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Why was my credit card declined?

Published April 2, 2024| minute read

    If your credit card was declined for a recent transaction, it's important to find out why. It may be that you simply entered your credit card information incorrectly, or it could be something as serious as identity theft. This article will help explain possible reasons why your card may have been declined and how to help prevent it from being declined in the future:

    • 10 reasons why your card may have been declined 
    • How to prevent your card from being declined

    Why does my credit card keep getting declined?

    Here are 10 reasons why your card may have been declined:

    1. You're traveling

    If you're traveling internationally (or even domestically) and use your card, your credit card issuer may assume that your card was stolen and lock your account. If your card issuer suggests setting travel notifications, alert them that you're traveling ahead of time to prevent this from happening. They'll ask you where you're going and for approximately how long.

    2. You reached your credit limit

    If you reach your card's credit limit, your issuer may prevent you from making any additional purchases. Some credit card issuers will allow you to exceed your credit limit but you may incur a fee for doing so. In addition to preventing you from using your card, exceeding your credit limit may also negatively affect your credit score. You'll need to make payments on the card in order to use it again.

    3. Your card has expired

    Your purchase will be declined if you try to use a card that's past its expiration date. If you haven't received your new card, call your issuer and see when the replacement was issued. It could've been sent to an old address if you recently moved. Once you receive your new card, make sure to activate it and destroy the old card.

    4. Your card was closed

    There are several reasons why your card may have been closed without your knowledge, including:

    • You didn't comply with your card agreement terms 
    • You haven't used your card in a while
    • It was closed by mistake

    Call your credit card issuer to discuss why the card was closed and if it may be reactivated.

    5. Your card isn't accepted

    Not all credit cards are universally accepted. For example, if you're traveling you might find that most merchants in the country you're visiting refuse to accept a type of credit card that's commonly accepted in the United States. If you can, always travel with at least two types of credit cards.

    6. You entered the wrong information

    If you're entering your credit card information and you make a typo, you'll find that your transaction is declined. Online merchants will ask you to type in your credit card account number, expiration date, CVV and address. If you make a single error on any of these fields your transaction may be declined.

    7. Your card has a 'hold' on it

    Rental car companies, hotels and other merchants may put a hold on your card in order to ensure that your credit card doesn't get declined once they submit the final charge. It's possible for a hold to stay on your card even after you've paid your balance. Try to make sure that your credit limit is high enough to handle these types of holds.

    8. Your card was deactivated by the primary cardmember

    If you're an authorized user and the primary cardmember removes you from the account or reports their card as lost/stolen, you'll lose the ability to use your card.

    9. You're late on payments

    Being late on payments can hurt your credit and your credit card may be canceled by the issuer. If you miss a payment, call the credit card company and try to pay it as fast as you can. If you're unable to pay the amount, explain your situation. You may be able to regain use of your card through a payment plan.

    10. Fraudulent activity

    If your card company thinks that recent purchases look unlikely to have been made by you, they'll freeze your card due to the potential of fraudulent activity. Sometimes this can happen on legitimate purchases. If your account is put on hold but you actually made the purchases, call your issuer and explain so you'll have access to your credit again.

    How to help prevent your credit card from being declined

    To prevent your card from being declined, try to:

    • Know your balance and credit limit: This can help prevent your account from being put on a hold due to you coming close to or exceeding your credit limit.
    • If you can, always have a backup: Have another card and cash on hand in case your primary card is declined.
    • Look for fraud alerts: Look for fraud alerts from your issuer. That way, you'll know if your credit card issuer has identified any unusual purchases that may have been made with your credit card.
    • Inform your issuer of any travel plans: Take the time to inform your credit card company of any upcoming travel plans.

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