How to Manage a Declined Debit Card

We’ve all been there. We go to make a purchase on our debit card and it gets declined. Having your debit card declined can happen for a number of reasons. Some are easier to manage than others.

What Happens If My Card is Declined?

Don’t panic. There are so many reasons as to why your debit card declined. Some of the most common reasons can be easy to deal with. Other times, they can be a pain. Why is my debit card declined when I have money? What are some reasons for my card getting declined? Answers to these questions and more will be focused on so that you can better handle debit card declines.

Reasons Why Your Debit Card Declined

Common reasons that you may have your debit card declined are:

Reason #1: You Put in The Wrong Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Mistakes happen. You may not be paying attention. Perhaps you even remembered the wrong PIN. You could put in the wrong PIN for many different reasons. You may be required to enter your PIN when you initiate a transaction. However, it is important that you put in the correct number. The transaction will be automatically declined if you put in the wrong PIN.

Reason #2: You Hit Your Withdrawal Limits or Transaction Limits

Withdrawal limits are caps set by banks on the amount of money you can withdraw from your account. Limits vary by financial institution but are usually $500 for ATM withdrawals. You may also notice a transaction limit on your card. Banks can set a limit for the amount of money you can spend in a day with your card. These also vary by financial institution but are usually $5000 for daily card purchases. If you exceed any of these limits, your debit card can be declined.

Reason #3: Your Debit Card Expired

Your debit card has an expiration date. If you try to use your debit card past the date set then your card could be declined. While it may seem annoying, banks set expiration dates for a purpose. Expiration dates keep your personal information secure, maintain a good debit card condition, and allow you to keep up to date with issuer offers.

Reason #4: Your Personal Details Don’t Match What You Entered

You will likely see this as a problem with online purchases. When entering your personal information online to make a purchase, your details may not match the information your bank has on file for the card. Banks want to protect your information and sellers want to take the extra steps to verify your identity. Precautions exist for these reasons.

Reason #5: Your Bank Flagged the Transaction as Suspicious

Every financial institution is different. However, many have the right to declare a transaction invalid that they deem suspicious. Usually they decide a transaction is suspicious if it is out of character of your normal debit card behavior. This is a measure to keep your bank account safe from theft.

Reason #6: An International Purchase

If you travel abroad, you may run into some unexpected issues. Your currency may not be the currency in the place you are traveling. Typically banks offer cards that can be used internationally, but it varies amongst financial institutions. Even when you use these cards, they may not work the way they are intended. You can run into issues and have your debit card declined.

Reason #7: It is Just a Technical Difficulty

Even though you could be at fault for your debit card getting declined, that may not always be the case. Sometimes a bank and/or a seller can have a technical error within their system. This could be due to a number of reasons from a faulty internet connection, overload of transactions that get processed at one time, a power outage, a network outage, etc. There are countless reasons for technical difficulties that may be unrelated to your debit card.

Reason #8: A Decision From Your Joint Holder

If you have a joint holder on your credit card, they have the option to deactivate the card. Joint holders can be anyone but are typically either a spouse, partner, family member, or trusted friend. When they are listed as a joint holder on the card, they could deactivate your card without your permission. You cannot make any transactions on the card when it is deactivated.

Reason #9: Geoblocking

Some debit cards have geoblocking limitations that restrict card usage in certain areas. They may have these limits set for areas with high records of suspicious activity. You could have your debit card declined if you attempt to make a purchase in these areas. This is another feature that attempts to protect your information.

Reason #10: Insufficient Funds

Insufficient funds mean you don’t have enough money on the account for the transaction you are attempting to make. This is one of the more common issues that people face when dealing with debit card declines. If the purchase is more than the balance you have available to use, then it could be declined.

Reason #11: Gift Card Purchases

Sometimes, financial institutions do not approve gift card transactions since there can be a lot of fraudulent activity involved. Also retailers can have policies in place against the use of either a debit or credit card to buy gift cards. This is another attempt at reducing the amount of fraudulent activity associated with gift cards.

How Do You Fix a Declined Debit Card?

Just as there are issues to cause your debit card to get declined, there are also solutions. You have many methods to handle the variety of reasons for a declined debit card.

What to do if You Put in the Wrong PIN?

Luckily most card readers will allow another attempt for your PIN. The best way to avoid using the wrong PIN is to try to memorize it! It can be hard but try to not confuse your card PINs. You should not try to memorize it by writing it down and keeping it on your person. When you write the PIN down and keep it in your purse or wallet, a thief can easily access the information they need to use your card if they rob you. If you don’t remember your PIN you can contact your bank and they will be able to help you.

What to Do if You Encounter Transaction Limits?

Being aware of your money is key when avoiding this card restriction. You should know when you will exceed the limit, as long as you are aware of your transaction limits. If you are anticipating a purchase that will break these limits, you can contact your bank. They will likely be able to extend the limit in anticipation for the transaction or provide you alternative methods of payment.

How Can You Deal with Debit Card Expiration Dates?

You can usually find the expiration date of your debit card on the front of your card. When you see that the expiration date is approaching, you can call up your bank to ask for a new card.  They will be able to give you everything you need to handle the expiration date. When your expiration date approaches, you will want to shred your old debit card. Even if the card is not active, it has personal information that can be used against you. You may be able to have your new debit card get delivered faster if you ask your bank or already have an expired card.

How to Deal With Personal Information That Doesn’t Match Up?

The best way to handle this issue is to ensure the information is accurate. Make sure your debit card information is up to date at your bank. Your financial institution should have your most recent billing information. If you are experiencing issues then you can call your financial institution for help.

The Best Way to Deal with Transactions Flagged as Suspicious?

If you know that you will be in an unfamiliar area or making a random purchase, you can preemptively contact your bank.  When you give your bank a heads up they can anticipate these transactions. They may be able to adjust your withdrawal limits or transaction limits. This can reduce your chances of getting your debit card declined.

How Should I Prepare for International Purchases?

The best method here is to contact your bank. You will want to see about ATM networks overseas. This can reduce your chances of having your debit card declined. Your financial institution can assist you in handling your money when you travel. If you find that your bank does not offer a lot of international banking options then that may be a sign to find another financial institution.

What Can I Do When It is a Technical Difficulty Issue?

Unfortunately, this can be an issue that is out of your control. You can try to initiate the transaction again. However, if the issue is with the seller or with a banking issue, you may need to wait.

What If My Joint Holder Deactivated My Debit Card?

You want to talk to your financial institution. When you have a joint holder on your card, you could set terms for your card. These terms can include requiring both joint holders to sign off on any big changes like a deactivation. Not all financial institutions offer this option but it is worth looking into. If you want to have an account with joint holder protection, but your bank doesn’t offer this service, you can look into other banking options.

How to Deal with Geoblocking?

You can contact your bank to discuss what geo restrictions may be on your debit card. It may be possible for your financial institution to lift the restrictions for any upcoming travel. If your bank doesn’t offer this option, it may be best to consider other banking options without these limitations.

What to Do When You Have Insufficient Funds?

Some banks offer overdraft protection. This overdraft protection can vary by financial institution. However this protection can offer you the ability for your transaction to go through even if you go past your available balance for a fee. You can also avoid this issue by being aware of what is in your bank account. If you know what is your available balance and what transactions you need to make, you can plan accordingly.

How to Deal with Gift Card Purchases?

You may need to use an alternative purchasing method for this transaction. You can try using cash, a credit card, or running your debit card as credit.

What Should You Have Ready When You Contact Your Bank?

If you can’t immediately fix the issue on your debit card, then you may need to get in touch with your bank. Most of the time, customer service staff can help you quickly. They can assist you in resetting your PIN, confirming a transaction, increasing transaction limits, and more. However, it is good to have some information ready when you call your bank. You will want to to verify your identity with your:

  • Full Name.
  • Address.
  • Security Questions That May be on Your Account.
  • Other Personal Information.

Commonly Asked Questions About Having Your Debit Card Declined

Question 1: Will I Get Charged if My Debit Card is Declined?

A majority of the time, you will not get charged for a declined debit card. However, if the reason your debit card is declined is due to insufficient funds, you may encounter a fee. You may have an overdraft fee charged to your account if you go over your available balance limit. To avoid this, you don’t have to opt for overdraft protection. This usually means the transaction would get declined if you do not have enough money.

Question 2: Can I Run My Debit Card as a Credit Card When I have Low Funds?

It depends on the financial institution and the merchant. You may have the option to run your debit card purchase as a credit card purchase. However, you should talk to your bank to see if there are any terms around this.

When you run your debit card as a credit card you don’t need to use the funds that are in your bank account. Instead you can run it as a credit so that you “borrow” the money since it is given to you as a “credit”.

What’s the Difference Between a Credit Card and a Debit Card?

If you find that you do not have enough funds in your account, you may begin considering other options. Another payment option that people use are credit cards.

What is a Credit Card?

This is a type of card that is provided by a financial institution. This provides cardholders the ability to borrow funds from the lender (financial institution). When you get a credit card you agree to repay the money back. There are a bunch of types of credit cards from unsecured, secured, rewards, and more.

  • Unsecured Credit: This is a line of revolving credit. You do not need any collateral for this card.
  • Secured Credit: These cards usually require you to provide a collateral to open the card. This collateral is usually a cash deposit that determines the line limit of the card. However, it varies by financial institution.
  • Rewards Cards: This is a type of credit card that offers a variety of benefits to customers based on how much and where they spend.

You can oftentimes check out pre-approvals for credit cards. This means you don’t have to do a hard inquiry when checking your eligibility. Properly taking care of your credit can be a challenge. Factors like utilization rate, credit history, inquiries, and more can impact your score.

There are both benefits and drawbacks to using credit cards. Some advantages are:

  • Building Credit History: When you have a good credit score, you unlock a lot of opportunities. You save money by having lower interest rates, and can qualify for more financing options when it comes to important purchases.
  • Good Financial Security: Every financial institution is different. However, oftentimes credit cards conveniently manage fraudulent activity. They may have more secure protections when it comes to repaying fraudulent charges.

Just as there are advantages, there are disadvantages that you want to be aware of. Some drawbacks to using a credit card are:

  • Increased Risk of Debt: Debit cards only allow you to use your available balance. That means you can only use funds that you own. Credit cards can have spend limits that are more than what you currently can pay off. This can easily lead to debt.
  • Credit Score Management: When you get a credit card, you want to build your credit. However, that may not be the case if you mismanage your credit card. You can negatively impact your score and make it harder for yourself to get a good credit rating.
  • Interest and Fees: Your credit card could have high interest rates. The longer it takes for you to repay your card, then the more you spend. You could end up spending a lot of money on expenses that you normally wouldn’t need to pay for.

What is a Debit Card?

Now that you have a better understanding of a credit card option, you can compare this understanding to a debit card. This is a card that provides you the option to take money directly from your checking account. This is different from a credit card because the funds are already yours, you don’t need to borrow anything. Some common types of debit cards are:

  • Typical Debit Cards: These cards use money from your bank account for transactions unless explicitly run as credit, if applicable.
  • Prepaid Debit Cards: You can load a specific amount of money onto a prepaid debit card. This allows the user to spend what is on the card, but no more than that.
  • Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Cards: Both federal and state agencies provide these cards to eligible individuals. This allows them to use the benefits they receive in order to make purchases.

Similar to credit cards, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using this option. Some pros to using a debit card include:

  • Better Debt Management: Since you can only use funds that are yours, you can’t get into debt. When you borrow money from lenders you can deal with lots of repayment.
  • Fraud Protection: Just like credit cards, you can have secure fraud protection with your debit card. The level of protection on your account depends on the financial institution that you bank at.
  • Bonuses: You may be able to get bonuses or rewards on your debit card purchases. For example, banks may offer you the ability to get 5% cashback when you shop from certain merchants. You can save money on purchases you were going to spend money on anyway!

Even though there are these advantages, there are also disadvantages. Some cons of debit cards are:

  • No Credit Building: When you have a credit card, you work on building your credit score. Debit cards do not offer that same perk. Even if you handle your bills, your debit usage may not reflect that. You can use systems like Experian Boost to try and have some debit purchases like subscription payments go towards building your credit.
  • Fees: Debit cards may not have an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) that credit cards do. However, they have other fees that you may need to worry about. Maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, and more can be charged onto your account.
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