card-declined (1)

The top reasons your debit card may decline and how to avoid it

Avoid embarrassment when you checkout by fixing debit card issues beforehand.

A debit card differs from a credit card in that the funds you are using are being withdrawn directly out of your banking account. This allows you to make transactions like purchases and even ATM withdrawals without you having to pay interest charges.

Yet like a credit card, the merchant or provider can deny the transaction for a number of different reasons. Knowing the possible causes ahead of time can help you to avoid being turned away when checking out.

If you find that none of the proposed fixes below help with your situation, please get in touch with your bank directly to troubleshoot the issue.

Reason 1: You don’t have enough funds

This is likely the most common cause of a debit card being declined and one that you can easily avoid by keeping careful track of your spending money. Unless you have a linked overdraft facility, most banks will not allow you to make a purchase or withdrawal that extends your available balance.

How to avoid it:

Check to see if your financial institution offers a mobile app that shows your current balances and transactions. You can check this before making your purchases to ensure that you have enough funds to cover them.

Reason 2: You’ve made an international purchase

Many accounts now offer Visa or Mastercard debit cards, which allow you to use them when travelling overseas. This is a convenient and secure way to make your overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals. Unfortunately, it does not always work the way you intended it to, and you could find yourself without access to your account if your debit card is declined.

How to avoid it:

Familiarise yourself with the ATM networks that accept your debit card overseas. You should also inform the bank before making your trip so that they will not flag your purchases as unusual activity. This should usually help in making sure that your money is always available to you.

If you bank with CommBank, you can notify them of your travels through NetBank – you don't even need to go into a branch!

Reason 3: Your bank was suspicious of the transaction

Most banks do reserve the right to decline any transaction that they deem to be out of character with your normal spending or withdrawal habits. In most cases this can be cleared up at the register with a quick call to the bank, but it still could cause you some embarrassment.

Banks such as ANZ have security features in place, such as ANZ Falcon. Sometimes, they can be a little too safe and block authentic transactions.

How to avoid it:

If you have plans on making a large purchase, notify your bank beforehand to get pre-authorisation.

Reason 4: You’ve reached your withdrawal limit

To help protect your funds, most financial institutions will have daily withdrawal limits on your accounts. This will often be a combination of ATM and EFTPOS withdrawals, and can prohibit you from obtaining the cash you need.

How to avoid it:

Know what the daily withdrawal limits are for your accounts, and if you know that you will need to exceed them, inform the bank ahead of time. In most cases they will extend the daily limit for you if given notification. You can also check these online.

Reason 5: The information you’ve entered doesn’t match your personal details

This is a common occurrence when making online purchases, as the merchant takes extra precautions to verify your identity. This could be done by asking for your mailing address or other identifying details.

How to avoid it:

Before making a purchase online check the account paperwork and be extra careful and triple-check everything – so that you know exactly which information you entered when applying for the card or account.

Reason 6: It’s expired

Some debit cards also have expiration dates like a credit card will have. If yours has expired, it will not be accepted at ATMs, EFTPOS terminals or online.

How to avoid it:

Check the date and know when the debit card is due to expire. Ask for your replacement card well in advance of that date to avoid not having a convenient way to access your account. Just make sure that you destroy the old card, as it does contain personal information that you don’t want others to be privy to.

Reason 7: Your joint holder deactivated your card

If you have opened a joint banking account with your spouse, partner, or other family member they could be allowed to deactivate your debit card without permission from you. This means your card will be unusable for making purchases or withdrawing cash.

How to avoid it:

With a joint account you can opt to make it necessary for both account holders to sign for any major changes to it, including adding or deactivating any debit cards.

Reason 8: You entered the wrong PIN

The personal identification number (PIN) you chose must be entered correctly in order for some transactions to be allowed. If you enter that number incorrectly, the transaction will automatically be declined.

How to avoid it:

Memorise your PIN and try not to confuse the cards if you have more than one account with a linked debit card. It is never suggested that you write the PIN on the card or keep it in your wallet as this will make it easier for a thief to access your account if your wallet or purse is stolen.

Compare debit cards

Rates last updated November 16th, 2018
Name Product Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Monthly Account Fee Product Description
HSBC Everyday Global Account
No foreign ATM or transaction fees.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy no minimum ongoing balance or transaction requirements and the flexibility to hold up to 10 currencies. Apple Pay and Google Pay available.
NAB Classic Banking
Enjoy convenient, unlimited access to your money.
$0 monthly account fee.
Tap and pay with your NAB Visa Debit card, NAB Pay for Android or NAB PayTag for iPhone. Temporarily block your card at the touch of a button if you lose it.
ING Orange Everyday Account
No fees for any ATM in Australia or overseas.
$0 monthly account fees.
Enjoy $0 ATM withdrawal fees when you deposit $1000 and make 5+ card purchases per month. Get a competitive ongoing variable rate when linked with the ING Savings Maximiser.
HSBC Day to Day Transaction Account
Open an account and easily switch your regular payments over from your current bank.
$0 monthly account fee.
Through your linked Visa debit card, you can access exclusive shopping, travel and restaurant deals here and abroad through HSBC's home&Away Privilege Program.
Citi Global Currency Account
Hold up to 10 currencies.
$0 monthly account fee.
Enjoy one linked debit card to hold up to 10 currencies and receive foreign currencies for free. Earn up to 2.25% p.a. interest on your AUD balance.
NAB Classic Banking with Platinum Visa Debit Card
$10 cashback on contactless purchases, $0 foreign transaction fee and complimentary travel insurance.
$10 monthly account fee.
Receive $10 cashback when you spend $1000 on contactless purchases. Complimentary travel insurance, transport accident insurance, purchase protection insurance and more when you meet eligibility criteria.

Compare up to 4 providers


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Shirley Liu

Shirley Liu is a program manager at finder, formerly the publisher for Banking and Investments. She is passionate about helping people make an informed decision, save money and find the best deal for their needs.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    December 30, 2016

    i got a neww debit card use it at the atm it worked but now i cant use it and my money goes to my card not through a bank i cant use it at register or on line i got my checkon it what can i do

    • finder Customer Care
      LouDecember 30, 2016Staff

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your question.

      We have listed several possible reasons why you are no longer able to use your debit card at a register or online. But to be sure, you can directly call your bank to confirm. They are also able to assist you in resolving this issue.


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