My Credit Card Was Declined: Now What?

Credit card swiping failed.
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Very few people pay for things with cash anymore Credit is often the simpler way to go, and a lot of people use their credit cards to earn cash back or points on things like travel, so it’s the common way to pay.

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So, it’s never a good feeling when you go to make a purchase and your credit card is declined, but it happens more than you’d think, for a lot of different reasons. If you find yourself in this situation, we have some advice for you.

Don’t Panic

If you’re making a big, important or necessary purchase with your credit card — online or in person — and it’s declined, it can feel like the worst thing in the world. Because this can be both embarrassing and alarming, your first reaction might be to panic.

However, there are multiple reasons why a credit card can be declined and several solutions, so don’t give yourself unnecessary stress before you resolve the problem. It might also be simpler than you think!

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And before you assume the worst, don’t forget to try to re-swipe or re-run the transaction. Sometimes machines can just be having problems, or you didn’t insert or swipe your card properly.

Complete Transaction With Another Form of Payment

If you’re in a position to do so, the next step is to complete your transaction with a different form of payment. A different credit card, debit card, check or even cash — fortunately all of those forms of payment are still good! Of course, if you don’t have an alternate form of payment at hand, then you can either set aside the goods you were paying for, let the payee know that you’re going to contact your bank or lender, and come back to the purchase at a later time. Hopefully your purchase isn’t time dependent.

Alternately, if you’re trying to pay for something where you can’t leave, such as a meal or car repairs, and you don’t have an alternate form of payment, you can leave something as collateral, like a driver’s license, while you go and secure the funds, according to Card Ratings.

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Call Your Bank or Lender

You want to call your bank or lender after a declined transaction promptly, because among the many reasons your card could be declined is concerns about fraud. If your bank or lender has detected what they consider fraudulent activity, they will often lock down your card until they can get in touch with you.

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In some cases, your bank or lender may actually cancel the compromised card and issue you a new one, so make sure you have some alternate forms of payment on hand, according to Money Tips.

Resolve Issue

Once you get in touch with your bank or lender, the good news is that you should get an answer pretty quickly, which will enable you to resolve the problem. If the problem is something that’s in your control, such as maxing out your credit limit or needing to update personal information, you can take steps to resolve those issues, whether that’s paying down your credit debt or providing the correct information.

Once you resolve the issue, you should be back to regular use of your card soon.

Don’t Use That Card Until Issue Is Resolved

To avoid repeating the uncomfortable scenario you just experienced, don’t use this card until you’re sure the issue that caused the problem has been fully resolved. Put the card somewhere safe that you’re not likely to grab for it during a purchase, but not where you’ll forget it.

If it turns out the card is no longer usable, cut it up into small pieces so the number can’t be used fraudulently.

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Final Thoughts: Why Was Your Card Declined?

There are a surprising number of reasons why your credit card might be declined besides just having reached your credit limit. According to Money Talks News, a couple reasons are assumed fraudulent activity, which might happen if you’re using your card more frequent or for unusually large purchases or overseas transactions, or actual fraudulent activity. It can also happen if your personal information is outdated, especially in online transactions (say you got a new card, with a new expiration date, but your computer auto-fills the old one). You might get a temporary hold when doing something like renting a U-Haul or hotel, which could temporarily reduce your available credit and cause you to exceed your credit limit.

Additionally, according to Money Tips, you might have simply entered incorrect info, used a card type that isn’t accepted where you’re making your purchase, failed to notice that your credit card expired, or the primary cardholder (not you) canceled the account for some reason without telling you. Talking with your bank or lender will usually clear things up.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

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