Restaurant customer holds credit card reader in his hands to pay his bill.

Why Was My Credit Card Declined?

Last Updated: March 28, 2023
4 min read

Key Points About: Why was my card declined?

  1. If you reach your credit limit (or if your limit decreased), you may get a declined card when you make a purchase.

  2. Sometimes large purchases may appear suspicious to your credit card company and cause them to decline your purchase.

  3. If you travel without notifying your credit card issuer, you may experience a declined card or a have a hold placed on your account.

Reasons for a declined credit card

It can be a bad feeling when you go to use your credit card and suddenly it’s declined or not working. So, what happened?

Here are some common reasons your credit card may have gotten declined when you tried to use it to make a purchase. Plus, find out what you can do when you have a declined credit card.

You’ve reached your credit card limit

If your balance creeps up toward your credit card limit and you try to buy something that will exceed your limit, you may get a declined card due to insufficient funds.

If your payment didn’t go through because you reached your credit limit, the best thing you can do is make a payment on your card. In the meantime, you can choose a different payment method to make your purchase. Many credit card companies send text alerts or emails to let you know when your balance is approaching your limit. So, it may be a good idea to sign up for these alerts and get into the habit of regularly checking your credit card balance. When you know how much available credit you have to use on purchases, you’ll have less surprises when you go to checkout. 

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You have a suspicious purchase on your card

If you use your credit card regularly to pay for purchases, your credit card company is familiar with your usual spending patterns. If you make a purchase with your card that doesn’t fit this pattern, it may result in a declined card. Usually, you’ll just have to verify to your credit card company that you made the purchase to resolve the issue.

You traveled without telling your credit card company

If you’ve traveled out of the country recently and made multiple purchases in one day from various locations, this can raise a red flag for credit card companies, as this can be a sign of credit card fraud. It is not uncommon to get a declined payment when you’re out of the country. You can potentially avoid this issue by letting your credit card issuer know ahead of time that you will be traveling, especially internationally

You have a recent “hold” on your 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 nears your card limit, you may have declined purchases until the business removes the hold. If this is the case, you can always use a different card for your other purchases until the hold clears. 

Your card had exposure to potential fraud

Sometimes credit card companies decline a purchase on your card that appears to be suspicious. This happens when your card becomes exposed to potentially fraudulent activity either in-store or online (like someone getting a hold of your card number). Your credit card issuer may freeze your account to prevent unauthorized purchases.

Your credit limit decreased

Sometimes credit card companies decrease your card limit and then provide you with notice of the new credit line. Your credit card may not go through if you try to make a purchase that’s greater than the new, lower limit.

You tried to make a large purchase

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

What to do when your credit card gets declined

If you have a declined card, you should call your credit card company immediately. Most cards will have a contact number on the back of the card. You should 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 issuer to authorize the transaction. Other cases may require following up with customer service to request a credit card limit increase if you are trying to make a purchase that puts your account over the credit limit.

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