Why is my debit card declined when I have money

By Matt Mayerle
Modified on May 8, 2023
why is my debit card declined

Has this ever happened to you:

You fill a shopping cart full of great finds and awesome deals. You make your way to checkout, and the store needs your debit card. But when you swipe, tap, or enter your information, your debit card gets declined.

You open up your mobile banking app, and you can see a balance that can clearly cover the amount of your purchase. So you ask yourself: “Why is my debit card declined when I have money?”

Whether it’s a trip to the store or a round of online purchases, A declined debit card can happen in any situation for lots of reasons. In this blog, we’ll look at how you can spot the problems and make the fixes you need.

What is a Debit Card?

Also known as a check card or a bank card, a debit card is a payment card that deducts money from your checking account. It’s a plastic card that is linked to an account at a bank or credit union. These cards are widely used—approximately 17 billion are in use around the world.

Before debit cards, consumers would either have to write a check or go to a bank, credit union, or automated teller machine (ATM) to use their cash. This may seem outdated now, as some folks aren’t even sure how to write a check anymore. A whole generation of debit card users has never known what it is like to use cash and checks as their primary payment method.

How Does a Debit Card Work?

Debit cards allow consumers to spend money with the ease of using a credit card. All the major credit card companies back virtually all debit cards. If your debit card has either a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or DiscoverCard logo, it is good wherever those credit cards are accepted. Virtually all debit cards look like the credit cards that back them. Additionally, there are debit cards that can fit on your keychain as a little plastic fob. In recent years, debit cards have also become available in digital form so that you can access them on a phone or mobile device.

A debit card also acts as an ATM card, so when you need actual cash, you can access it from almost any machine on the planet. Depending on the store you’re in, you can also pull cash from your account while you’re using your debit card during another purchase.

Difference between Debit Cards and Credit Cards

Although a debit card looks and spends like a credit card in most transactions, there are big differences between a debit card and a credit card.

The major difference between the two is that debit cards do not offer a line of credit. Your debit card’s spending power is directly linked to the balance of your checking account. For example, if you only have $650 in your checking account, vendors will only accept your debit card for purchases totaling $650 or less (unless you have overdraft protection on your account). On the other hand, credit card transactions are the same as borrowing money, which means you can buy things without paying for them immediately. And like online installment loans or quick cash loans, credit card usage also comes with interest and fees.

Advantages of Having a Debit Card

Using a debit card is like writing a check. You’re using your money to pay for something at the moment, so you don’t have to worry about setting up some payment plan that charges you interest. In that sense, you will save money by using a debit card over a credit card.

Unlike with credit cards, getting a debit card usually doesn’t require an application process. If you have a checking account, you can get a debit card if you want. You can also get an additional debit card on the account so that your partner, a relative, or another trusted individual can have access and spending power.

Since they are accepted wherever credit cards are accepted, you can use a debit card around the world in thousands of retail shops and restaurants.

The most important advantage of a debit card is safety. You don’t have to carry a checkbook or cash that can easily be lost or stolen with a debit card.

Disadvantages of Having a Debit Card

Unfortunately, the ease of using a debit card can also present many issues.

Debit card users may have to pay additional processing fees depending on your bank or the vendor/store you’re purchasing from. Also, ATMs that are not affiliated with your bank will charge fees on any cash withdrawals.

Many debit card users are known to struggle with managing their checking accounts. Because a debit card makes spending so fast and easy, users often forget to balance their checkbooks to know exactly how much money they have.

Possible Reasons Your Debit Card Declined

There are millions of debit cards transactions made every day around the world. While many of them go through without hassle, lots of debit cards are declined for various reasons.

If you have to ask, “Why is my debit card declined when I have money?” there is a good chance that the answer is both simple and fixable. Let’s take a look at a dozen of the most common reason that your Debit card is declined, even though your bank account balance can cover it.

Most of the Time, the Answer is Simple

Having a debit card declined unexpectedly is a pretty frustrating and confusing situation. But, before you start to dig too deep, consider that the issue may be one of these clear-cut problems.

Insufficient Funds

Insufficient funds are the main reason that debit cards are declined. Having insufficient funds means that there isn’t enough money in your account to cover your purchase.

Even though you may have enough money in your checking account, there is a difference between your bank account balance and your available funds. When money is deposited into your account—whether it’s through a physical check or an electronic deposit—there is usually a period of time it takes to “clear” your account and become available for spending.

Before you shop, be sure to check your account’s available balance. If it does not appear on the homepage of your financial institution’s website or mobile app, look into your account and balance your transactions. Also, ask your bank about overdraft protection options.

Incorrect Card Number Entered

With most in-person debit card transactions, you can either swipe or tap your physical card at a sales register. But when you have to enter your credit card number, you add the chance of human error into the mix.

Debit card numbers are long, so it’s easy to get a number mixed up here and there. If your debit card is declined, double-check your entry to ensure that you got all the numbers entered and in the correct order.

Incorrect PIN or CVC

Your personal identification number (PIN) is a number that you choose that is used to confirm that you are authorizing the charge in person. The card verification value (CVV) is a unique number printed on the card itself (usually next to the signature box).

Since they confirm that the cardholder’s debit card number and card are being used, Almost all debit card transactions today require users to enter either a PIN, CVV, or both.

If your debit card is declined, make sure that these numbers are entered correctly.

Technical Issues

A declined debit card isn’t always the fault of the users. Vendors can also have faulty equipment or a bad data connection that won’t allow a transaction to get approved by the bank. If you know that your account is good, you may need to wait for the vendor to fix the problem on their end.

Sometimes, it’s the Card.

A debit card is a great financial tool. But sometimes, a declined debit card means that your tool may need some fixing. Here are some physical issues that you can face with a declined debit transaction.

Card Not Activated

When you get a debit card in the mail, it will not be ready for use right out of the envelope. For security purposes, a debit card must be activated using some pieces of your personal information. Activation instructions are usually sent with the card, or you can contact the card issuer and have a customer service representative assist you.

Card is Expired

Another feature of a debit card and a credit care share is an expiration. Every few years, your debit card expires to ensure that it stays in good condition and up to date. If your card is expired, contact your bank to have a new one issued to you.

Damaged Card

If your debit card’s magnetic stripe or chip is scratched or damaged, you may have difficulty using your card at many locations. Try typing the card numbers into the machine that you are using. However, order a replacement card as soon as possible.

Debit Card Not Accepted

A declined debit card transaction may also mean that your debit card isn’t accepted by the vendor you’re using. There are many reasons (mostly related to fees) that restrict businesses from using certain types of debit cards. Before you decide to shop or do business with a vendor, check to make sure that your card is valid.

Other Times, it’s the Bank.

Here are some reasons that cause banks and credit unions to decline debit transactions

Bank Detects Suspicious Activity

If a bank thinks that thieves compromise your account, it will shut down access to your account by declining charges. A high number of transactions in a day or purchases made online or internationally can trigger this action. You’ll have to contact your bank to get things approved.

You Reached Your Daily Spending Limit

Some cards may only allow a certain amount of money or the number of transactions approved each day. There are many reasons that banks institute a daily spending limit, so talk with your bank to see if your account’s limits can be adjusted. At the very least, you may get a one-time exception if you contact your bank ahead of time.

International Purchase Issues

To protect your account against fraud, banks are known to decline charges coming from international businesses. If your debit card is declined, give your financial institution a call to explain the activity.

How to Protect Your Debit Card

Here are some ways to keep your debit card from experiencing issues that can cause it to get declined.

Keep Your PIN Safe and Secret

If you want to save money from slipping out of your account, keep your PIN to yourself. You may also want to consider using security software to store it, along with other important information.

Stick to using your Bank’s ATMs

Using an ATM other than the ones operated by your bank will almost always mean added fees. But, stand-alone machines (like in convenient stores and train stations) can be equipped with devices to store and steal your personal information.

Check Your Bank Account Often

Balancing your checking account is not only a good financial habit, but is also the best way to keep your money safe. Take time to check your listed transactions against your personal records so that you know exactly what’s coming in and out of your account.

Report Signs of Fraud Immediately

The biggest debit card issue any user can face is the potential for fraud. Thousands of con artists use everything from high-tech spyware to old-school scams to steal debit card numbers. If they aren’t caught in time, a thief can drain a bank account and leave you on the hook for overdraft fees and penalties. Contact your card issuer if you think you are a victim of fraud.


Your debit card provides access to your cash that’s fast and super convenient. But, with that ease comes a ton of opportunities not only for errors but theft and fraud as well. When you’re using your debit card, remember to monitor your transaction from beginning to end. And if you know that you have money that you can’t access, work with your financial institution to provide information.


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