Why Is My Debit Card Declined? [Plus, How to Fix Deactivation]

Picture this: You’re having a normal day, and you stop by the store. You grab several things you need and head to the register, pulling your debit card out of your wallet as you do. When it’s time to pay, you slide your card, only to see the word “denied” appear on the screen.

If you’ve experienced this first hand, you know that it can be, at best, an embarrassing inconvenience and, at worst, throw off your financial goals. Your debit card may be declined for several reasons, and it doesn’t always mean you don’t have money.

If you’re asking the question, why is my debit card declined when I have money, read on for the things that might have gone wrong and how to fix them.

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Why Is My Debit Card Being Declined When I Have Money? (11 Reasons)

There’s not just one reason that a debit card will not work. See these 11 reasons debit cards can be declined.

1. Insufficient funds for your purchase

The first reason your card might decline isn’t that you don’t have money but because you don’t have enough for that purchase. If you only have $100 in your account and try to buy something for $200, it isn’t going to work. 

To fix this, add more money to your account, or use a different account. This should fix the problem of a debit card declined even when you have money.

2. Fraud alert

Another reason you might be having trouble using your debit card is a fraud alert. A lot of things can trigger a fraud alert.

For instance, buying something from a place you usually don’t, like an unusual location. Another thing is buying something that isn’t typical for you. Any other suspicious activity can also trigger a fraud alert.

And, of course, there’s also the possibility that someone has made an unauthorized purchase with your card. Contact your bank right away about any purchases you didn’t make and correct any issues with not being able to use your card.

3. Your card is not activated

This is a pretty simple fix; it could be that your card isn’t activated. You can use a few different methods to activate, including an ATM and online.

Be sure to do this before trying to use your debit card, and fix debit card deactivation.

4. Your card is expired

This happens with all debit cards eventually, and they need to be replaced from time to time. Usually, your bank will send you one in the mail before it expires. Activate the card to use it, and the problem should be solved. 

Related: When you get a new debit card, does the card number change?

5. Your card type is not accepted by that merchant

Not every card is accepted everywhere. The merchant you’re buying from may not accept your card. If this happens, try a different form of payment, using a card they will accept or cash.

6. Incorrect account details, such as address 

You may have submitted the wrong account details, like with your zip code. This can cause your debit card to be unusable.

To remedy this, check your account details and make any necessary corrections with your purchase. 

7. Wrong pin

If you enter the wrong pin, your card won’t be usable. If you’ve forgotten your pin, contact your bank for assistance.

Or, if you’re using the wrong one, make sure to find the correct pin and use that one when making a purchase with your debit card.

8. The merchant’s card reader is not working

Sometimes it isn’t your fault at all, but a technical error. The merchant’s card reader could be broken or temporarily unusable.

In this case, the merchant needs to handle this. You can try a different card or use cash, depending on what the merchant can accept.

9. You’ve reached your daily spending limit

Most debit cards have daily spending limits you can’t go over. The amount is set by your bank, so you need to see what their policy is.

If you’ve spent a lot of money using your debit card in one day, there’s a chance that you’re over your spending limit. 

10. Your money is in the wrong account

Maybe you thought you could use your debit card because you had a certain amount in the account, but it could be in a different one.

This might be due to automatic transfers or forgetting that your money was in a savings account instead. Transfer funds to use your debit card.

11. Damaged card

Sometimes cards get damaged and become unreadable to machines. If your card is bent or scratched, you may not be able to use it. You can ask for a replacement card from your bank.

How do you fix a declined debit card?

Now that you know all the reasons why your debit card may be declined, how do you fix it? Here are some solutions.

Try the transaction again

Sometimes, it’s as simple as giving the transaction another try. Just ask if you can swipe your card again since it didn’t work the first time. It’s very possible that it will work the second time.

Double-check the information

Check your card information and make sure it’s correct. Use your bank’s app to ensure you have money in the account. Sometimes a quick double-check is all you need to do.

Make sure you’re using the right card

Maybe you thought you were using your debit card but tried to use another card instead. If that card is damaged, has insufficient funds, or has some other issue, you may not be able to use it. Look at your card and make sure it’s the correct one.

Log into your checking account and check the status of your account

Check on your bank app and see the status of your account. If your account is frozen or inactive, you won’t be able to use it.

Make sure there haven’t been any errors you need to contact your bank about.

Contact your bank

This may take a few minutes, but if all else fails, and you know you have enough money, contact your bank to see what the trouble is. They should be able to look everything up and tell you what’s going on.

Be prepared with your card information and account activity ready. It will be faster if you already have the info they may ask you for.

Backup methods to have in place of debit card

A declined debit card can happen to anyone. So what are some ways to be prepared for this and not have to deal with any card declining incidents?

See some of these alternatives to keep with you in the event that your debit card doesn’t work.

Second debit card with an emergency fund

You may want to have more than one debit card. Set up an account with a different bank, and keep your emergency fund in a checking account there.

Then, always carry that debit card with you as a backup method in case a debit card is declined. If something happens with the card you usually use, you can quickly and easily switch to a different approach.

Just make sure the purchase is an actual emergency if you’re using your emergency fund. Here are some good reasons to use your emergency fund.

Cash

It’s wise to carry some cash with you. It isn’t recommended that you have a lot of cash in your wallet: $100-$300 is best.

But you should have some cash with you for emergencies. If your debit card declines while making a routine purchase, you’ll have something you can use instead.

Savings account that easily transfers money

You can set up a savings account where you bank for your regular checking account and debit card. Suppose your card declined because of insufficient funds.

In that case, you may be able to transfer over some money quickly, and then you’ll be able to use your debit card as usual. 

Credit card

A last resort option is a credit card. I do not recommend going into debt at all, but sometimes a credit card is good to have with you.

If you know you have the money in your account, but for some reason, your debit card is declining, you can use your credit card. From there, you can pay off your credit card as soon as possible, so you don’t carry a balance or get charged for interest. 

This is not the same as buying something with credit that you know you can’t afford. When you use a credit card instead of a debit card, always pay it off immediately to keep from going into debt.

Having your debit card declined is frustrating, but by contacting your bank, you can usually get things resolved. 

It is an annoyance and sometimes concerning, but a declined debit card is not the end of the world. It’s usually easy to fix using one of the methods discussed here.

You can also contact your bank, which will typically solve problems quickly and efficiently. They can look at your account and tell you exactly what’s going on.

If your debit card is declined, don’t worry. Use one or a few of the options discussed, and don’t forget to always have an alternative form of payment as a backup. 

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Steffa Mantilla

Certified Financial Education Instructor

Steffa is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and the founder behind Money Tamer. Her 12-year background in operant conditioning and positive behavioral change training is used to help people find effective motivators to change their harmful money behaviors. Steffa explains the reasons “why” behind people’s financial behaviors and how to successfully change them. After paying off over $80,000 in debt through budgeting, she now teaches families how to get their own finances in order. You can learn more about her here.

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