There are few things in life more embarrassing than having your credit card declined. Even worse than the embarrassment is the lack of information offered by the merchant. There are actually many reasons a credit card can be declined that have nothing to do with your finances. We have outlined a few here.
Even though your thoughts may drift to your account, the merchant is often responsible for the declined card. In some cases, the retailer’s card terminal may not be communicating with the payment network. If you are on the phone, the representative may have inputted your number incorrectly. Sometimes, a cashier may tell you that your American Express card was declined, but the store may not even accept AmEx.
At times, your card issuer may mistakenly block a transaction they believe is fraudulent, which creates a false positive fraud alert. One action that could trigger a fraud alert is if you make two purchases from the same store within a short period of time. Your card issuer might assume you are being double-charged, and they will decline the transaction. You will want to keep that in mind before making a second purchase at stores.
Another situation that can lead a card issuer to suspect a transaction is fraudulent is if you are traveling overseas. If you are sightseeing in St. Petersburg and charge lunch, your card company may believe a Russian hacker has snatched your card number. It is easy to prevent this issue, though. You simply need to call your card company in advance and tell them where you will be traveling and on what dates.
Occasionally, a credit card is declined due to a problem with the account. If your card has expired or if you have previously reported your card lost or stolen, it will be declined. Most card companies will also decline a transaction if it will push you over your credit limit. Some cards allow you to access a credit line when you exceed your normal limit. However, be aware you may need to pay a higher interest rate for these types of charges.
Another problem arises when your account is not in good standing. Missing a single payment is unlikely to trigger a denial, but if you are several payments behind, your account could be suspended, which will prevent you from making new purchases.
Steps to Take When Your Card is Declined
If you have tried to complete a transaction once or twice, check to see if there is an obvious issue. Are you trying to use a card you reported lost or stolen? Was the account closed? Has the card simply expired? Does the merchant even accept that card? Once you clear up these simple questions, you can ask the cashier if they have been having problems processing transactions that day.
To speed things along, you may want to use a different form of payment and avoid troubleshooting the issue at the register. You can contact your card issuer later to ask what happened. If the store was able to attempt processing the charge, they will have a record of why it was declined. If there is no record, the problem was likely with the retailer, and you can use your card at another establishment.
Usually, you will not even need to contact your card company. They will generally call, email or text you when there was an issue with your transaction. In these cases, you may just have to confirm you made the charge so they know it is not fraudulent. These types of problems are easy to resolve and can often be taken care of in the store.
If you are having issues with your account, you will want to resolve them immediately. You may need to request a larger credit line or transfer part of your credit line from another account you have with the same company. You could also transfer part of your balance to a different card, but there may be a fee for doing so.
If you resolve these issues quickly, you can go back to enjoying the convenience and security your card offers.