How to Fix a Declined Debit Card – 11 Actions to Try Out

Your debit card may get declined for any number of reasons. To fix a declined debit card, you need to figure out what went wrong with the transaction and go from there.

paying with a card

Having your debit card declined can be extremely frustrating, particularly if you are trying to pay at the cashier and there is a long line of people behind you. There are many reasons why your card can get declined. Maybe you have insufficient funds, or you entered the wrong pin. Unfortunately, most of the time, things may be out of your hands. Luckily, fixing your debit card is quite simple. We will go over 11 common reasons why your card may get declined and various ways you can resolve the issue.

Key Takeaways

  • There are many reasons why your debit card gets declined when you make a purchase, ranging from incorrect information entered to your transaction limit reached to insufficient funds.
  • When you have a declined debit card and you have no idea what went wrong, your first step should be contacting your bank. Your bank should be able to help you quickly pinpoint and resolve the issue.

What Happens When Your Debit Card Gets Declined

When your debit card is declined, whatever transaction you are attempting will fail and most of the time, you will not get charged. Additionally, you will not be able to make your purchase until you figure out the issue.

If you have insufficient funds, you may get charged an overdraft fee. However, typically banks will protect you from these fees by declining your transaction if it will give you a negative balance. Note that some banks will not repay money stolen from someone using your debit card information.

Contact Your Bank

If you are not sure why your card was declined, you should check your balance and make sure you have entered the correct information. If you still cannot figure out the problem yourself, you should contact your bank to help you check on the issue and fix it.

To contact your bank, call the phone number on the back of your credit card. Alternatively, you can go on their website to find their customer support number. Once you connect with a customer support representative, tell them the details of what happened, such as what you were trying to pay for, the date, amount, and currency of the decline. Note that you should be the one calling them to prevent fraudsters from posing as your bank to steal your personal information.

More often than now, your card will get deactivated due to fraudulent activity. If your bank suspects fraud, they may have deactivated your card to block unusual activity, confirm your purchases, and reissue another debit card.

11 Common Reasons for a Declined Credit Card

There are many reasons why your debit card may have gotten declined, ranging from suspicious activity to the wrong card type to spending limits reached.

1. Insufficient Funds in Your Bank Account

Your debit card may get declined because you do not have enough money in the bank account. When this happens, you need to add more money to your account. Otherwise, you will not be able to use your debit card. 

If you have overdraft protection, you may still be allowed to proceed with the transaction, but you will likely get charged an overdraft fee, which is typically $30 to $35. In some instances, you may still get charged a pending authorization. But, it should disappear after the unprocessed payment gets removed.

How to Fix the Issue:

Not having enough money to pay for everything is a common struggle many people face, particularly with the prolonged effects of the pandemic. If your debit card is getting declined often due to insufficient funds, it may be time for you to learn how to manage your money better to make it stretch.

There are a couple of ways you can go about this. You can cut expenses and live more minimally by creating a budget and separating your needs and wants. Currently, I use Mint to aggregate all my monthly spending in one place and categorize my expenses into different buckets. Or, you can try to increase your income by either getting a promotion or starting a side hustle. Typical side hustles include gig work, tutoring, blogging, and pet-sitting.

If your bank has a mobile app, download it on your phone to make it easier to track your balance and ensure you have enough money. I downloaded the Bank of America app on my phone to check my balances every so often to make sure I have enough money in my account to pay for all my bills.

2. International Purchases

While many accounts offer Visa or Mastercard debit cards nowadays, which are accessible anywhere in the world, they may not always work as intended. Some financial institutions have geoblocking features in place that prohibit you from using your debit card in regions or countries where fraudulent activities are rampant.

Other times, your transaction may get declined because you have never been to that region or country before. Most banks will flag international purchases as unusual activities to keep your accounts safe from fraud.

How to Fix the Issue:

Before you travel anywhere overseas, let your bank know ahead of time to prevent any unexpected debit card declines. For example, when I went to Europe to study abroad, I notified Barclay Banks through their app of my travel plans to avoid them flagging my account.

You should also check to confirm that you can use your card in the region or country you are traveling to before leaving. If you are visiting an area that has been geoblocked, your bank may temporarily lift the block to allow you access to your card.

Also, make sure that you understand the ATM networks that can accept your card when overseas. One issue I had when I was abroad was that using my credit card required a pin, which is not common in the U.S. So, I ended up locking my account for a week or two due to unusual activity from failed PIN attempts. Having to borrow money from friends constantly during that period was definitely not fun.

While this process may seem annoying or extra, it is crucial for protecting your money and ensuring you are prepared before you go overseas. The last thing you want is for your card to get declined, and you have no other means of accessing your money.

3. Spending or Transaction Limits Reached

Some banks may place daily spending or transaction limits on debit cards to protect your account and prevent fraudsters from going on a major shopping spree with your debit card. Once you reach that amount, your card will stop working. That is why sometimes larger purchases may get declined because they have exceeded the spending limit.

For example, financial institutions will often set a $500 withdrawal limit from ATMs per day or a $5,000 spending limit on your card. These limits are in place for security reasons, so banks will generally discourage people from increasing their limits.

How to Fix the Issue:

Familiarize yourself with the daily withdrawal limits on your accounts. If you plan on making a huge purchase or withdrawal soon, you should contact your bank ahead of time so they can temporarily extend your limit. If your bank has already declined your purchase, try calling them to see if they can raise the limit.

With that said, you should follow their advice if they tell you to drop the limit back down once your transaction goes through. That way, you can protect your money from fraud.

Sometimes your card is not working because of the vendor. Maybe they entered your information manually and missed a number. Perhaps they could have pressed the wrong button when they were doing your transaction. Or their card reader machine may be broken. There is also a chance that your vendor may be in poor standing with their banking services, so your bank declined the transaction.

How to Fix the Issue:

Whatever the issue is, your first reaction should be to ask them to try the transaction again. That way, the cashier can restart and correct any mistakes. Usually, it may have been a one-off problem. If not, you can try a different payment method or another outlet.

5. Suspicious Activity Detected

Most banks have a clause that says they reserve the right to decline transactions they consider out of character or suspicious when issuing debit cards. That can include spending or withdrawing more than usual.

While this security feature may cause frustration or embarrassment, this helps keep your money safe. For example, if most of your transactions are in San Francisco, but all of a sudden, you have a random transaction in Tokyo, either someone has breached your information, or you are traveling. Either way, your bank will likely flag the transaction as fraudulent activity.

How to Fix the Issue:

As mentioned earlier, if you have vacation plans or want to make a large purchase or withdrawal, notify your bank ahead of time for reauthorization. If your transaction has already gotten declined, call your bank to explain the situation and confirm your transaction.

If you get an alert for suspicious activity, and it is not because of you, call your bank to keep your account blocked and prevent anyone else from spending your money. It is in both you and your bank’s best interest to figure out what happened and get the issue fixed quickly.

6. Your Debit Card is Not Activated

If you have a new debit card and this is your first time using it, you may have simply forgotten to activate it. Most banks require their card users to activate their debit cards before using them. There should be instructions on the card to tell you to call support or withdraw money from the ATM.

How to Fix the Issue:

You will need to follow the instructions provided by your bank to activate your card. If you need help, you can always call customer support for assistance. If your bank has a mobile app, you can also download their app and activate your card from there.

7. Your Debit Card is Expired Card

On the opposite side, most debit cards have expiration dates, just like credit cards. If your card is expired, you will not be able to use it at ATMs or make purchases. Usually, your bank will send you a new card in the mail before your current one expires. But, sometimes it may not come on time.

How to Fix the Issue:

Check your physical card to find the expiry date. If your card has indeed expired, your bank should have sent you a new one through the mail. If you have not received it yet, contact your bank to ask for a replacement card. It may have been an oversight on your bank’s end, but it is also possible that someone went through your mail and stole your card. That is why you need to check with your bank to see what happened. Once your replacement card comes, destroy your old card to prevent anyone from getting hold of your personal information.

8. The Card Type is Not Accepted

Not all merchants and ATMs will accept all types of debit cards. If you swipe your card at a vendor or ATM that does not accept the card type you are using, it will likely get declined. For example, if your debit card has a magnetic stripe or EMV chip, it may not go through because the vendor or ATM is not asking for that payment method.

Additionally, some banks restrict access to their cards or reduce daily spending limits when you are overseas. There is also a chance that your bank cannot operate in certain countries due to international sanctions or other restrictions (though this is less likely).

How to Fix the Issue:

Before you try to pay with your debit card, make sure the vendor or ATM accepts the card type you are using. Most places will take Visa or MasterCard, but some merchants may not accept them. For example, I recently tried to pay for my groceries at Costco using my Chase Freedom Flex credit card, and it got declined because they do not accept MasterCards. So, I had to use a Visa credit card instead.

If you are currently traveling, contact your bank to see if the payment method is an issue at your location. If that is the issue and you have no other cards available to use, work with them to make alternative arrangements.

9. Additional Information Needed

Sometimes a transaction will not go through until you provide some additional information. Usually, this happens during online purchases and involves entering a code that the merchant sends to your phone or email.

For example, when I activated my new WiFi through Xfinity for the first time, they sent me a code through text that I had to enter before proceeding with the transaction. This verification step is quite common when shopping online to confirm your transactions.

How to Fix the Issue:

Double-check your screen to see if any messages tell you to take this additional step. Usually, the website will tell you clearly what they need from you to proceed. Once you complete their request, you should be good to go.

10. Incorrect Information Entered

Banks will usually decline debit card purchases if the information provided differs from what is on file. This situation happens pretty frequently with online purchases. If you have entered personal details wrong, such as your card number or billing information, your payment will get declined.

This security measure is in place because banks want to prevent unauthorized parties from using your card. So, if your data is out of date or entered wrong, your bank will decline the transaction.

Recently, as I was trying to pay rent online, I accidentally typed the wrong account number down. When I copied and pasted my account number to pay, I did not realize that a few numbers got cut off. My carelessness cost me $25, and I will (hopefully) never make that mistake again.

How to Fix the Issue:

Before clicking the submit button for an online purchase, confirm that the personal information you entered matches your debit card information. For example, check if you typed in the correct card number and CVC. Additionally, always make sure your information is up-to-date, including your billing and shipping address, card number, PIN, etc.

If you recently moved to a new address or have any other personal information changes, update your bank by either logging into your account to make the changes or calling customer support for assistance. Unless all the information is correct, your transaction will fail.

11. Wrong PIN Entered

Most debit cards, and some credit cards, require a personal identification number (PIN) that you set up when you activate your card for the first time. This PIN helps to confirm your identity and prevent fraud. You need to enter the correct PIN for your transaction to go through. Otherwise, your payment will get automatically declined.

How to Fix the Issue:

Memorize your PIN and try not to mix your PINs up if you have multiple accounts that require PINs. Avoid writing down your PIN on your card or keeping it tucked in your wallet, as that makes it easier for thieves to gain access to your checking account if your wallet gets stolen. If you forgot your PIN, call your bank to have them reset it for you.

The Bottom Line

woman holding magnetic card | Unsplash Image by Blake Wisz
Unsplash Image by Blake Wisz

Having your debit card get declined can be very annoying and dampen your day. In most cases, a quick phone call to your bank’s customer support or a few taps in your bank’s app will resolve the issue. Usually, it will be a quick fix, but if it takes longer than expected to resolve, keep in mind that these security protocols are in place for a reason. So, while it is frustrating, at least you will have peace of mind that your bank is working to protect your money.

In the meantime, you can also try using a credit card or paying with cash. I almost always carry multiple cards on hand whenever I go out in case any of my cards get declined.

We are not financial advisors. The content on this website and our YouTube videos are for educational purposes only and merely cite our own personal opinions. In order to make the best financial decision that suits your own needs, you must conduct your own research and seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor if necessary. Know that all investments involve some form of risk and there is no guarantee that you will be successful in making, saving, or investing money; nor is there any guarantee that you won't experience any loss when investing. Always remember to make smart decisions and do your own research!

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