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my card was declined

My card was declined

Having your credit card declined is possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of our lives, especially if you’re the first in a long line of customers or worse, you don’t have another payment method.

You Don’t Have Enough Available Credit: Your available credit is the difference between your credit card balance and your credit limit. You could run out of available credit after a spending spree or if you’ve had your credit limit cut unexpectedly. You can check your available credit by calling customer service or logging into your online account.  
Giving your credit card issuer a call is the best way to figure out why your credit card got declined. In some cases, like suspected fraud, for example, your credit card issuer can fix the issue so your transaction can process normally. Or, if your account is suspended or closed, your card issuer can let you know the options available.

If your credit card is declined, the easiest thing to do is complete your transaction with another payment method—cash, debit card, or another credit card. You can figure out what’s happening with your account once you’re done.
There are a few common reasons your credit card could be declined. Some of them could be a miscommunication between you and the credit card issuer. Or, it could be due to something you’ve done with your account. Here are a few common reasons that might explain why your credit card declined.
Your Credit Card Has Expired: Check the expiration date on your credit card. If the expiration date has passed, that would explain why your credit card declined. Your credit card issuer may have sent a replacement card in the mail. You just need to get the new card and activate it.  
Your Account Is Closed: Credit card issuers can close credit cards without warning for a variety of reasons. Or, it’s possible that your credit card issuer sent a letter, but you haven’t received it yet.  
Your Account Has Been Flagged for Fraud: Credit card issuers are constantly monitoring your credit card transactions to be sure they fit the pattern of your typical purchases. Anything outside your normal spending habits could be flagged as fraud and cause your credit card to be declined.  

Image by Chelsea Damraksa © The Balance 2019

Having your credit card declined is frustrating and embarrassing. Here is why a one declines and what to do if it happens to you.

Dealing with a declined credit card while holding up a long line of customers at the cash register is embarrassing, and it often leaves the consumer angry or concerned about fraud. But the reality is that there’s likely a very good reason why your credit card has been flagged or declined, and in most cases, the issue can be resolved with a simple phone call.

  • The card is rarely used (closed for inactivity)
  • You don’t make payments
  • Your credit reports have been updated with several negative items, and you no longer meet the issuer’s standards
  • You rejected a change of terms, such as a rate increase
  • The card has been discontinued

Your credit card may be declined for many reasons, including atypical activity, incorrectly entered information, or because you’ve reached your credit limit. You can usually call the issuer to find out what happened.

Declined transactions are common, so don’t panic. Checking to make certain you’ve entered the right information should be the very first step you take after a transaction’s been declined.
A declined transaction may indicate that your card has been canceled by your issuer.
In the meantime, practice good credit-building habits, such as always making on-time payments and keeping utilization low, to minimize the likelihood of cancellation.
In most cases, your issuer will notify you before canceling your card or taking other adverse actions.
There’s also the occasional merchant (domestic or international) that won’t take a particular credit card. Costco only accepts Visa credit cards, for example, and credit cards on other networks aren’t allowed (but debit cards from other networks are permitted).

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Having your credit card flagged and declined at the store is embarrassing and frustrating. How does this happen, and how can you prevent it?