6 Reasons Your Credit Card May Be Declined and What to Do

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  • From exceeding your credit limit to fraud prevention, there are many reasons why a credit card can be declined.
  • If you shop online, you may have entered a typo in your card’s address or expiration date.
  • Avoid unexpected charges by monitoring your bill, paying on time and signing up for fraud alerts.

Discovering your credit card won’t work as you try to put gas in a car or pay for a hotel stay can be a big hassle. It can happen for a number of reasons. You may have reached your credit limit. The issuing bank may be concerned about fraud. Or the problem could be that you’ve entered a zip code or other card-related information incorrectly.

But, don’t worry. “Having your credit card declined is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of,” says Kristy Kim, CEO and founder of lender TomoCredit. “It happens to the best of us.”

Here are some of the most common reasons a credit card can be declined, how to fix the problem, and steps you can take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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6 of the most common reasons your credit card is declined

1. You’ve reached your credit limit

If you are at or near your credit limit, your card may be declined. You should be able to free up available credit by paying off your balance, but be aware that payments may take time to process. To complete the purchase, you may need to pay in cash or use a different payment method.

2. Your purchase triggered fraud protection

Suspicious charges are another reason banks and credit unions will lock an account. This can happen with large purchases, charges from foreign countries, or any unusual account activity. If you’re planning an unusually large purchase, such as a car or jewelry, let your card issuer know before you shop.

If your purchase has enabled fraud protection, call the customer service number on the back of your card to validate charges. If you receive fraud alerts on a mobile device, clearing the hold can be as simple as responding to an email or text message from your card issuer.

3. You travel internationally

Your card may also be declined if you are traveling out of state or internationally and have not notified your card issuer in advance of the trip. Charges from foreign countries can trigger fraud protection, which will prevent the card from being used until you validate the purchases. This helps prevent fraudulent use of a lost or stolen card and protects against identity theft.

Call your bank or credit union and let them know where you are traveling and the duration of the trip.

4. You are late with payments

Your lender may suspend your ability to charge your card if you have fallen behind on payments. Bring your current account to regain access to your available credit. Going forward, make sure you make at least the minimum payment on time.

5. You entered incorrect information

If you’re trying to get a cash advance at an ATM or buy something online and your card is declined, it could be a typo. Double check that you have entered the PIN correctly. If it’s an online transaction that won’t go through, double-check your card number, billing name and address, expiration date, and card security code.

If your credit card information is stored in an application or computer browser, make sure the information is up-to-date, including the expiration date. If you’ve recently moved, please also check your billing address.

Also, if your transaction requires a PIN, be aware that too many invalid PIN attempts can cause your card to be blocked, a security measure to prevent theft and fraud. If this happens, call your card issuer to have the card unblocked.

6. Your credit card has expired

Your card will also be declined if the expiry date has passed. Check the mail for a replacement card and be sure to activate it. If the replacement hasn’t arrived yet, call your bank or credit union to find out when the replacement card was issued and make sure it was sent to the correct address.

How to prevent your card from being declined

To prevent your credit card from being declined, know your card’s expiration date and notify your credit card company of international travel plans. Above all, keep a close eye on your account by signing up for fraud alerts and other account alerts.

“Sign up with your credit card issuer for automated reminders about when your payment is due and alerts for when your balance-to-credit limit ratio is high so you know you’re at or near your card limit,” says Melinda Opperman, chief external affairs officer at the nonprofit Credit.org. “This helps avoid rejection at the point of sale.”

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