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6 reasons why credit cards are declined

6 reasons why credit cards are declined
Image source: Getty Images

Anyone can have their credit card declined. Sure, it’s surprising, and maybe a little embarrassing, but it’s not uncommon. Here are the six most common reasons why you might see the dreaded ‘card declined’ message, and tips for preventing it from happening again. 

1. Credit limit reached

Every credit card has a limit. Once you reach the credit limit, you can’t use the card again until you pay down the balance. So, if your credit card is declined, there’s a chance you just don’t have enough credit left to cover the transaction.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to stop this from happening: check your balance regularly. Just remember, though, that it’s not a great idea to max out your credit card anyway, because it can affect your credit score. You might also find it harder to pay off your card, which can lead to money worries down the line.   

2. Expired card

When was the last time you checked your card’s expiry date? Check it right now. Is it still valid? If not, that could be why your credit card was declined. 

Usually, card providers send you a new card a few weeks before the old one expires, but there’s always a chance it got delayed or lost in the mail. Or, if you’ve moved house recently, maybe you forgot to update your address details with the credit card company.  

The best thing to do is contact your card provider right away. If they sent the card to the wrong address, or it’s lost in the post, they can block it and send you a new one. 

3. Wrong details

Speaking of wrong details, it’s crucial that you keep your personal information up to date with your credit card company. Otherwise, your credit card might be declined.

Always check your details are accurate before using your credit card. And it might sound obvious, but make sure you’re entering the right PIN or security code, especially if you’ve changed cards recently. 

4. Missed card payments

Have you missed any credit card payments recently? If so, your card might be restricted. You’ll need to call your credit card company and find out:

  • when you missed a payment
  • how much you owe 
  • whether you need to pay late fees

If you’re struggling to make credit card payments, it might be a sign that you’ve overextended your finances. It’s probably best to work on managing your debt before you go further into your credit limit. 

5. Unusual spending patterns

Credit cards can be declined if it’s used for something considered ‘out of character’. So, if you normally use your credit card to pay for a few meals here and there, but you suddenly try to pay for a holiday, your credit card company might query it.

This is actually a good thing because it’s one of the ways credit card companies can protect you from fraudulent purchases. You’ll probably need to contact your card provider and prove your identity before they’ll allow the transaction to go through. 

6. Shopping abroad

If you normally use your credit card in Manchester and you’re suddenly splurging in Madrid, there’s a chance your credit card will be declined. Why? Again, it all comes down to card use that’s considered ‘out of character’. This can happen if you buy a one-off purchase from an international seller online, too.

To avoid this from happening, tell your card company about your intended international travel plans or foreign purchases. And, if you travel regularly, consider taking out a travel credit card or have some emergency cash available to cover any issues.

What to do if your credit card is declined: takeaway

Credit cards are declined for many reasons, but often you can resolve the issue with a quick call to your card provider. That said, there’s no guarantee that your card provider will approve the purchase, especially if you’re near your credit limit or you’ve missed payments.  

On that note: if you’re missing card payments or you’ve hit your credit limit, this is probably a sign you need to monitor your spending. Check out your credit score online to see what’s going on, and consider contacting Citizens Advice for help. 

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