Can my credit card get declined?

Your credit card issuer could decline your card for a range of reasons. For example, if you’ve exceeded your limit or it’s been out of use for a while. It can be embarrassing when this happens, so we look at what you can do in this situation, and how to avoid it in the future.

5 min read
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Why was my credit card declined?

 1. You exceeded your spending limit

When you take out a credit card, the issuer will set an upper credit limit, to avoid you borrowing more than you can afford. They can decline any purchase which could exceed this authorised limit to prevent extra charges from being applied. If you have a mobile app for your credit card, you can check your balance on there, or keep a close eye on your statements.

2. The card hasn’t been used in a while

If you haven’t used your card in a while, any sudden transaction could raise a red flag with your card issuer. They might suspect fraud on your account and freeze it for this reason. If this happens, you can phone your credit card company and see if you can have the freeze removed.

3. You attempted to make a large purchase

Your card issuer could cancel a large purchase on your credit card if it’s seen as out of character for you. It could look like your card has been stolen. If this happens, phone your lender to confirm the purchase is legitimate.

4. The card was used in unusual locations

If you use your card abroad (or in unusual locations for you), it could trigger a red flag with your credit card provider. Again, this could indicate fraud. Most credit cards come with a mobile app, where you can log any periods you’ll be abroad to avoid this happening.

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5. Incorrect security details have been entered

Your card might be rejected if you enter an incorrect PIN number too many times at the checkout.

If you are shopping online you’ll need to enter your card number and your CVV number. Your payment could be rejected if you mistype the digits.

6. Your name and address details don’t match

Always make sure your name and address details are up to date with your credit card provider. Any mismatch to your billing address can cause online transactions to fail.

7. Your card isn’t activated

If you’re using a new credit card, make sure you activate it before you try and spend on it.

8. Your credit card has expired

Your card could be out of date, which means you won't be able to make any purchases with it. You should receive your new one before your old one expires.

9. Your card is faulty

With wear and tear, your card may stop working, and the contactless strip could break.

10. The primary cardholder has deactivated the card

If you are an additional cardholder, you could be affected by any changes made by the primary cardholder. For example, if they report the card as lost or stolen and the card is cancelled. 

Will my credit score be affected?

It depends why your credit card was declined. If there’s a simple reason, like you’ve used it abroad or the card is faulty, this shouldn’t impact your credit score. But your credit score can be affected if you are at the top of your credit limit (or you go over it).

Avoid maxing out your credit card, or it could give lenders the impression that you’re struggling.

Each lender uses their own criteria when it comes to assessing credit applications. But being at the top of your credit limit could put them off giving you more credit. They want to feel confident that you can afford your repayments.

If you need to borrow, you can apply for a credit card online, but don’t forget that you must stay within the spending limit.

What should I do if my card is declined?

If your credit card is declined, stay calm and try again, in case you’ve made a mistake entering your card or PIN details. Also, check whether your card has expired.

If your card is declined for a second time, get in touch with your card issuer straight away. There is usually a phone number on the back of your card for you to call. Ask your provider why the payment hasn’t gone through. See if they can authorise your transaction there and then.

It could be a case of answering some security questions to authorise the transaction. If you’ve forgotten your PIN number, your card provider will be able to tell you how to reset it.

But if your payment has been rejected because you’ve reached your credit limit, you will need to reduce your balance before you can use it again.

In the meantime, you may need to use an alternative method of payment to complete the purchase.

How to avoid your credit card being declined

To prevent your credit card from being declined in future, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Monitor your statements so you don’t go over your credit limit
  • Contact your card issuer to give them a heads up before you make a large purchase or go travelling
  • Try to make your PIN easy to remember (but not too easy to guess)
  • Keep your name and address details up to date
  • Activate your card before you try to use it
  • Check the expiry date
  • Request replacements for any out-of-date or faulty cards
  • Communicate with the primary cardholder so you’re aware of any changes on the account

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

Adele Kitchen, Personal Finance Writer

Adele Kitchen

Personal Finance Writer

Adele is a personal finance writer with more than 10 years in the finance industry behind her. She writes clear and engaging guides on all things loans for Ocean, as well as contributing blogs to help people understand their options when it comes to money.