Steps to Take When Your Credit Card is Declined

So you’ve just experienced the not-so-fun situation of having your credit card declined. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

Steps to Take When Your Credit Card is Declined

Having your credit card declined can be a frustrating and embarrassing experience. Whether you’re trying to make a purchase online or at a physical store, a declined credit card can lead to inconvenience and stress. However, it’s important not to panic. There are several reasons why a credit card may be declined, and solutions to resolve the issue. This article will guide you through the immediate actions to take, how to address specific reasons for decline, preventative measures, and steps to take in case of fraudulent activities. Additionally, we will discuss how credit card policies, managing credit card debt, rebuilding credit score, considering credit card alternatives, and seeking professional help can impact your credit score and overall financial health.

Reasons for Credit Card Decline

There are a few common reasons why your credit card may be declined. Understanding these reasons can help you better navigate the situation and take appropriate action. The three main reasons for credit card decline are insufficient funds, an expired card, and merchant error.

Insufficient Funds

One of the most common reasons for a credit card decline is insufficient funds in your account. Before making a purchase, it is essential to ensure that you have sufficient funds available to cover the transaction. If your credit card decline is due to insufficient funds, follow these steps to resolve the issue:

Immediate Actions to Take

When your credit card is declined, it’s crucial to take immediate action to determine the cause and find a solution. Here are the steps you should take:

Verify Card Details

Before taking any further steps, double-check the card details you entered. Make sure you’ve entered the correct card number, expiration date, CVV code, and billing address. A small mistake in any of these details can result in a decline.

Contact the Credit Card Issuer

If you have confirmed that the card details are correct, contact your credit card issuer or bank to inquire about the decline. The customer service representative will be able to provide you with specific information about why your card was declined and guide you on what to do next.

Inform the Merchant

If the decline is due to an issue on the merchant’s end, such as an error in their payment processing system, it’s important to inform them about the decline. The merchant may be able to provide alternative payment options or resolve the issue on their end.

Resolving Insufficient Funds

If the reason for your credit card decline is insufficient funds, here are the steps you can take to resolve the issue:

Check Account Balance

Login to your online banking or contact your bank to check the available balance in your account. Make sure you have enough funds to cover the transaction. If not, consider transferring funds from another account or depositing money into your account to ensure sufficient funds are available.

Transfer Sufficient Funds

If your account balance is low, transfer the necessary funds from another account to cover the transaction. This can be done through online banking or by visiting your bank’s branch.

Retry Payment

Once you’ve ensured that there are sufficient funds in your account, try making the payment again. In most cases, the transaction will go through successfully.

Dealing with an Expired Card

If your credit card has expired, it will likely be declined when you try to use it for a transaction. Follow these steps to resolve the issue:

Check Expiration Date

Verify the expiration date on your credit card. If it has already expired, you will need to take immediate action to renew or replace your card.

Request Card Renewal

Contact your credit card issuer to request a renewal or replacement card. They will guide you through the process and provide you with the necessary information to update your card details.

Use Alternative Payment Method

While waiting for your renewed card to arrive, consider using an alternative payment method. This could be another credit card, a debit card, or a digital wallet. Many merchants offer multiple payment options, so you can still complete your purchase without any delays.

Addressing Merchant Error

If the reason for your credit card decline is due to a merchant error, such as an issue with their payment processing system, follow these steps to address the issue:

Verify Merchant Details

Double-check the merchant’s payment information to ensure you’ve entered it correctly. Make sure you’re using the correct payment method specified by the merchant.

Contact Merchant Support

Reach out to the merchant’s customer support to report the decline and inquire about the cause. They may be able to assist you in resolving the issue or provide you with alternative payment options.

Provide Additional Information

If the merchant requests additional information or documentation to verify your identity or payment details, provide them with the required information promptly. This will help expedite the resolution of the decline.

Preventative Measures

While it’s important to know what steps to take when your credit card is declined, it’s equally important to take preventative measures to avoid such situations in the future. Here are some preventative measures you can take:

Keep Track of Card Expiration

Monitor the expiration date of your credit card and make a note of when it is set to expire. This will help you remember to renew or replace your card before it expires and avoid potential declines due to an expired card.

Monitor Account Balance

Regularly check your account balance to ensure you have sufficient funds available for upcoming transactions. Set up balance alerts or reminders to stay informed about your account balance.

Update Card Information

If there are any changes to your card details, such as an address change or an updated card number, make sure to update the information with your credit card issuer. Outdated or incorrect card information can result in declined transactions.

Checking for Fraudulent Activity

In some cases, a credit card decline may be an indication of fraudulent activity on your account. It’s essential to be vigilant and take immediate action if you suspect any fraudulent activity. Here are the steps to follow:

Review Recent Transactions

Regularly review your credit card statements and online banking activity to identify any suspicious or unauthorized transactions. If you notice any unusual activity, it may be a sign of fraud or identity theft.

Report Suspicious Charges

If you identify any suspicious charges or unauthorized transactions, contact your credit card issuer immediately to report the fraudulent activity. They will guide you through the process of disputing the charges and ensuring your account is secure.

Review Credit Report

Periodically review your credit report to look for any unauthorized accounts or inquiries. Monitoring your credit report can help you identify any signs of identity theft and take appropriate action to protect yourself.

Understanding Credit Card Policies

To effectively manage your credit cards and avoid any declines, it’s important to understand the policies and terms associated with your credit card. Here are some key factors to consider:

Read Terms and Conditions

Take the time to read and understand the terms and conditions associated with your credit card. This will help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a cardholder, as well as any fees, interest rates, or penalties that may apply.

Know Credit Limit

Be aware of the credit limit on your card and avoid exceeding it. Exceeding your credit limit can result in declined transactions and potentially impact your credit score.

Understand Card Usage

Understand how your credit card can be used and any restrictions associated with it. This could include limitations on cash advances, balance transfers, or specific types of purchases. Understanding these restrictions will help you avoid unnecessary declines.

Managing Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt can be a significant financial burden, so it is crucial to manage it effectively. Here are some steps you can take to manage your credit card debt:

Create a Budget

Evaluate your income and expenses to create a realistic budget. Allocate a portion of your income towards repaying your credit card debt. By organizing your finances and setting aside funds specifically for debt repayment, you can gradually reduce your outstanding balance.

Pay Off High-Interest Debt

If you have multiple credit cards with varying interest rates, prioritize paying off the cards with the highest interest rates first. By focusing on high-interest debt, you’ll save money on interest charges and make progress towards paying off your debt faster.

Seek Financial Advice

If you’re struggling to manage your credit card debt, consider seeking advice from a financial professional. They can help you develop a personalized debt repayment plan and provide guidance on strategies to reduce your debt and improve your financial situation.

Rebuilding Credit Score

If your credit score has been negatively impacted by credit card debt or other financial challenges, rebuilding your credit score is essential. Here are some steps you can take to rebuild your credit score:

Make On-Time Payments

Paying your credit card bills and other debts on time is crucial for rebuilding your credit score. Late payments can significantly impact your score, so make it a priority to pay all your bills by their due dates.

Reduce Credit Utilization

Keep your credit utilization ratio low by using a smaller percentage of your available credit. Aim to keep your credit card balances below 30% of your credit limits. This demonstrates responsible credit use and can positively impact your credit score.

Dispute Errors on Credit Report

Regularly review your credit report for any errors or inaccuracies. If you identify any incorrect information, such as unauthorized accounts or incorrect payment history, dispute them with the credit bureau. Removing or correcting these errors can help improve your credit score.

Considering Credit Card Alternatives

While credit cards can be convenient, they may not be the best option for everyone. If you’re looking for alternatives, consider the following options:

Apply for a Secured Card

If you have a low or limited credit score, applying for a secured credit card can be an effective way to build or improve your credit history. Secured credit cards require a cash deposit as collateral, making them a more accessible option for those with less-than-perfect credit.

Explore Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards function similarly to debit cards, but they are not connected to a checking account. These cards allow you to load a specific amount of money onto the card, which can be used for purchases. Prepaid cards can be a suitable alternative for those who want to limit their spending or manage their budget more effectively.

Try Digital Wallets

Digital wallets, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or Samsung Pay, offer a convenient and secure way to make payments using your smartphone or smartwatch. These digital payment options eliminate the need to carry physical cards and provide an added layer of security for your transaction.

Impact on Credit Score

Experiencing a declined credit card typically does not directly impact your credit score. However, the situations that lead to a declined credit card can have a direct or indirect impact on your credit score. Here’s how different scenarios can affect your credit score:

Temporary Dip in Score

If you’re unable to pay your credit card bill on time due to financial constraints or insufficient funds, it may result in a temporary dip in your credit score. Late payments can be reported to credit bureaus and remain on your credit report for up to seven years.

No Impact on Credit Score

A declined credit card itself does not impact your credit score. The decline is typically due to issues with funds, expired cards, or merchant errors. As long as you resolve these issues promptly, your credit score will not be affected.

Negative Consequences

Repeatedly having your credit card declined due to insufficient funds or late payments can have negative consequences for your credit score and overall creditworthiness. It is important to maintain responsible credit behavior to avoid long-term negative impacts on your credit.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, managing credit card issues or debt on your own can be overwhelming. It may be beneficial to seek professional help to navigate these challenges. Here are some options to consider:

Consult Credit Counselor

Credit counseling agencies offer guidance and assistance in managing your credit card debt. They provide personalized advice and can help you develop a debt repayment plan. They may also negotiate with your creditors to lower interest rates or establish a manageable repayment schedule.

Engage with Debt Settlement Agency

If you’re struggling with significant credit card debt, a debt settlement agency may be able to help. These agencies negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce the total debt amount. However, it’s important to note that debt settlement can have a negative impact on your credit score, so consider it as a last resort.

Consider Credit Repair Services

Credit repair services can assist you in improving your credit score by disputing inaccuracies on your credit report. They may also provide guidance on proper credit management and offer strategies to rebuild your creditworthiness. Before engaging with any credit repair service, research their reputation and ensure they are legitimate.


Experiencing a declined credit card can be frustrating, but it’s important to remain calm and take immediate action. By following the outlined steps, you can identify and resolve the issue that led to the decline. Taking preventative measures, understanding credit card policies, managing credit card debt, and rebuilding your credit score are essential for maintaining a healthy financial life. Remember, seeking professional help is always an option if you need further guidance. By staying proactive and responsible, you can overcome credit card declines and maintain financial stability.