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Why Was My Credit Card Declined?

Last Updated: February 19, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: declined credit cards

  1. If you reach your credit limit or make a purchase that exceeds your available credit, your card may be declined.

  2. A large purchase that doesn’t fit your spending patterns may appear suspicious to your credit card company, so they may decline the transaction.

  3. If you travel without notifying your credit card issuer they may place a hold on your account or decline the credit card transaction.

7 Reasons your credit card was declined

It can be unsettling to have your credit card declined or failed payments, especially if you're not sure why. 

There are a few common reasons your credit card or other payment method may have been declined when you tried to make a purchase. Let's review the top seven reasons for a credit card decline and explore what to do if you have a declined credit card.

#1 You’ve reached your credit card limit

If your credit card balance creeps up toward your credit card limit and you try to buy something that makes your balance exceed your credit limit, it may result in a card decline. If this is the case, you can make a payment on your card to increase the available credit.

In the meantime, you may need to choose a different payment method, like a debit card, to make your purchase. Some credit card companies send text alerts or emails to inform you when your balance is approaching your credit limit. It may be a good idea to sign up for alerts and regularly check your credit card balance so you know how much available credit you have.

#2 Suspicious purchases

If you use your credit card regularly, your credit card company may be familiar with your usual spending patterns. If you make a purchase with your card that doesn’t fit this pattern, it could result in a declined transaction. Card issuers do this to help prevent credit card fraud. Usually, you'll just have to verify with your credit card issuer that it's you making the purchase and that you don't have a stolen card.

#3 Traveling without notifying your credit card company

If you've traveled out of the country recently and made multiple purchases in one day from various locations, it can raise a red flag for credit card issuers as a possible sign of credit card fraud. It’s common to get a declined payment when you're out of the country. You can avoid this issue by letting your credit card issuer know you'll be traveling internationally. Plus, you may want to consider getting a credit card that rewards you for eligible travel purchases.

The Discover it® Miles card lets you earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on all purchases. We’ll automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.1

#4 A recent “hold” on your credit card

Did your recent travels involve staying at a hotel or using a rental car company? If so, these businesses may have placed a hold on your card to cover potential costs related to your stay or rental. If your balance plus the hold amount approaches your credit limit, you may have a card decline on subsequent purchases until the hold is removed. If so, you can use a different card for purchases until the hold clears. 

See if you're pre-approved

With no harm to your credit score 2

#5 Exposure to potential fraud

Sometimes, credit card companies decline a purchase on your card that appears to be suspicious. This happens when credit card information like your credit card number or other card details have been exposed to potentially fraudulent activity. The issuing bank or card issuer may freeze your account to prevent unauthorized purchases.

#6 Credit limit decrease

Sometimes credit card companies initiate a credit limit decrease and then notify you of the new available credit line. If you attempt to make a purchase that pushes your balance over the new, lower limit, they may decline your credit card transaction. You might need to use a debit card or a different payment method to complete the purchase. A financial institution may lower your credit limit if you've had a recent drop in credit score

Did you know?

If your credit card company lowers your credit limit, it can impact your credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you’ve used out of your total available credit limits.) Since this is one of the factors used to calculate credit scores, it’s a good practice to regularly verify your credit card balance, credit limit, and credit score.

#7 Making a large purchase

Are you planning to make a large purchase on your credit card (think big screen TVs, appliances, or furniture)? If you don’t typically use your card to buy big ticket items, your credit card may get declined until you verify that it’s you making the purchase. This may also happen if you make several “luxury goods” purchases that don’t fit your typical spending pattern. 

What to do if your credit card gets declined

A declined card may come as a surprise, but you might be able to resolve the situation right away. If your card payment gets declined, call your credit card company immediately. Most cards have a contact number on the back of the card. Expect to answer a few security questions to verify your identity. Then explain where you are, what you’re trying to purchase and ask why your card was declined. 

Sometimes, simply verifying your identity is enough for the credit card company to authorize the credit card transaction. Other cases may require following up with customer service to request a credit card limit increase when making a purchase that puts your account over the credit limit. If you can’t increase your limit, you might need to use your debit card to complete the purchase; just double-check your account balance to ensure you have sufficient funds available.

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  1. Miles Match®: We'll match all the Miles rewards you've earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You've earned Miles rewards only when they're processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.
  2. There is no hard inquiry to your credit report to check if you’re pre-approved. If you’re pre-approved, and you move forward with submitting an application for the credit card, it will result in a hard inquiry which may impact your credit score. Receiving a pre-approval offer does not guarantee approval. Applicants applying without a social security number are not eligible to receive pre-approval offers. Card applicants cannot be pre-approved for the NHL Discover Card.

  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.