If your debit card was declined and you want to know why, this article will tell you the most likely causes. If you want to know how to avoid getting your card declined again, this post will tell you how. We’ll review 10 common reasons debit cards get declined, from insufficient funds to funds in the wrong account.
There’s nothing quite like the panic you feel when your debit card is declined. You wonder if your identity was hacked overnight and all of your hard-earned money has been plundered, never to be seen again. At least most credit cards have protection against identity theft and fraudulent charges, so you know you’ll get a refund. But what about when it’s your debit card? Your actual checking account?
Having a transaction declined is frustrating and immediately sends your mind reeling.
- Was my money stolen? Is my money gone?
- Did I miscalculate something?
- Has my account been shut down?
Here’s a look at the most common reasons your debit card may get declined.
10 common reasons your debit card gets declined and how to avoid them
To help you fix this situation or avoid it altogether, here’s a look at the most common reasons behind a declined debit card.
1. Insufficient funds
Unlike a credit card, when you make a purchase with your debit card, the amount is withdrawn from the available balance in your checking account. Therefore, if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the transaction, you may see the card declined for insufficient funds.
A debit account you don’t use much that charges a monthly fee can make running out of money easy. Many times, the slow trickle of fees can add up without you knowing. One way to avoid this, and to save money, is to get a checking account that doesn’t charge maintenance fees, such as Aspiration’s Spend and Save account.
Some accounts offer overdraft protection. For example, NBKC Bank offers $0 overdraft fees. But most accounts will charge you for overdrafts. So how can you avoid overdraft fees? With most banks, you can choose to deny transactions that would cause an overdraft. You could also apply for a credit line to cover overdrafts. Or you could get an account that waives overdraft fees if you bring your balance back to zero within 24 hours.
A bank may allow small overdrafts but charge a fee if overdrafts reach the $25 to $35 range. Many banks do this. The best bet to avoid having your debit card declined is to keep track of your finances and make sure you always have enough money in the account to cover your purchases. Most banks have a mobile app that can help you stay up-to-date, especially if you set up balance alerts.
2. Daily spending limit exceeded
Debit cards often come with daily limits on purchases and withdrawals. These restrict the amount of money you can spend and pull out each day. If, for example, you reach the withdrawal limit at an ATM, your debit card will get declined if you try to make an in-store transaction. Therefore, you should check with your card issuer about any limits in place to plan ahead and avoid surprises.
Say your daily spending limit is $500, but you want to buy a sofa that costs $750. If you know your daily limit but have a purchase in mind that exceeds it, you may need to write a personal check. If you don’t have a checkbook, your local bank branch can print you counter checks. Banks often charge a fee of $1 to $2 per check, and you can only get a few at a time, but they can make sense if you write checks very infrequently. Another option is to get a cashier’s check. The cash will be withdrawn from your account when it is issued, so the vendor making the sale will know you have money in the bank.
3. Suspected fraud
Another one of the top reasons why your debit card may be declined is suspected fraudulent activity. Banks have safeguards in place to prevent fraud. Normally, this is a good thing. But these safeguards can cause frustration when you try to make a purchase and find your debit card doesn’t work.
Purchases that are out of the ordinary, such as a large purchase or a group of unusual purchases close together, could trigger account freezes. To prevent having your debit card declined, you can contact your bank in advance and let it know if you plan to make an expensive purchase or do a lot of spending in a short amount of time. By alerting your bank, you can make sure they don’t automatically presume fraudulent activity and put a hold on your transactions.
Additionally, if you plan to travel out of the country and use your debit card, be sure to let your bank know ahead of time. International purchases are another major cause for a declined debit card, whether the international purchase was made in person or online.
4. Incorrect PIN
When you get a debit card, you will be asked to set up a personal identification number, also known as a PIN. Many times, you’ll need to enter your PIN for a transaction to be approved. For example, you’ll always need to enter your PIN at an ATM. If you enter the wrong PIN, you’ll receive a notice that your debit card was declined.
To prevent this, set a PIN that is easy to remember and enter it carefully during transactions. (This differs from a credit card, which generally only requires you to enter your zip code.) But note well: using a number such as your birth month and date is a bad idea. This type of information is relatively easy for would-be identity thieves and others to obtain, putting you in greater danger if your debit card is lost or stolen.
5. Expired card
All debit cards come with expiration dates, and this is another reason you may get the “debit card declined” message when trying to run a transaction. Usually, banks will try to make sure your card is replaced before it expires to avoid this situation. A bank may overlook this, however.
Avoid having your debit card declined due to an expired card by checking the expiration date and making a note of it on your calendar. Then, when the time to renew is coming up, contact your bank to request a new card.
On the flip side of this, another reason for a declined debit card is that the card has not been activated. Even though banks usually mail new cards ready to go before the old one has expired, you must remember to activate your new debit card before using it! Fortunately, this is as simple as a few-second phone call to the number on the back.
6. Information mismatch
Another reason you may see your debit card declined is if you enter the wrong personal information. This commonly happens during online purchases. The bank requires many fields of information to protect the identity and security of the customer, which also opens up more room for error.
Make sure you have entered all of your personal information to match the information on record with your financial institution. You must enter your name, address, phone number, card details, and any other required information correctly. Whether your address is one digit off or you missed a seemingly unimportant field, your bank may decline transactions when the information isn’t an exact match.
7. Card deactivation
Another thing to check is if your debit card is still active. Your bank has the right to deactivate your account at its discretion, according to its terms and conditions. In a more likely scenario, a joint account holder can also deactivate your card. This can be a useful feature. If you find your debit card is declined on an account you hold jointly with your spouse, for example, it could be that their debit card was lost or stolen, and freezing the account may prevent possible fraudulent activity.
USAA and BBVA Compass ClearChoice, for example, both allow you to lock a debit card associated with an account. To prevent this, you will need to know and understand your bank’s rules, monitor the account regularly, and keep up good communication with joint bank account holders. If you have any questions or concerns about a jointly held bank account, it’s a good idea to contact your bank and get the details.
One thing to be aware of regarding card deactivation: if you receive a notification that your card has been deactivated with a request to call a number to reactivate it, do not do so. This is a common scam. Always contact your card issuer at the phone number printed on your debit card.
8. Card type is not accepted
Speaking of card issuers, they may be another one of the reasons why your debit card gets declined. If you have a Costco membership, you probably know that they only accept Visa credit cards or any kind of debit card. It is most often a credit card that gets declined on this basis. For instance, some merchants will not accept American Express because it charges a larger percentage than its competitors.
Still, this can happen with a debit card, especially if it is mistakenly run as credit. So when you use your debit card at an institution that does not accept a certain credit card issuer, be sure that they are running your card as debit and that you enter your PIN.
9. Technical issues
You may occasionally find the reason purchases are declined when you try to use your debit card has nothing to do with your bank account balance or debit card itself. Instead, the culprit may be a technical issue. In the case of online transactions, this can result from slow internet speed or power failure. For in-person purchases, the vendor’s card reader could be having problems. Often in these situations, you’ll receive the standard “chip reader malfunction” message.
10. Your money is in the wrong account
It may sound ridiculous, but it’s actually quite an easy mistake to make. You’re stressed and distracted, so when the drive-thru teller asks which account you’d like the deposit put into, you mistakenly answer with the wrong one. Today’s mobile banking apps, where depositing a check is as easy as snapping a picture with your smartphone, make it easy to accidentally tap the wrong account for your deposit. You wonder, “Why is my debit card declined when I have money?” It’s true. You do have money! It’s just not in the checking account associated with your debit card!
- A debit card may be declined for a variety of reasons. But, in most cases, it is not cause for great alarm.
- The most common reasons for a declined debit card are insufficient funds, exceeded daily spending allowance, and suspected fraud.
- Not all debit cards operate the same way. For example, some banks allow accounts to be overdrawn, and some do not.
- It’s important to know your debit card balance, monthly maintenance fees, daily spending limits, overdraft protection, and overdraft fees. It’s also important to have a strong PIN.
- Contacting your bank directly is usually the easiest way to fix a declined debit card situation.
Frequently asked questions about debit cards being declined
Why was my prepaid debit card declined?
Prepaid debit cards are a helpful budgeting tool for many and work in the same way as debit cards attached to checking accounts. You have to deposit your money first, and then it becomes available to make a payment, purchase, or withdrawal.
Some financial institutions that provide checking accounts with debit cards will offer more flexibility. For example, they may allow you to overdraw your account. With a prepaid debit card, you aren’t likely to have this benefit, so when the money is gone, your debit card will be declined.
To avoid a declined transaction, always check your balance before you use the card.
Can a debit card be used as a credit card?
Many don’t realize all of the benefits that their debit card offers. One of them is the ability to use more money than you have. While not available with all providers, some card issuers, like Capital One, enable you to apply for a credit line which will kick in if you spend beyond your account balance.
What do I do if my debit card is declined?
The first thing you should do is check if you have money in your bank account. If it was declined even though you have sufficient funds, contact your bank and speak to the customer service department to find out why. They will usually be able to look up your account and let you know right away. In many cases, if you have money in the account, they can fix the problem so you can use the card to complete your transaction immediately.
How do I unblock my debit card?
If your card was declined due to being blocked, you will need to contact your financial institution to find out why and if you can remove the block. You may be able to access this information online through mobile banking, or you may need to call.
How do I find the daily limit on my debit card?
Not sure about your per diem spending limit? You can often find information on card limits by logging into your online banking account. If you prefer, you can also contact your financial institution, and they can provide you with the limit information over the phone.
Can I make a payment and use my debit card?
If your debit card is declined for the reason of insufficient funds, depositing money into the account that covers the transaction amount will enable you to continue using the card. Many times, the deposit will become available immediately if you deposit it at an ATM or bank. However, transfers can take a bit longer.
Do you have to pay a fee if your debit card transaction is declined?
If your card was declined, you don’t have to worry about a fee. When banks don’t let the purchase or payment go through, that is usually the end of it.
However, if the transaction does go through, you may face an overdraft fee from your financial institution.
What should I do to prevent my card from being declined?
To help ensure your transactions go through, it can help to use online banking. Don’t use your debit card without first checking your balance. Also, if you are making an unusual or expensive purchase, contact your bank ahead of time.
Additionally, you can look into the overdraft protection options provided by your bank. Most will enable you to overdraft up to a certain amount, connect another account (like a savings account), or apply for a credit line.
Having a backup plan can help to make sure you can use your card when you want and need to. For example, if you run out of money, you’ll know you’ve got a backup.
Is a credit card or debit card better?
Credit cards and debit cards can be helpful, so it’s hard to choose one over the other.
Credit cards can be used to finance items you don’t have money for today. They can also help you to build credit. But, they can make it much easier to overspend.
Debit cards are a way to easily access the money you already have. However, they don’t build your credit.
By keeping a credit card in your wallet for emergencies, in addition to your debit card, you can use it to cover financial transactions when your debit card is denied.
However, make sure to keep your credit at 30% utilization or less to avoid negative marks on your credit score.
Why is the ATM rejecting my debit card?
When trying to make a withdrawal, ATMs could reject your debit card for a variety of reasons. For example, you could have insufficient money, a frozen account, or the wrong PIN. Or it could be a malfunction with the machine. Keep in mind that you can be charged fees by your bank and the ATM bank if they are not the same. If you aren’t factoring in those fees when trying to make a withdrawal, you may be surprised when you get denied.
Why was my debit card declined with money in the account? Why is my card being declined? Why does my bank keep declining payments?
The correct answers depend on your situation. First, read the article above to find out more. There we cover the 10 most common causes of these problems.
How do you fix a declined debit card?
Again, there are many answers to this question. It depends on why your card was declined. Learn more by reading the article above.
Review and compare checking accounts with debit cards
Was your card declined? Now you know the common reasons why. The good news is a quick call to the bank can usually fix things right up. If you are experiencing recurring issues with your debit card and are ready to switch banks, compare industry-leading checking accounts with debit cards below. Review monthly fees, interest yields, ATM fees, and user reviews side-by-side to find the best fit for you. Here is a useful article that lists the best free checking accounts currently available.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.