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Tips to avoid your credit card purchases from being declined

Information verified correct on December 5th, 2016

How to avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of having your credit card purchases declined.

In the early days of credit cards people often only used them for the occasional one-off big purchase like a holiday, or maybe even a new television. Today it is more common for people to use their credit cards instead of cash, and for transactions as small as fuel purchases, or a weekend takeaway.

At some point in your life you will go through the slightly embarrassing experience of having a card transaction declined. If this happens locally, and you have another method of payment, it will an inconvenience and nothing more. However, if you are in a foreign country, and only have your credit card on you as a method of payment you could have a real problem.

Use this guide to discover why your credit card transaction may have been declined and what you can do to avoid rejected purchases in the future.

Why was my credit card transaction declined?

To be certain of the exact reason your credit card transaction was declined, you need to speak to your credit card company. However, these are some of the common causes:

  • Odd spending pattern

If your card provider notices strange patterns in your spending habits they may well put a block on your credit card for security purposes. For example, if you only ever use your credit card a couple of times a week for very small purchases, and then in one day there are 3-4 large purchases made, your issuer may flag the activity as strange or potentially fraudulent and will block the card.

  • Daily limit

Some credit cards have daily spending limit within the terms and conditions. If you have not read your terms properly you may not be aware of these and this could result in you overspending and having a transaction declined.

  • Spending abroad

If you're planning to use your credit card overseas, you should contact your card provider to let them know beforehand. If your issuer sees a range of transactions happening overseas, they might suspect it's a fraudulent payment and block your card.

  • EFTPOS offline 

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. If this is the case, you may be asked to sign the tax invoice for authorisation.

  • Exceeded your credit limit. 

Every credit card comes with a maximum credit limit that you shouldn't exceed. While some credit cards let you spend beyond the credit limit and will charge you a fee, others will simply decline the transaction if you spend beyond the limit. If you require more credit, you can find out how to increase your credit limit with our guide.

The different codes used to describe why your transaction was declined

Did you know that when your card is declined the EFTPOS machine is sent a code from the bank handling the transaction? These range from incorrect PIN, expired card, suspected fraud and more. These are some examples of response codes from a Commonwealth Bank credit card:

Response CodeMeaning
41Card has been lost - take into possession
55Incorrect PIN
54Expired card
59Suspected fraud on credit card - take card into possession
33Expired card - take card into possession

These examples are taken from Commonwealth Bank documentation, keep in mind that these may vary from bank to bank, and different EFTPOS machines at your chosen retailer.

Who to contact when your credit card transaction is declined

If your card is declined, it's still best to get in contact with your bank first to confirm exactly why it was rejected and what you can do to resolve the issue. Use the table below to find the relevant contact details for your credit card issuer.

Credit card providerPhone numberAvailable (AEST)

ANZ

13 13 14

24/7

Bank Australia

132 888

8:00am to 8:00pm, Monday to Friday

Bankwest

13 17 19

8:00am to 8:00pm, 7 days

Bank of Melbourne

13 22 66

24/7

Bank of Queensland

General card enquiries: 1300 55 72 72

American Express: 1300 366 220

7:00am to 7:00pm, Monday to Sunday

BankSA

13 13 76

24/7

Citibank

13 24 84

24/7

Coles

Mastercard: 1300 306 397

Platinum: 1300 552 710

8.00am to 9.00pm Weekdays

8.00am to 8.00pm Saturday

8.30am to 8.00pm Sunday

 

Commonwealth Bank

13 2221

24/7

CUA

133 282

8:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Friday

8:00am to 4:00pm Saturday

HSBC

132 152

8:00 am to 9:00 pm, 7 days

Jetstar

1300 150 100

24/7

Macquarie Bank

1300 150 300

24/7

NAB

13 22 65

8:00am to 7:00pm Weekdays

9:00am to 6:00pm Weekends

St.George

13 33 30

8.00am to 8.00pm Monday to Saturday

Suncorp

13 11 75

24/7

Virgin

13 37 39

24/7

Westpac

Gold Card enquiries: 1300 367 228

Platinum and Platinum Plus Card enquiries: 1300 859 100

8:00am - 8:00pm, 7 days

Woolworths

1300 10 1234

8:00am to 8:00pm Monday to Friday

9:00am to 5:00pm Saturday

10:00am to 5:00pm Sunday

A declined credit card can be an embarrassing and inconvenient occurrence, but usually the bank puts it in place to protect your finances. If you've had a transaction rejected, make sure to get in touch with your bank immediately to report the issue and discuss your options.

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12 Responses to Tips to avoid your credit card purchases from being declined

  1. Default Gravatar
    Diana | July 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.

    • Staff
      May | August 1, 2016

      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
    M | August 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.

    • Staff
      Jonathan | September 1, 2015

      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
    amanda | April 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?

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | April 15, 2015

      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
    michael | January 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.

    • Staff
      Matt | January 20, 2014

      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
    Jason | November 5, 2013

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

    • Staff
      Jacob | November 6, 2013

      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.

  6. Default Gravatar
    sam | December 23, 2012

    i want to know why my transaction on atm using my card is displaying decline transaction

    • Staff
      Jacob | December 25, 2012

      Hi Sam. Best to contact your lending institution.
      Jacob.

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