7 Reasons Your Credit Card Will Get Declined — and How to Avoid It

Many of us have been there — having a credit card declined. In fact, it happened to me at a hardware store.

I went to buy plants and decided to make copies of my keys, too. I paid for the keys at the service desk and then dragged a flatbed cart full of plants to the checkout at the garden center — where I was told, “Ma’am, your card got declined.”

Embarrassing? Absolutely.

My bank declined the second charge because it suspected fraud, as I’d already used the card at that same location. But that’s just one reason your credit card might be declined.

Here are some lesser-known reasons for which your credit card can be declined:

1. Unusual activity

Credit card on beach with hat and starfish
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Say you usually use your credit card once a week. Then, you suddenly use it multiple times in a day, make a notably larger-than-normal purchase or check out at the same store more than once in a brief period. Your credit card company might decline a purchase because it suspects your card has been stolen and is being used fraudulently.

To avoid this, call your credit card company before you make a large purchase.

Also, make sure the company has your cellphone number and email address. Some institutions will contact you before or immediately after declining a card because of unusual activity. You might clear up the whole mess before leaving the checkout counter if the credit card company can reach you.

2. Excessive spending

Surprised woman in store.
Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock.com

Some card issuers place spending limits on credit and debit cards, or enable customers to set limits of their own. If you go over the limit, your card will be declined, even if you have plenty of credit available to cover the purchase.

So, know your card’s limit. You should be able to find it by logging in to your online account or calling the issuer.

3. Outdated personal information

Door with "foreclosed" sign on it.
zimmytws / Shutterstock.com

In some scenarios — like at the gas pump — you have to enter your ZIP code before you make a purchase. Put in the wrong information, and your card will be declined.

Make sure the card company has your current mailing address and telephone number. If you move, get on the phone or online and update your contact information as soon as possible.

4. Temporary holds

Roadblock ahead written on road.
gorstevanovic / Shutterstock.com

If you rent a car or U-Haul or book a hotel room, the company you’re doing business with will estimate how much you might end up spending and put a temporary hold on your card.

For example, your hotel might put a hold for the amount of money that would cover a three-night stay plus incidental purchases such as treats from the room’s mini-bar.

A temporary hold temporarily reduces your available credit and thus can cause you to exceed your credit limit.

If you present your credit card at the start of a service or stay, ask whether the business will put a hold on your card and, if so, for how much. Then, mentally deduct that amount from your card’s available balance. You may also wish to carry a backup card just in case.

5. International purchases

Woman shopping in Instanbul bazaar.
Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock.com

If you take your card overseas, you run the risk of it being declined. Many lenders automatically decline out-of-country purchases as potential fraud. So, before you leave home, call your card issuer and describe your travel plans.

Additionally, carry a backup card and a debit card to access cash at ATMs. Make sure you notify the issuers of those cards about your overseas travel plans.

6. Card expiration

A man expressing shock
Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

If the expiration date on your card has passed, you won’t be able to make purchases.

Keep track of when your cards will expire and start looking for the replacement in the mail several weeks in advance. If you haven’t received an updated card two weeks before a card expires, call to ask for one — and to make sure the issuer didn’t mail it to an outdated or otherwise incorrect address.

7. Typos

Woman looking confused
STUDIO GRAND OUEST / Shutterstock.com

Your card is valid and you’re under your spending limit, but you still can’t make purchases online.

Before you panic, double-check the credit card information you provided on the website. Even one wrong number in your ZIP code is enough to get your purchase declined.

Correcting the information on the checkout page is typically enough to fix the problem, but be careful. Attempting to enter incorrect information multiple times is a red flag, and your card might be deactivated.

Ever been stuck, surprised or offended when your card was declined? Share your tale of woe on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Read Next
Replace These 8 Things — for Your Health and Your Budget
Replace These 8 Things — for Your Health and Your Budget

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these things. Waiting too long can cost money or even endanger your health.

26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car

These tools and conveniences help protect drivers from hassles and calamities on the road.

10 Products That Will Help You Save Money
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money

Sometimes, spending a little cash right now can save you a lot of money down the road.

The 5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
The 5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes
5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes

Here’s how to keep Uncle Sam’s mitts away from your nest egg.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less
5 Awesome Places You Can Retire Overseas on $2,000 a Month or Less

In this week’s podcast: tips on retiring overseas — from someone who’s been helping American expats for decades.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them
15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.