19 Possible Reasons Your Debit Card Declined and What to Do

Debit Card Declined


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What’s more frustrating than your debit card being declined?

You have a shopping cart full of items you’re going to buy, you arrive at the checkout counter prepared to make your purchase, you swipe your debit card, and then you wait.

Next thing you know, the cashier says something no one ever wants to hear, “Your debit card was declined.”

Your first instinct is to wonder why, as you assure the cashier that you have sufficient funds and have no idea why it was declined.

As you look at the people waiting in line behind you, you may be frustrated or even a bit embarrassed.

If this happened to you, you’re not alone. For one reason or another, I’m sure its happened to the best of us.

Whether you entered the wrong PIN or your card expired, there are several reasons it may have been declined. In this post, we’ll discuss the most common reasons and how to resolve them.

So, without further ado, lets get started with the first and most common reason.

1. Your Account Had Insufficient Funds

One of the most common reasons a debit card is declined is because it lacks sufficient funds for the transaction. Without overdraft protection, many financial institutions won’t allow you to make a purchase that exceeds your current balance.

If your debit card is getting declined a lot as a result of insufficient funds, you may need to reevaluate how you budget your money.

However, having insufficient funds in your account may not always be your fault. For example, maybe the direct deposit for your paycheck was delayed or another deposit is still pending and you just can’t use the funds yet.

How to resolve it: Keep track of your balances and transactions through your bank’s website or mobile app. Before you make a purchase, use one of them to verify that you have enough funds. You can also consider opening a checking account with a bank that offers overdraft protection.

2. You Tried to Withdraw Too Much

Somewhat similar to lacking sufficient funds for a purchase, if you try to make an ATM withdrawal that exceeds your account balance, your debit card will be declined.

How to resolve it: Similar to making a purchase, verify you have sufficient funds before making an withdrawal. While there may be a small fee, many ATMs allow you to see your balance before withdrawing money. However, to bypass this fee, you can simply use your bank’s mobile app to check your balance instead.

3. Your Bank Detected Suspicious Activity

Financial institutions all have a top-of-the-line system in place to detect potential fraud, which constantly monitors transactions.

Most financial institutions also have a clause that allows them to reserve the right to decline any transaction they deem as suspicious.

Considering this, if your debit card was declined, it may have been because your bank flagged the transaction for protentional fraud, which can be triggered as a complete accident. Your bank is just trying to protect you.

However, if you’re notified of suspicious activity and you are not using your debit card, you should call your bank immediately and request to keep your account blocked.

How to resolve it: Call your bank and notify them that it was you making the transaction and request to lift the block on your account. Some banks also have the option to lift an account block in their mobile app.

4. You Reached Your Daily Transaction Limit

For the protection of their member’s funds, many financial institutions also impose a daily transaction limit on their cards. This may be as little as $500 or even as much as $5,000. However, this amount will vary by institution.

Having a 24-hour transaction limit on your debit card can alleviate any damage done if your card is stolen and the thief goes on a spending spree. It can also help you stay on budget and better manage your finances.

With that said, If you’ve spent a lot of money in less than a 24-hour period, this very well could be the reason your debit card was declined.

How to resolve it: Contact your financial institution to familiarize yourself with the daily transaction limit on your accounts. If you need to make a purchase that will exceed it, contact them beforehand to request that they increase the limit for 24 hours.

5. You Entered the Incorrect PIN

Debit Card Declined

In order to complete certain transactions, you may be required to provide your 4-digit, personal identification number (PIN). Your PIN is used as an additional layer of security to help prevent fraud.

If you enter the incorrect PIN, the transaction will be automatically declined. If your debit card was declined and you think it’s because you entered the wrong PIN, give it another try and hopefully you get it right.

How to resolve it: Call your bank and request to reset your personal identification number and then memorize it for next time. I highly recommend you never write it down. Writing it down could make it easier for a thief to access your account if your PIN is stolen.

6. You Entered the Incorrect PIN Too Many Times

Tying into the previous reason your debit card may have been declined, you will only get a certain amount of attempts to enter your correct PIN before being locked out of your account.

For example, you may only be allowed to simultaneously enter an incorrect PIN 5 times before your bank account is locked.

Most financial institutions limit attempts to get a PIN correct to prevent fraud, as many fraudulent users will try to guess your PIN over and over until they get it right.

How to resolve it: Contact your bank and let them know you forgot your PIN and were locked out of your account for trying too many times. Once you verify your identity, they will then allow you to reset it. While it may be difficult if you have multiple cards, try to memorize your PIN for each one. Again, never write them down.

7. Your Card Hasn’t Been Activated Yet

When your debit card was declined, was it the first time you used it? When you receive a new debit card, it will come with special instructions on how to activate it.

This may be calling a specific phone number, making a withdrawal through an ATM, or something else. If you haven’t followed the instructions, your debit card will be declined, as it isn’t activated.

How to resolve it: Follow each and every step listed on the instructions for how to activate your debit card before attempting to make a purchase or withdrawal money.

8. Your Money Was in the Wrong Account

Was your debit card declined but you were confident you had sufficient funds? In this case, your money may have just been in the wrong account.

For example, if your debit card is connected to your checking account but the money you were trying to spend was in your savings account, then your card would be declined.

How to resolve it: Before you make a purchase, use your bank’s mobile app to verify you have funds in the correct account.

9. Your Card Has Expired

Does your debit card have an expiration date? If so, verify that the date hasn’t already passed. Purchases, withdrawals, and anything else will be unsuccessful if you’re attempting to use an expired debit card.

However, your financial institution should have notified and sent you a replacement prior to the expiration date. If you haven’t received a replacement card, it may have been a simple mistake or worse-case scenario, it was stolen in the mail.

In this situation, you should contact your financial institution immediately so they can take necessary steps to prevent the thief from using it.

How to resolve it: Keep track of your card’s expiration date and request a replacement a few months prior if a new one hasn’t already been sent. This way, you won’t lose access to your account in-between expiry dates. Be sure to destroy all expired cards, as they do contain personal information you don’t want others to have.

10. Your Card Type Isn’t Accepted

While this isn’t very common nowadays, not all merchants and ATMs accept every type of debit card. For example, a store may accept Visa but not MasterCard.

In addition, also make sure you’re using the payment method the ATM or point-of-sale requires. For instance, a POS may require an EMV chip and not a magnetic strip.

How to resolve it: Before using your debit card, verify the processor accepts your card type and that you’re using the correct payment method (stripe/chip).

11. There Were Technical Issues

Although there are many instances in which you may be the one at fault for your debit card being declined, that isn’t always the case.

If your card was declined, there’s a chance that the merchant’s system was having issues processing the transaction.

Examples of technical issues include poor internet connection, a power failure within the network, or an overload of transactions being processed simultaneously.

How to resolve it: Although you don’t have much control over your debit card being declined if it’s the fault of the merchant or bank, you can ask to use a different terminal or try again later once the system is up and running again.

12. You Tried to Make an International Purchase

While many financial institutions offer debit cards which they allow to be used when you’re traveling overseas, that’s not always the case.

Some financial institutions will require you to give approval and let them know you plan on traveling before they will allow you to make an international purchase.

Although this isn’t very convenient, it’s a worthwhile safety measure, as it will prevent fraud overseas, which is becoming more and more common.

How to resolve it: Before traveling, contact your bank to make sure you will be able to use your debit card overseas and that your transactions won’t be flagged as unusual. You should also familiarize yourself with which ATM networks will and will not accept your debit card. Taking both these steps will help prevent you from finding yourself in a situation that you can’t access your money.

13. Your Debit Card is Damaged

What condition is your debit card in? For example, if the magnetic strip is damaged that may be why your card was declined.

However, not all damage is noticeable. If you card has been exposed to extreme temperatures, that can prevent it from working as well.

How to resolve it: Contact your bank and request a new debit card as a replacement.

14. You Provided the Wrong Personal Information

If your debit card is declined when you try to make an online purchase, it may be the result of you entering in the wrong personal information.

With regard to online purchases, many merchants take extra precautions to verify the identity of the person making the purchase. This may include the name on the card and your address.

However, you may have provided the correct personal information and were just off a few digits with the card number, provided the wrong expiration date or entered the incorrect CVV .

How to resolve it: Ensure that the information you have provided is the same as the information on your debit card. This includes the name on the card, the card number, the CVV and the expiration date. If the information is outdated or your personal information changes, update it on your financial accounts by logging into your bank or calling for assistance.

15. You Tried to Make an Unusual Purchase

Did you try to purchase something with your debit card that is far different than what you normally use it to purchase? If so, your financial institution’s fraud protection system may have incorrectly flagged it as suspicious activity.

How to resolve it: If you plan to make an unusual purchase with your debit card, call your financial institution and notify them beforehand. If you already made an unusual purchase and it was blocked, call them and they will lift it.

16. The Vendor Was Having Issues

Somewhat similar to technical issues, if your debit card was declined, the vendor may have been having issues with their banking services, such as not being in good standing.

If the vendor is in bad standing with their banking services, then the terminal will not be able initiate a transaction with your debit card.

How to resolve it: If your debit card was declined because the vendor was having issues with their banking services, making your purchase with a different vendor may be your only option until they’re back in good standing.

17. Your Card Was Deactivated by Your Joint Holder

Is your debit card linked to a joint banking account you have with your partner, family member or anyone else? If so, they may have deactivated the card.

Many financial institutions will allow either account holder to deactivate a debit card without the consent of the other party if they suspect fraud, etc.

If the card was in fact deactivated, then you won’t be able to use it to make purchases, withdrawals or anything else.

How to resolve it: Create a clause that requires all account holders to sign for any significant changes, such as deactivating or adding a debit card to your account.

18. You Tried to Purchase a Gift Card

Were you trying to purchase a gift card when your debit card was declined? Many financial institutions don’t allow the purchase of gift cards due to increased fraud, such as debit cards being stolen to purchase prepaid gift cards.

Furthermore, many popular retailers also have policies in place that prohibit the purchase of a prepaid gift card with a debit card to prevent fraud as well. However, it’s far more common that a financial institution puts these policies in place.

How to resolve it: Purchase a prepaid gift card with cash instead.

19. Your Geographic Location Is Blocked

Are you currently traveling overseas? Many banks and other financial institutions won’t allow their debit cards to be used in certain countries or regions. This is known as geoblocking.

A financial institution may geoblock an area because there’s a lot of fraudulent activities happening or if there’s sanctions put in place against a country.

However, this is pretty uncommon and you will most likely be aware of it if you’re planning to travel to a country or region that’s been geoblocked.

How to resolve it: Before traveling to a different country, verify that your financial institution will allow you to use your debit card there. If not, your financial institution may be willing to allow you to use it temporarily.

Debit Card Declined FAQs

Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about credit cards being declined:

What Happens if My Card Is Declined?

If your debit card is declined, the transaction will be unsuccessful. In this case, you will be unable to make your purchase with the card until the issue is resolved.

With that said, you will need to use another form of payment like cash or a credit card in the meantime, until you’re able to call your bank to resolve the issue.

Why Is My Debit Card Blocked?

The most common reason for a debit card being blocked is fraudulent activity. Financial institutions will block a debit card to prevent the fraudulent user from causing more damage to your account.

However, your debit card may have also been blocked because the store you tried to make a purchase at recently had a high volume of fraudulent charges made at the specific location.

Why Is My Debit Card Declined When I Have Money Online?

Even if your bank’s website or mobile app shows you have money in your account, there are several other reasons your debit card may have been declined.

Your financial institution may have flagged the transaction as potential fraud, you may have reached your daily transaction limit, your card may have expired or been damaged, you may have entered the wrong PIN, or for another reason mentioned on our list.

If you’re unable to figure it out, you should call your bank immediately to resolve the issue.

How to Fix a Declined Debit Card?

To fix a declined debit card, here are steps you can take:

1. Attempt the transaction once more: Whatever the reason, your debit card may have been declined because of a one-off problem which won’t happen again.

2. Verify you have sufficient funds: As the most common reason for a debit card being declined, you should make sure you have enough money in the correct account.

3. Contact your financial institution: If the two steps above didn’t resolve the issue, don’t waste anymore time and just contact your bank. They will be able to pinpoint the reason your card was declined and help you fix it.

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt that having your debit card declined can be quite frustrating and even a bit embarrassing.

While it may be the result of insufficient funds, there are several other reasons that your card may have been declined.

Although some of the potential reasons are out of your hands, there are ways you can resolve most of them, such as a simple call to your bank or a couple clicks in your bank’s mobile app.

You may even want to carry a credit card with you as a back up. This way, you can still make your purchase if your debit card is declined.

Final Thoughts on Credit Cards Being Declined

If you’ve read this post and still can’t determine why your card was declined, the first thing you should do is contact your financial institution.

They will be able to assist you in determining exactly why your card was declined and help you make your withdrawal or purchase successfully.

However, if it was the result of suspected fraud, for example, you will be required to verify purchases you have made in the past to prove your identity.

As another example, if it was the result of your card being expired, you will need to request a new one and wait for it to arrive in the mail.

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