’t maxed it out.

There is an issue with the merchant’s point-of-sale system

JacobLund/Adobe pharmacist accepting credit card by contactless payment

This may not be as common as the other reasons for a decline, but glitches within digital point-of-sale systems do happen. If you can’t figure out any other reason for your card being declined, it may be a problem with the merchant’s system. Try using your card at another vendor to see if you have the same result.

Bottom line

Antonioguillem/Adobe worried shopper paying with credit card

When your credit card gets declined, you may have to do some digging to track down the reason. Start by checking your most recent bill or the issuer’s website to see if you’re current on payments. If that doesn’t reveal the issue, you may have to call your credit card company to figure out if there is a hold on your card or another problem.

If debt is the reason why your card is declined, you should find ways to get out of debt, especially high-interest credit card debt. Motivate yourself by adding the average interest rate — 24% — to every purchase that you can’t pay off by the statement due date. That should spark your debt-payoff plan.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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