Why Was My Debit Card Declined?

A debit card not working at the checkout counter is never a fun experience. It can be embarrassing or frustrating trying to figure out why this happened. Nowadays, it’s also very common to have problems with your debit card not working online. In some cases, it might have been due to an error on the merchant’s side – but for most of us, there are reasons behind our debit card being declined that we may need to address.

This article will list the possible reasons why your debit card was declined. We will also suggest steps on how you can fix the problem and tips on how to avoid this from happening again in the future. Here are 11 possible reasons why your debit card is not working.

11 Reasons Why Your Debit Card Was Declined, Solutions, and Tips on How to Avoid This Problem

1. You’ve Run Out of Funds

One of the most common reasons why your debit card was declined is because there is no money available in your bank account. For debit cards, you have to agree or “opt-in” to an ATM or debit card overdraft feature. An overdraft feature will allow you to use your debit card even if there are no sufficient funds in your account. You will be charged an overdraft fee if this happens. If you have not opted in, then your card will be declined.

However, even if you have an overdraft feature on your debit card, most banks put a limit on how many times it can charge you an overdraft fee. The limit is usually 4 to 6 times per day. If you exceed this number, you may not be able to use your debit card.

How to fix it:

If you have insufficient funds in your account, you have to deposit more money before you can use your debit card again.

If you have opted into the overdraft feature, you must check how much money you’ve overdrawn and the associated fees. If your balance is below zero, the bank could take the repayment from your next deposit. 

For example, you unknowingly withdrew $200 over your available funds so your account is now – $200 (plus fees if applicable). Now you want to make an online purchase worth $100, so you deposited that amount in your account. Your debit card may still not work because your balance is still – $100.

How to Avoid it:

If you want to have the flexibility to spend over your available funds, sign up for the overdraft option. You can also track your account balance by installing the mobile banking app on your phone or using a personal finance app. You can also sign up for an SMS service that lets you know how much is in your account every time you use your debit card.

2. You Went Over the Daily Spending Limit

Many banks usually impose limits on how much you can spend or withdraw from your bank account using your debit card per day. If you go over this limit, you may not be able to use your debit card until the next day.  This is to protect you in case your card was lost or stolen to reduce your potential loss.

How to fix it:

Call the bank’s customer service department to check what your daily spending limit is. You can also ask if it is possible to increase this limit if you are using your bank account for large purchases.

How to Avoid it:

If you are planning to use your debit card for multiple transactions in one day, check first whether it will exceed your daily limit. Having a mobile banking app will help you monitor your spending.

3. You Entered the Wrong PIN

This is a very common issue for a lot of people who are using their debit cards to withdraw money from a machine or to pay physically in store. If you enter an incorrect PIN multiple times, the bank will block your card because it will assume that your card has been compromised.

How to fix it:

Call the bank’s customer service to reset your PIN. If you have the mobile banking app, you could also request this from the app.

How to Avoid it:

Writing down your PIN is never advisable. What you can do instead is install a secure password manager app on your phone. Another great technique is to use the word or name method if you have a hard time remembering random numbers. Pick a four-letter word or name and the letters will correspond to the number on your phone dial (2 to 9). For example, the password you picked for your debit card is DAVE, the password will be 3283.

4. Your Debit Card is Not Valid or Supported for the Transaction

Let’s say you have sufficient funds in your account and you’re doing all the right things but it’s still not working. You might be asking: Why is my card being declined online when I have money? The answer may be because your card is not supported by the machine or merchant.

Some ATMs and merchants only accept certain types of debit cards for transactions. For example, if the merchant only accepts VISA debit and credit cards but you have a MasterCard debit card, your card may not be accepted.

How to fix it:

In this situation, your only option is to find an alternative ATM or merchant that will accept your debit card.

How to Avoid it:

Having a secondary debit or credit card will be helpful. For example, if you already have a VISA debit card, getting a MasterCard prepaid card can be a good backup plan.

5. You’re Not Entering the Correct Information Online

Another very common question is: Why is my debit card not working for online purchases? All the reasons listed in this article could be the answer but one of the top reasons is human error.

When purchasing from some websites, you will be asked to enter information to complete the transaction like the card holder’s name, number, expiry date, etc. These details should match exactly the information registered with the bank. If you make a mistake, the card will be declined.

How to fix it:

Double check the details you’re entering. Make sure that every letter and number matches the info on your card or in your bank account. if your card is still being declined, call customer service as your card may have been blocked.

How to Avoid it:

Before clicking PAY or submit, always double check the information that you have typed in.

6. Your Transaction was Flagged as Suspicious

Another reason why your debit card was declined could be because your transactions were flagged as suspicious activity. This is usually the case when you use your card to purchase from an unfamiliar website or store that you have not transacted with before or you’ve made repeated or large purchases in a short amount of time.

How to fix it:

Call customer service to reactivate your debit card. You can also inform them about the transaction so they can let it go through on your next attempt.

How to Avoid it:

To avoid your debit card being blocked because of online purchases, using a separate prepaid card or a money app (PayPal or Venmo) can be alternatives.

7. You are Using Your Debit Card for International Purchases

If you’re using your debit card while you’re in another country or for an international purchase, it may be possible that your bank is not supported in that country or your bank does not allow international purchases.

How to fix it:

Call customer service to check whether international purchases are allowed on your debit card. Request if they can lift the restriction moving forward.

How to Avoid it:

Before making any international purchase, call your bank beforehand to let them know to expect this purchase. This way it will not be flagged as suspicious activity.

8. Your Debit Card is Expired

Just like credit cards, debit cards have expiration dates, too. If your debit card is way past the expiry date, then it will be declined by the merchant.

How to fix it:

Banks usually send you a new debit card several weeks before your debit card’s expiry date. Check your mail if you have received the new debit card. These cards usually come in an unmarked envelope. If you have not gotten the card yet, call customer service to request a new debit card.

How to Avoid it:

Always check your debit card’s expiry date. At least 3 months before the expiration, check with customer service if they have sent the new card yet or if you can request one in advance.

9. Your Debit Card is Not Yet Activated if it’s Newly Issued

Are you using a new debit card? You have to activate a new debit card whether it is your first one or it is a renewed one.

How to fix it:

There will be instructions that will come with the new card on how to activate the card. You can also check the bank’s website or call customer service for instructions. 

How to Avoid it:

As soon as you receive a new card, make it a point to activate it immediately. Once you are sure that it’s activated, properly dispose of your old debit card (cut it several ways so they cannot be taped back and used).

10. Your debit card was deactivated by a joint account holder

Do you share a joint account with another person? If so, it’s also possible that the person could have deactivated the use of your debit card.

How to fix it:

Check with customer service whether your debit card was deactivated by your co-owner of the account. Confirm what steps you need to take to reactivate the debit card.

How to Avoid it:

Arrange with the bank that they should gain the permission of both account holders before deactivating debit cards or performing any major changes to the account.

11. Your Bank’s System is Experiencing Technical Issues

Last but not the least, one reason your card is being declined is that the bank’s system may be down due to technical issues.

How to fix it:

Wait for about 15 minutes and try again. You can also check the website, the app, or call customer service if the bank is facing any technical problems.

How to Avoid it:

In this scenario, all you can do is wait it out. But again, having a backup prepaid or credit card for purchases is a good idea.

Keep Track of Your Debit Card Spending

Avoid having your debit card being declined again by always being diligent about your spending activity. Downloading a personal finance app like Mint or Personal Capital can greatly help you monitor your financial activity without hassle.