What to Do if Your Card Gets Declined

Quick Answer

Here are three possible steps to take if your credit card gets declined:

  1. Try the transaction again
  2. Contact the card issuer
  3. Resolve any issues
Happy woman making a contactless payment at a restaurant with a credit card.

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When your credit card gets declined, it can be frustrating or even embarrassing. If this happens to you or you think it might happen, follow these steps so you can once again use the card.

1. Try the Transaction Again

You may be able to correct the issue of a declined credit card by trying the transaction again. The card may have been declined due to:

  • Incorrect information: In some cases, the card may have been declined because you incorrectly entered information online, such as the card number, expiration date or CVC security code. If the transaction was rejected, re-enter the information to see whether the transaction is approved the second time around.
  • Card won't work: If you're shopping at a store and your credit card is declined, ask the clerk handling your purchase whether you can attempt the transaction again. If that still doesn't work, consider using another card.
  • Merchant issue: A declined card transaction might also stem from an online problem on the merchant's end. So, if you tried using a card on the merchant's website and the transaction failed to go through, you might visit one of the merchant's brick-and-mortar stores to attempt the purchase.
  • Mobile payment issue: If you're using a mobile payment app at a store and the transaction is declined, consider using your plastic card instead. The transaction may have been rejected because the store's mobile payment capabilities aren't working properly.

2. Contact Your Card Issuer

Reaching out to the card issuer might be another way to resolve the issue of a declined card. The card issuer should be able to tell you when the card was declined.

Reasons the card issuer may give you for a declined card include:

  • The card is maxed out. The transaction you're trying to make might push you past your credit limit, or perhaps you've already exceeded your credit limit. If so, the card issuer will likely decline your transaction, and you may need to use a different card.
  • The card issuer suspects fraud. If the card issuer believes a transaction was carried out by a fraudster, it will likely decline the transaction. The card issuer may contact you by text, email or another method to alert you to the potential fraud.
  • The card expired. You may have been issued a new card to replace an expiring card, but forgot to trade the old one for the new one. If you try to use the expired card, the transaction will be declined.
  • The account was shut down. Perhaps the card issuer closed your account, but you weren't aware of it. So, if you try to use the card attached to the closed account, your transaction will be rejected.
  • Account payments aren't up to date. If you haven't kept up with your credit card payments, the issuer might decline future transactions until those payments are made.
  • A big purchase is pending. Companies such as hotels and rental car providers might put a hold on a certain dollar amount to make sure you've got enough available credit to pay your bill. During the hold, your card issuer might decline other transactions until the hold has ended.
  • The card remains locked. Perhaps you locked your card after losing it but later found it. However, if you forgot to unlock it, your transactions might be declined.
  • The merchant doesn't accept certain credit cards. Particularly if you're traveling abroad, you may find that some merchants don't accept certain cards that are widely accepted in the U.S.
  • You're using the card in another country. If you're visiting another country and make numerous purchases over a short period of time, the card issuer might flag the transactions as potential fraud. To avoid this, notify the card issuer about your international travels.

3. Resolve Any Issues

If your card has been declined, you can do a number of things to resolve whatever issue caused it. These include:

  • Storing credit card information to prevent incorrectly entering it for an online purchase
  • Lowering your balance so that it's below your credit limit
  • Replacing an expired card with the newly issued replacement
  • Asking the card issuer to reopen your closed account
  • Making overdue payments
  • Using autopay to avoid missing payments
  • Paying your full balance every month
  • Signing up for account alerts
  • Carrying at least two credit cards in case one of them is declined
  • Keeping an eye on your accounts and monitoring your credit to reduce the odds of a card being declined

Does Having Your Credit Card Declined Hurt Your Credit?

Fortunately, having your credit card declined does not hurt your credit. However, some reasons that a card may be declined, such as missing payments or exceeding your credit limit, could harm your credit.

While going over your credit limit doesn't directly hurt your score, having a high credit utilization ratio has an impact. Ideally, you should keep your credit utilization rate below 30% for good credit—and the lower, the better.

The Bottom Line

Getting your credit card declined can happen for a number of reasons. But you can take action to either fix the situation or prevent it from occurring. Start by reaching out to your card issuer for more information on why your transaction didn't go through. From there, taking steps to address the issues your credit card company identifies can help you avoid getting declined going forward.