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Why was my credit card declined?

If your credit card transaction is declined, it's usually for one of these 6 common reasons.

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When your credit card is declined for a transaction and there's a line of people waiting behind you, you just want the situation resolved, pronto. Most of us reach for another payment method so we can high-tail it out of there and deal with the issue later. If you have had a transaction declined, one of these 6 common reasons is likely behind it.

1. Machine error

EFTPOS machines use the phone network to communicate with the banks to verify and authorise your transactions. If there is a system outage at the point of sale or with the bank's server, the transaction may be declined.

Solution:

warning sign and credit card iconIn this situation, you're usually able to proceed with the transaction if you sign as authorisation slip. If it's a wider outage that impacts a number of different retailers, the merchant may stop processing card payments in the short-term while the issue is sorted.

2. Human error

Buying something online? If the transaction relies on you typing in the individual credit card numbers, then there's a chance you've transposed the digits or entered the expiry date incorrectly. It could also throw up an error message if you've selected the wrong card type (eg you select Visa, then type in a Mastercard account number).

Solution:

smartphone with padlock iconOnline shopping is a very forgiving medium; simply review the digits and hit the purchase button again. The error message won't always tell you what went wrong, so check the number, full name, expiry date, card type and CCV on the back to make sure all the details are correct.

3. Suspected fraudulent transaction

If your credit card issuer notices suspicious activity on your account, it may block your account for security purposes. For example, if you usually only use your card for small, everyday transactions and then use your card to make multiple large purchases in one day, your issuer may put a freeze on your account and decline the transaction. If you're planning to use the card to make a big purchase or another transaction that may be considered unusual (such as spending on the card overseas), notify your card issuer so they're aware in advance and don't freeze your account.

Solution:

hacker iconYour bank will usually contact you if this happens, and they'll quickly unfreeze the account if you confirm it was a legitimate transaction made by you.

4. Overseas security measures

If you're planning to use your credit card overseas when you're travelling, it's worth contacting your card provider to notify them of your travel dates and where you're travelling to. If your issuer spots an international transaction on your account without you giving them a heads up, they might suspect that your card is being used for a fraudulent transaction, decline the purchase and block your account.

Solution:

airplane and credit card iconWaiting on hold for your bank is no-ones idea of fun, but letting them know before you travel can prevent you having card access issues if they block your card.

5. Insufficient funds

Almost every credit card has a maximum credit limit. Some credit cards will let you spend slightly beyond that limit and will charge you a fee. For instance, if your limit is $2000, your balance is $1900 and you make 2 purchases for $75 each, the card card provider might allow both transactions to be processed, but they'll levy a $15 over limit fee. Others will decline the transaction if it will push your balance over your available credit limit. You can keep track of your credit limit with your monthly statements or on-the-go via your online banking account or banking app.

Solution:

mobile phone payment iconYou should be able to make an instant transfer from your savings to your credit card if you need instant access. If it happens frequently and you think you could benefit from a higher credit limit, contact your card issuer for a credit limit increase.

6. Daily account limits

Some credit cards set a daily spending limit and your card will be declined if you spend beyond this. For instance, your total credit card limit might be $10,000, but you have a daily spending limit of $2,000. Unfortunately, many people first encounter this issue on the day that they try to spend more than their daily limit, which can be frustrating if you need to make an urgent payment.

Solution:

dollar coin and thermometer iconIf there is a daily limit in place on your account, you can usually change this in internet banking. Otherwise, call your credit provider directly.

How credit card decline codes can explain why your credit card was declined

When your card is declined in a store, the EFTPOS machine receives a code from the bank handling the transaction that describes why the transaction wasn't approved. As an example, here are some Commonwealth Bank credit card declined codes:

Terminal response codeDescription
54Expired card
55Incorrect PIN
57Transaction not permitted
59Suspected fraud
S1Amount greater than credit limit

Keep in mind that codes can be different between banks and EFTPOS machines. For example, the St.George declined code 05 means "Do Not Honour", which covers suspected fraud, stolen or expired cards, insufficient funds and invalid CVNs (card verification number).

What to do when your credit card is declined

Here are you have a credit card declined and you've tried the above solutions, check the declined code on the merchant receipt. The terminal will print out or display this code, which can help you find out why it was declined. If it isn't immediately clear from the receipt, contact your credit card issuer; they will help you work out why the transaction was declined and what you can do next.

Who to contact when your credit card transaction is declined

If you're unsure why your card was declined, you can contact your card issuer directly to confirm why and resolve the issue. We've provided a list of contact details for some of the credit card issuers in Australia in the table below.

Credit card providerPhone numberAvailabilities

ANZ

13 13 14

24/7

Bank Australia

13 28 88

Monday to Friday - 8am to 8pm

Saturday - 9am to 2pm

Bankwest

13 17 19

24/7

Bank of Melbourne

13 22 66

24/7

Bank of Queensland

1300 55 72 72

24/7

BankSA

13 33 22

24/7

Citi

13 24 84

24/7

Coles

1300 306 397

24/7

Commonwealth Bank

13 22 21

6am to 10pm

CUA

13 32 82

Monday to Friday - 8am to 8pm

Saturday - 8am to 4pm

HSBC

132 152

24/7

Jetstar

1300 150 100

24/7

Macquarie Bank

02 8232 3333

24/7

NAB

13 22 65

Monday to Friday - 8am to 7pm

Saturday - 7am to 6pm

Sunday - 9am - 6pm

Qantas Money

1300 922 700

24/7

St.George

13 33 30

Monday to Saturday - 8am to 8pm

Suncorp

13 11 55

24/7

Virgin Money

13 37 39

24/7

Westpac

13 20 32

8am - 8pm

Woolworths Cards

1300 10 1234

24/7

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12 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    DianaJuly 30, 2016

    My Amex Black card is not functioning overseas..it has been declined a few times since leaving home. Our Li led MasterCard is okay. Please let me know URGENTLY VIA EMAIL why it is nit functioning.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayAugust 1, 2016Staff

      Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your inquiry. Please note that you’ve come through to finder.com.au we are an Australian financial comparison website and general information service and we do not represent any credit card company

      Just to confirm, what’s the name of the credit card company that issued your AMEX card? Since we do not have access to your credit card account, you’d be best if you contact your credit card issuer directly so they can advise why your credit card was declined.

      Cheers,
      May

  2. Default Gravatar
    MAugust 30, 2015

    I have an eftpos debit card and can use my savings and current account with a PIN. Can I use it to access my credit account?I tried but the transaction was declined.
    The card has an embedded chip.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JonathanSeptember 1, 2015Staff

      Hi M E, thanks for your inquiry!

      To access a credit account you will need an eligible credit card. It would be best to contact your bank directly to access your credit account.

      Cheers,

      Jonathan

  3. Default Gravatar
    amandaApril 15, 2015

    My westpac debit card said declined but i had my pay in there. Could it be due to my account was overdrawn for 2 weeks but its now in credit? How do i use my card now?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      ElizabethApril 15, 2015Staff

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for your question.

      You might want to log in to your Internet banking account and check you had sufficient funds to make the transaction. If your account was overdrawn you were likely charged fees (Westpac charges $9) which may have taken more funds out of your account than you realised. If your account was in credit and you had sufficient funds to complete the transaction, you might want to get in contact with Westpac directly to discuss why the transaction didn’t go through.

      I hope this has helped.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

  4. Default Gravatar
    michaelJanuary 19, 2014

    Was declined 2 times last Friday from online companies came back declined code 05 , I rang bank and they said there was sufficient funds and no block on my card ,I did not exceed limit and phone lines were not down no won can give me answer as to why.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MattJanuary 20, 2014Staff

      Hi Michael

      Thanks for your message and sorry to hear you’ve been having problems.

      Perhaps there was other circumstances in place with the error code 05. Is your card working now?

      Thanks
      Matt

  5. Default Gravatar
    JasonNovember 5, 2013

    Why doesn’t your bank contact you first before they block you card in regards to the odd spending pattern?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JacobNovember 6, 2013Staff

      Hi Jason.

      Thanks for your question.

      It’s just a security thing. If you don’t let your bank know about your travel plans, the bank has to be quick to block your account if they suspect a suspicious transaction. The bank or lender wants your funds to be secure so as soon as they sense something odd they block the card right away.

      Let the bank know about your travel plans if you want to stop this from happening to you while you’re overseas.

      I hope this helps.

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