Debit Card Declined? 15 Reasons Why This Can Happen

If you’ve had your debit card declined at a restaurant or a store, the first thing you’re likely to think is that you’re probably running low on cash.

The second thing you think is, Oh god – this is embarrassing.

‘Your debit card has been declined’ is definitely not the words you want to hear in a store or a restaurant.

But don’t panic – having your debit card declined doesn’t mean all your money’s been spent.

15 Reasons Why Your Debit Card is Being Declined

There are many reasons why this could be happening – and below, we’ve listed the most common ones plus some tips on how to fix each problem.

  1. Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF)
  2. Wrong PIN
  3. Wrong PIN entered too many times
  4. Inactive Card
  5. Expired Card
  6. Suspicious Activity
  7. International Purchase
  8. Daily Limit
  9. Incorrect Personal Information on Record
  10. Your Card Type is Not Accepted
  11. Technical Issues
  12. Vendor Issues
  13. Damaged Card
  14. Your Joint Account Holder has Blocked the Debit Card
  15. You are using the Card Wrong

1. Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF)

When my card gets declined, that’s the first thing that pops into my head.

Having insufficient funds in your account is the most apparent reason why a card would get declined (if your bank doesn’t allow overdrafts).

When it comes to overdraft, you have to be careful if you want to save money.

Banks and credit unions usually charge you some money afterward for overdraft fees or overdraft protection.

If it becomes a habit, it might even result in a bad credit score.


Always keep track of your account balance, so you can avoid spending more than you have.

It could be easier if you have online banking and mobile banking to check on the go. Usually, it is even possible to get alerts on your phone.

2. Wrong PIN

Are you sure you are entering the correct Personal Identification Number (PIN) associated with that particular debit card? Are you forgetting a digit?

I don’t know about you, but it has definitely happened to me before. I was 100% sure I was entering the correct PIN, but the card kept getting declined.

Luckily I had another card with me, and I ended up using that one. When I got home, I realized I’d forgotten a number!


Before panicking, be sure the PIN you are entering is the correct one.

Some people know it by heart, and others keep it stored somewhere to access it when needed.

Be careful about where you keep your PIN. It shouldn’t be too at hand – or it could be stolen.

3. Wrong PIN too Many Times

If you keep entering the wrong PIN over and over again – your bank can block your debit card for safety reasons.

Don’t assume you have an unlimited number of times to “try out” different PIN numbers and get your card to work.

It might be your first instinct to try again, but after a couple of times, it’s better to surrender to the idea that you just forgot your PIN.


The best solution would be to learn your debit card PIN by heart. After all, the majority of us use a debit card multiple times a day.

If you can’t do it, write it somewhere only you know, so it will help your memory but not help a potential thief.

4. Inactive Card

Do you remember when you first received your card? You had to activate it before using it.

Usually, that only means using it at ATM networks and withdrawing a small amount of money or something similar.

If you try to purchase something with your debit card without activating it before, it will be declined.

If you have a new card, ask yourself if you have remembered to activate it before calling customer service.


Always ask your bank representative how to activate your card after receiving it and make sure you actually do what you’re supposed to.

If the problem persists, visit a local branch in person, call them, or contact customer service online. They’ll know what to do.

5. Expired Card

Could it be that your card is simply too old?

Every debit card has an indicated expiration date. Most cards last 5 to 10 years, but it depends on the card issuer.

If you try to use your card after it has expired, it won’t work.


It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but if you have had a debit card for many years and is not working anymore, try and check the expiration date.

My debit card issuer usually sends me a replacement card by mail before it expires to provide continuity of service.

They usually send me two different letters, one with the card and another one with the codes to make it work, for security reasons.

If the letter got lost or stolen this way, someone wouldn’t have both the card and the codes!

Anyway, your debit card replacement process might work differently, or maybe your financial institution could forget to send you the new card. You might need to contact your service provider.

6. Suspicious Activity

Sometimes banks or credit unions freeze your debit card to protect you and your money.

It can be annoying when you are trying to use your card, and it’s blocked for no apparent reason, but keep in mind that your bank only does this to avoid even bigger headaches for you and your personal finance.

Have you bought something online, and that is something you don’t usually do?

Did you purchase something unusual that is out of your ordinary routine?

Have you spent a significant amount all at once for a large purchase?

Actions like these can alert your financial institution, and as a result, your card might get blocked.


Ideally, you should warn your bank if you will perform an extraordinary action or purchase with your debit card, so they know and won’t get alarmed. You can do that by contacting them directly.

Though, the truth is that sometimes we do one of these things, not even realizing they are out of the ordinary!

Sometimes fixing the problem is as easy as replying “yes, it was me” to an automated email that you get from the bank.

Other times, you will have to call customer service. They should be able to reactivate your card in no time.

7. International Purchase

If you don’t warn your bank that you will be traveling to another country, they may register your purchase as something unusual.

They think it probably wasn’t you – and block your card to protect your money and your account.

If you think about it, it’s better this way. What if someone stole your card info and was using them internationally, and your bank didn’t detect it? It would be much worse!

If indeed it was you who purchased because you are traveling, this should be easy to fix.


The only way to fix it is to contact a bank representative or call the phone number for customer service to get help and unblock your card.

They will most likely ask you for some personal information, and you’ll be all set.

However, I believe that the best way to fix this problem would be to prevent it. When you are about to go abroad, alert your bank. You can get an appointment at a branch, talk to them by phone or contact them as you like.

By doing so, they won’t get alarmed by your international purchases, and the rest of your vacation or business trip will continue smoothly.

8. Daily Spending Limit

You have just checked: there are enough funds in your account, the card is active, you are not traveling, so no problems on the horizon.

Why is your debit card declined then?

Simple: most banks have a daily spending limit and a daily withdrawal limit, which means that on any given day, you can’t exceed an agreed-upon amount, even if you have plenty of funds available, you will have to wait for the next day for that purchase (or use another payment method).


Keep in mind that your card has a daily limit. If you don’t know what that amount is, call customer service, talk to a bank representative, or have a look at the papers you signed when opening your account.

If you aren’t happy with those limits, try to agree upon different conditions with your bank or switch to a different financial institution.

Not all of them follow the same rules. There might be one that suits your needs better.

9. Incorrect Personal Information

This issue could come up if you’re shopping online. As you know, retailers will usually ask you to enter your name, last name, billing address, and sometimes phone number and email too.

If you accidentally misspell your name or address, your card may get declined.

As with the incorrect PIN number, be careful about entering the wrong information too many times.

You could get logged out of the website for a certain period of time, or your card could be blocked if your bank suspects fraudulent activity.


Be careful about entering the correct information while shopping online.

If you can’t remember which address is connected to your card, write it down in a safe place that you can check before completing a purchase.

Also, make sure that the site you are using is a legitimate one that won’t steal your money or data!

I like to use prepaid cards with not much money on them for online purchases on my laptop or mobile app to be safe.

10. Your Card Type Is Not Accepted

Not every vendor accepts all kinds of debit cards. There’s Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and many other debit cards out there – and each vendor decides which ones to accept.

Which cards they accept usually depends on the fees they will have to pay per transaction.

American Express, for example, has a reputation for being really expensive.

As a result, some shops might not want to accept it because they lose more money on the sale than if you paid with another card.


Before using your debit card, you could ask the vendor if they accept it (especially if it’s something other than Visa or Mastercard).

Usually, the vendor should notice if you are trying to use a card they don’t accept.

Still, it’s always best to ask to rule out this option before considering other problems your card might have.

If the vendor doesn’t accept the card, there’s not much you can do. You can either go to a different vendor, use another card, or make an ATM withdrawal to pay with cash.

11. Technical Issues

Technical issues often happen while you are trying to pay. They can happen on your end of the bank’s end.

There could be various issues, but the most common technical problems include slow internet connection, power failure, or network overload.


These problems usually fix themselves. The answer is often just waiting a few minutes. If the problem persists, contact your financial institution.

12. Vendor Issues

Sometimes you are not the problem – the vendor is. The shop, just like you, might be experiencing technical difficulties, or they may not be in good standing with their bank.

As a result, their POS could not be working correctly, making your card decline.


If that is why the terminal doesn’t work, that’s nothing much you can do. It’s all in the vendor’s hands.

If you still want to purchase from that vendor, you have the option of withdrawing money and paying cash.

Maybe you can go back later to see if the problem has been resolved.

13. Damaged Card

Does your card have scratches or cuts or something else it shouldn’t have?

Debit cards are just pieces of plastic after all, and, just like anything else, they might break.


If your card is in bad shape and you suspect it might be due to a physical problem, get it replaced.

Some banks may charge you for replacing the card.

14. Your Joint Account Holder has Blocked Your Card

Are you not the only person who has access to your bank account? That might be why your debit card declines.

If you are not the only owner of the checking account, it means that someone else may have blocked it.


The best thing to do here is to ask the other person who jointly owns your bank account to know why the debit card isn’t working.

They might give you an explanation.

15. You Are Using it Wrong

I know what you are thinking: how could I possibly be using my debit card the wrong way?

Yep – it seems pretty straightforward, but these days there are multiple ways to use cards.

Sometimes you have to slide them, insert the chip, and other times they are wireless.


Make sure you are doing what the machine asks you to do at the checkout before giving up.


Why is my debit card declined when I have money?

There could be so many reasons other than not having enough money in your account.

There could be a technical issue, or you might have forgotten to activate your card.

Perhaps your card has expired, and you didn’t notice – or maybe your bank blocked it to protect you from fraud following (what they deem to be) suspicious activity.

If you want to find out what happened, we compiled a list of possible reasons that might help you in the article above.

How do you fix a declined debit card?

How to fix a declined debit card depends on why the card was declined in the first place.

For example, if you have forgotten to activate it, go on and do that. Easy fix! If it has been blocked instead, you will probably have to call your bank and so on.

For more information, you can read the full article above.

Why is my debit card being declined?

Cards can get declined for several reasons.

Check out the most common reasons why your card could get declined above and how to fix every one of them. We’ve tried to cover it all – but, of course, there could be others.

If none of the above apply to you, you may need to get in touch with your bank account provider.

They should be able to point you in the right direction.

Why is my debit card not working?

If you have money in the account and the retailer seems to accept your type of card but your debit card still isn’t working, there might be some technical issues with the POS or the vendor network itself.

Don’t panic – call your bank for further reassurance if you’re worried there might be suspicious activity going on.

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