how to fix a declined debit card

There is nothing quite like the horrible embarrassment that comes with having your debit card declined in the middle of the grocery store with a line of people waiting behind you. This could be mortifying for almost anyone, regardless of whether it is a result of insufficient funds. 

Even if you have enough money in your bank account, there are a plethora of reasons why your debit card is declined. It can be incredibly frustrating when your debit card declines, especially publicly, and you have no idea why since you are sure you have sufficient funds. 

Debit Card vs. Credit Card: Don’t Mix Up Your Cards

Most of us are aware of the essential difference between a debit card and a credit card. Debit cards are connected to a bank account with limited cash funds, which will inevitably run out if not replenished. 

Unlike debit cards, a credit card will only stop working when you reach the credit limit, which is often a lot more money than we actually have. Credit cards are more like loans for quick cash than the money we actually have in our possession. 

To most, this is obvious; however, many of us are preoccupied or stressed and just blindly reach into our wallets for whatever credit or debit card we grab first. Using your debit card consistently without ensuring that your checking account has enough money can lead to multiple instances of needless embarrassment. 

To avoid this, organize your debit and credit cards in your wallet, so you always know exactly what you are reaching for when completing purchases. In addition to this, mobile banking makes it easier than ever to double-check that you have sufficient funds before completing a transaction. 

Your mobile banking app should enable you to quickly transfer funds from your savings account into your checking account before you get to the register if you wish to avoid using a credit card.

Why Might a Debit Card Get Declined?

Debit cards get declined for all manner of reasons, many of which are easily solved with a simple call to your bank. We will give you a rundown of the possible reasons your debit card was declined so that you can fix the issue and avoid finding yourself in this embarrassing situation again. 

Here are some of the most common reasons why your debit card is declined: 

Suspicious Transactions

Your bank could have declined certain transactions that appear suspicious to them. Spending could be flagged as a suspicious transaction for any number of reasons, from a substantial purchase to too many online purchases in a short amount of time. 

Most financial institutions have complex technological systems in place to detect strange spending patterns to protect you from fraudulent transactions. While this can be extremely helpful in instances of identity theft, it can be triggered by your own spending activity and cause your debit card to be declined, majorly inconveniencing you. 

You might receive an email, text, or notification from your banking app to alert you of the suspicious activity as your card is declined. These notifications will usually allow you to affirm that it was you to unlock your account. If not, call your bank directly, and they should be able to rectify the issue immediately. 

International Purchase

If you are traveling and did not warn your bank beforehand, your debit card could be declined when you attempt to use it for international transactions. Using your debit card in another country than you usually do is often flagged as suspicious activity, which could lead the bank to assume a possibility of fraud or identity theft. 

They may put a full stop on transactions until they get into contact with you. A problem like this can be easily solved by notifying your bank that you are abroad and the attempted charges weren’t fraudulent. To avoid this happening at all in the future, just give a travel notice to your financial institution before making any international transactions or atm withdrawals. 

Debit Card Has Expired

Have you checked the expiration date on your debit card lately? A lot of us forget that debit cards have expiration dates just the same as credit cards and driver’s licenses. Most financial institutions will send new cards to replace expired debit cards around a month before the expiration date arrives. 

However, if you have not received a replacement card and only have an expired card in your possession, you will want to contact your bank or credit union to request one be sent to you. It could have just been an oversight, but you will want to double-check that they did not send out a new debit card that was stolen in transit.

Technical Issues

Sometimes having your debit card declined really comes down to something as simple as technical problems. But malfunctions like these, whether it be with the card issuer or store you are at, are still relatively common. 

Perhaps your bank is having some issues, or the card machine isn’t working properly. You could always ask the person behind the cash register to input your debit card manually, and if your card is declined still, then you will want to contact your bank.

Insufficient Funds

The most obvious of reasons why your debit card gets declined is because of insufficient funds. However, as we mentioned previously, you may not have been keeping a close eye on your checking account, so you thought you had more money than you had.

It is always a good idea to check how much money you actually have in your account before determining what else it could be. You don’t want to waste time on the phone with a customer service representative when you can make a simple funds transfer.

ATM Withdrawal Limits

Most banks have a daily withdrawal limit that includes the amount of money you can withdraw from an ATM and spend with in-store purchases or shopping online. This daily spending limit is typically high enough not to be of concern most of the time. However, if you plan to spend the extra cash, it’s good to familiarize yourself with your bank’s limit. 

This spending limit is in place to prevent your bank account from being drained by someone who stole your debit card. But if you already know that the purchases you need to make will exceed the daily withdrawal limit, you can contact your bank ahead of time, as most of them will be willing to extend the spending limit temporarily. 

The Card Hasn’t Been Activated Yet

If your declined debit card is brand new, you simply may not have adequately activated it yet. New debit cards require activation with the card issuer either by phone or online. And if you have not activated the card and attempt to use it, your debit card will probably be declined. 

Having your debit card declined, for this reason, is easily solved by activating your card according to the instructions of the card provider. Most banks offer several options for activating a new debit card, including using their app on your mobile phone or withdrawing money from an ATM.

Deactivation of Your Debit Card

When you have a joint account with a spouse, family member, or business partner, the other person on the account could deactivate your shared bank account without your knowledge. If the joint holder deactivated the account, your debit card would automatically be declined when you used it next. 

If you think this might be the reason your debit card was declined, you should contact the joint account holder to discuss the issue. It’s possible that they have more than one account and they accidentally deactivated the wrong account. Clearing it up with them so that they can reactivate the account, so you don’t have your card declined again. 

Incorrect PIN Entered

Having your card declined could be a simple issue of inputting the wrong personal identification number (PIN). This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often you might hit a wrong number or input a pin number for your credit card rather than your debit card pin. You might have changed your pin number recently and forgotten that you did. 

Double-check that you don’t have the wrong pin before inputting it into the card machine again, as multiple incorrect pin entries could flag suspicious activity to your bank, causing them to lock your bank account. Having your account locked due to using the wrong pin multiple times will get your debit card declined until you call your bank. 

Damaged Debit Card

It is possible that having your debit card declined is due to it being damaged. It might be noticeable damage like a scratched-up magnetic strip or a bend or tear in the plastic. However, not all the damage a debit card can receive is visible. 

Sometimes extreme temperatures or natural wear and tear can deteriorate the magnetic strip enough to make it so your debit card is declined. In this instance, the best solution is to use another payment method and order a new debit card as soon as you can. 

Incorrect Personal Details 

Sometimes when trying to check out, especially with an online purchase, you might be asked to provide personal details associated with your account. Inputting the wrong information that your bank has on file will get your debit card declined. 

Online vendors tend to be extra cautious since identity theft is far more common with online purchases. For this reason, you could be asked to provide the full name on the card, your zip code, and the address your bank has on file. 

If you’ve moved recently, this can make things confusing. Luckily, it should be easy enough to call your bank and confirm your personal details, so you don’t get them wrong moving forward. 

Do You Get Charged for a Declined Debit Card? 

In most instances, you will not be charged when your debit card is declined. The only instance in which fees are common is if your debit card does not have enough funds and you overdraft your account.

Insufficient Funds and Overdraft Fees

Most banks will charge you an overdraft fee if you charge your Debit card and the transaction is completed without enough funds. Transactions processed with insufficient funds will lead to a negative balance that will cause a fee to be charged to your account. 

For this reason, it is crucial to be aware of your debit card’s balance at all times so that you can save money on unnecessary charges. If you are ever unsure of your balance, utilize your banks mobile app to check it before completing a transaction with your debit card.

Overdraft Protection

Most banks offer some kind of Overdraft protection that could protect you from any fees you might be charged for over-drafting your debit card due to insufficient funds. Overdraft protection makes it so that your debit card will consistently be declined when you do not have enough money in your account to cover the transaction. 

In conclusion, your debit card could be declined for any number of reasons, but, luckily, a quick fix is usually just a quick phone call away. Running through the possibilities and then getting in contact with your bank should give you the answers you need to take care of any and all transactions you want to complete.


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