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…”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?
7 most common reasons your debit card was denied
To help you avoid the situation, here’s a look at the most common reasons that debit cards get declined and how to avoid them.
1. Insufficient balance
Unlike a credit card, when you make a purchase with your debit card, the amount is withdrawn from your available balance. If you don’t have enough money to cover the transaction, your financial institution can deny it.
Running out of funds is particularly easy when it’s an account you don’t use much that charges a monthly fee. The slow trickle of fees can add up fast. 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 institutions will allow small overdrafts but charge a fee in the ballpark of $25 to $35. The best bet to prevent declined transactions is to keep track of your finances and ensure you always have enough money in the account to cover your purchases. Online banking apps can help you stay up-to-date.
2. Maximum limit exceeded
Debit cards often come with purchase and withdrawal limits which restrict how much money you can spend and pull out each day. If you reach the limit, attempted transactions will not go through. It’s best to check with your financial institutions about any limits that are in place so you can plan ahead.
3. Suspected fraud
Financial institutions 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 it doesn’t go through.
Purchases that are out of the ordinary such as a purchase made from a new location, a large purchase, or a group of purchases close together, can trigger account freezes. You can prevent declinations by calling your bank in advance and letting it know about upcoming unusual activity. Make sure your bank offers solid fraud protection features. Chime Bank, for example, sends daily balance notifications and instant transaction alerts anytime your Chime debit card is used.
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. In most cases, you will need to enter your PIN in order for a transaction to be approved. If you enter the wrong number or don’t enter anything, your transaction can be denied. Prevent this by setting your PIN as a number that is easy to remember and enter it carefully during transactions.
5. Expired card
All debit cards come with expiration dates. Usually, banks will try to ensure your card is replaced before it expires. However, not always.
Prevent declinations due to an expired card by checking the expiration dates on all your cards and making a note of them on your calendar.
6. Information mismatch
Your purchases can also get denied if you enter the wrong information. This commonly happens during online transactions. Merchants require many fields of information to protect the identity and security of the customer but it opens up more room for error. Ensure 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.
7. Card deactivation
Your transactions will also be denied if your card is deactivated. The 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.
These are the seven most common reasons a debit card gets declined. Of course, there is also the possibility of technical difficulties. Running a credit 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.
Review and compare checking accounts with debit cards
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.