What to do if your credit card is declined

Better planning can help avoid unexpected situations when you're using credit.

We've all been there. You're shopping at a store or paying for a meal, and your credit card gets declined. It can be embarrassing, confusing and just plain frustrating.

So why exactly do credit cards get declined? Here are three common reasons for a declined card: 

  • Typos and mistakes: If you’re shopping online and accidentally input the wrong information, such as an incorrect ZIP code or billing address, your credit card may be declined. Double check that the information is correct and try again. 
  • An over-the-limit transaction: Every credit card has its own credit limit, which is the total amount you are allowed to spend. If you try to purchase an item that will put you over the available credit limit, your credit card may be declined. In some cases, you may be allowed to exceed your credit limit by a small amount. Depending on the issuer, you may be charged additional fees or the credit limit extension fees. 
  • Suspicion of fraudulent activity: If you try to complete an unusual purchase, say for a large amount or in a foreign country, your card may be declined because of possible fraudulent activity. Automated protections try to protect you from fraud, so they might initially decline any suspicious requests, especially if the purchase is outside the norm for you. 

For each of these situations, you may receive a text, notification or call asking if you’re making a purchase. If you can respond, the purchase may be allowed, or you may be instructed to try again. 

How to avoid a declined card

To avoid a declined card when shopping online, make sure to fill in the correct information for every field. In general, it’s always best to know your limit and keep an eye on your current balance.

If you plan to travel, contact your financial institution ahead of time. If you don't, declined transactions are more likely.

A few days before you’re scheduled to leave, contact your card issuer and let them know your plans — where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. You may also want to write down international customer service phone numbers so you can call if there are any problems while you’re away.

We get it. Having your credit card declined can be incredibly frustrating. But with some caution, awareness of your limits and balance, along with a little bit of forward planning, you can ensure that your credit is available when you need it. 

This page and the information contained herein is for educational purposes only. The information is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product, service, or strategy to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional. Any links to other websites are included for your convenience only. Bread Financial does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for the accuracy or reliability of the information, made available through such sites.

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