These are the top reasons your debit card was declined and what you can do to avoid it happening again.
You’re standing in line at the grocery store and after waiting for 15 minutes, it’s finally your turn. You look back and there is a line of people behind you as far as you can see. Ugh…shopping at rush hour. The clerk scans all of your items and reads you the total. You run your card and she sighs, looks at the line, and says the dreaded words…”Debit card declined.”
Having a transaction declined is frustrating and immediately sends your mind reeling.
- Was my money stolen? Is my money gone?
- Did I miscalculate something?
- Is my account shut down?
- What’s the deal?
Here’s a look at the most common reasons your debit card may get declined.
7 common reasons your debit card gets declined and how to avoid them
To help you avoid this situation, here’s a look at the most common reasons why your debit card may get declined and how to avoid them.
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Unlike a credit card, when you make a purchase with your debit card, the amount is withdrawn from the available balance in your checking account. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the transaction, you may see the card declined for insufficient funds.
Running out of funds is particularly easy when it’s a debit account you don’t use much that charges a monthly fee. Many times, the slow trickle of fees can add up. One option is to go with a checking account that doesn’t charge maintenance fees, such as Aspiration’s Spend and Save checking account.
In some cases, overdraft protection is available. For example, NBKC Bank offers $0 overdraft fees. However, in most cases, you have to pay a fee. You can choose to deny transactions that would cause an overdraft. Apply for a credit line to cover overdrafts or allow overdrafts with a 24-hour period to bring the account balance back to zero without a fee.
Many banks will allow small overdrafts but charge a fee in the ballpark of $25 to $35. 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. Online banking apps can help you stay up-to-date.
2. Daily spending limit exceeded
Debit cards often come with daily limits on purchases and withdrawals which restrict the amount of money you can spend and pull out each day. If, for example, you reach the withdrawal limit, your debit card will get declined. It’s best to check with your card issuer about any limits that are in place so you can plan ahead and avoid surprises.
3. Suspected fraud
Another one of the reasons why your debit card may be declined is due to suspected fraud. Banks have safeguards in place to prevent fraud which is normally a good thing. However, they can be annoying when you are trying to make a purchase and your debit card doesn’t work.
Purchases that are out of the ordinary, such as an international purchase, a large purchase, or a group of 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 about any upcoming unusual activity.
4. Incorrect personal identification number (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 in order for a transaction to be approved. If you enter the wrong number or don’t enter anything, you may find receive. a declined debit notice. Prevent this by setting your PIN as a number 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 on record.
5. Expired card
All debit cards come with expiration dates and this is another reason 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. However, they may overlook it.
Avoid having your debit card declined due to an expired card by checking the expiration dates on all your cards and making a note of them on your calendar. When the time to renew is coming up, contact your financial institution to request a new card.
6. Information mismatch
Another reason you may see your debit card transaction was 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 but it opens up more room for error. Make sure you have entered all of your details (e.g. name, address, phone number, card details, etc.) so that they match the information on record with your financial institution. Even just one number can be reason enough for a decline.
7. Card deactivation
Another thing to check is if your debit card is still active. Your financial institution has the right to deactivate your account at its discretion, according to its terms and conditions. Further, a joint account holder can also deactivate your card.
This is a useful feature if you lose your card. 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, it’s a good idea to contact your bank and get the details.
If you receive a notification that your card has been deactivated with a request to call a number to reactivate it, don’t call the number provided. This is a common scam. Always contact your card issuer at the number printed on your debit card.
These are the seven most common reasons why your debit card may get declined. Of course, there is also the possibility of technical difficulties, too. Running a debit card requires connecting to the internet and successfully sending and receiving information. Being so, if everything seems right on your end, sometimes it will work if you just run it again. Or, if the merchant is having issues, it may be out of your hands.
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.
However, 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 being 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 the reasons 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 clear up the problem so you can use the card to complete your transaction in the moment.
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 may need to call.
How do I find the daily limit on my debit card?
Not sure about your daily limit? You can often find the 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 an ATM or bank. 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. Before using the card, check your balance. Also, if you are making an unusual purchase or payment, contact your bank ahead of time.
Additionally, you can look into the overdraft 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. If you run out of money, you’ll know you’ve got a backup.
Is a credit card or debit card better?
Both 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.
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 transactions in the case that your debit card is denied.
However, make sure to keep your credit card 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 number of reasons. You could have insufficient funds, a frozen account, the wrong pin, or it could be a malfunction with the machine. One thing to keep in mind is that you can be charged a fee from your bank and from the ATM owner. If you aren’t factoring in those fees when trying to make a withdrawal, you may be surprised when you get denied.
Review and compare checking accounts with debit cards
Card declined? Now you know the common reasons why. The good news is a quick call to the bank can usually clear things 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.
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.