Debit Card Declined? Here’s Why [+ How to Fix]


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Have you ever gone to the store, ready to purchase something with your debit card, and when it’s time to pay, the cashier says that your debit card has been declined?

This can be really frustrating. While it might feel awkward asking for help in front of other customers (although this shouldn’t stop you from doing so), there are reasons why this situation happens a lot.

There could be several issues preventing your debit card from working as intended. But first, before we get into that: what is a debit card anyway?

What is a Debit Card? 

For starters, let’s remember how debit cards work: you swipe the magnetic strip at a point-of-sale terminal and enter your PIN number to authorize a purchase.

This is different from using your credit card, which means that you’ll be paying for the things you buy with money taken out of your bank account rather than getting a line of credit.

The funds are then transferred directly between you and the merchant, so it’s best to use a debit card only when you know that you have enough money in your account to cover the transaction.

What Happens When Your Debit Card Is Declined?

If there isn’t enough money in your checking account, or if the bank decides to block an unusual transaction (usually as part of an ATM fraud prevention tactic), this will cause most point-of-sale terminals to display “DEBIT CARD REFUSED” or “DEBIT CARD DECLINED.”

The merchant is notified of this, and you will either need to pay with another debit card or use a form of payment (such as a starter checks) that doesn’t involve your checking account, such as by writing a check or using cash.

  • Once the debit card has been declined, the transaction will usually not proceed, and the funds that were supposed to be taken out of your account will not be transferred.

However, it’s also possible for a debit card transaction to be declined even if you have enough money in your checking account because of how banks and retailers process debit cards.

Debit Card Decline Codes

Many debit card decline codes can notify banks and retailers why the debit card transaction has been declined. For example, Visa debit card decline codes can range from a specific reason like “insufficient funds” or “account not recognized by bank” up to a more vague explanation of why the debit card transaction was declined, such as “card security code violation.”

debit card decline codes

Visa debit card decline codes can also be accompanied with information about the type of problem that took place, including whether it came from a specific retailer (“retailer returned/corporate) or the financial institution (“financial institution”).

When your bank declines your Visa debit card, they will notify you through virtual messages (e-mail and text messages), as well as through paper documents.

Visa debit card decline codes are different from Visa provisioning service decline codes.

Many debit card decline codes can be used, and each of them notifies different parties involved in the transaction about why the debit card was declined. For example, Visa uses debit card decline codes for fraud prevention or incorrect PIN number entry.

Common Reasons Your Debit Card Was Declined

As mentioned, there are many reasons your debit card could be declined.

The following are some reasons for declined transactions that you may want to keep in mind:

Your card limits have been reached

 Many debit cards don’t have a set spending limit on them, but the bank can block your transaction and decline it if you’ve already spent too much money this month on your debit card.

This is a common practice among credit card companies since they don’t want people to spend more than they can ever afford to pay back later.

The upper limit that the bank allows for most transactions is usually between $400-$500 per purchase, which means that if you’re at the store buying something that costs more than that, there’s a good chance the transaction will be declined because your allotted spending budget for this month is already used up.

You have insufficient funds in your bank account associated with your debit card

If you are lacking enough money in your checking account to cover a purchase, most debit cards will decline the transaction and inform the retailer that there isn’t enough money to go through. Knowing bank direct deposit times can help avoid this situation.

Similarly, if someone tries to use a debit card with an expired date or an invalid expiration date, then the issuer may refuse all transactions on that card until it has been replaced with a valid one again.

Some banks send out PIN resets by text message, but it’s best to call them and let them know about a new phone number for you so they can contact you more efficiently if problems arise regarding your debit card.

You may also have insufficient funds if your proportion of loan balances to loan amounts is too high which could also be an issue for your bank debit card.

Your bank has rejected the transaction

Sometimes banks will reject a debit card purchase because they think it’s fraudulent.

This could happen if you try to make a big purchase with your debit card that exceeds the usual amount of money that comes out of your checking account or if your debit card is supposed to be canceled (as an example).

Banks are often pretty strict about this sort of thing because some thieves can use other people’s ATM cards and steal their hard-earned cash right from under them. Check out where to get a money order near me as an alternative payment method.

You haven’t signed up for overdraft protection on your checking account

If you don’t sign up for overdraft protection, you’ll have a denied transaction any time you try to spend more than your account balance.

Your bank won’t let you spend more than the amount you have in your checking account, and when you try to make a big purchase with your debit card, they may decline it before you ever even get the chance to say yes or no.

Your card hasn’t been activated yet or has expired

If your issuer hasn’t activated your debit card, it may reject any transactions that you try to make with it until you’ve used it to verify that you’re the rightful owner of the account once again.

However, if your expiration date is coming up soon, then there’s a good chance that your debit card won’t work right now because the bank will be trying to contact you regarding this issue. Know how to send money anonymously on PayPal as an option.

It’s not uncommon for banks and issuers to send letters out 1-2 months before an expiration date, telling their customers when they should expect their cards to stop working. Usually, these expire on an earlier date than what’s printed on the card itself since you’re supposed to call or email them if there are any discrepancies with your debit card.

You’ve used an ATM that’s not from your bank before

Some ATMs outside of banks aren’t regulated by the same rules as those inside banks and can allow for different types of transactions that may be considered suspicious.

This may be why some ATMs will decline debit cards when customers try to use them more than once at a time, but most issuers have verified no factual information about this. If anything, though, multipurpose machines like these usually only have issues with credit cards, not debit cards.

There are other options for instant online check cashing than debit cards and ATMs.

Your debit card was reported stolen or lost

It’s essential to call your bank if you think that your debit card was stolen or lost and someone else might be using it now since this can often cause issues when you’re trying to make future purchases with the card.

Similarly, calling your bank is a good idea if you notice suspicious activity on your debit card, like charges from places you don’t usually go to or strange amounts of money being withdrawn at once. This can help the bank catch fraud before it happens since they may place a hold on any suspicious transactions.

You have more than one account set up for online payments with different banks.

If you have more than one separate account set up for online payments, sometimes problems can arise when paying for things online with debit cards.

If you’re trying to add a debit card from a different bank to your account than the one you usually use, it may not work because they won’t verify if you are the owner of both accounts. This can be one of the advantages and disadvantages of online banking accounts.

Customers must have only one account set up for online payments so that this doesn’t happen, especially if other people can access and make changes to your banking information.

You use an older model debit card at an ATM machine

Some old machines are incompatible with some newer debit card models, which means that they cannot read them and convert the numbers on them into usable information about who owns the account anymore. If you try to use an older model debit card in a newer machine, it will sometimes just keep asking you for money without even processing the transaction.

The bank is trying to protect you from fraud or the loss of your money

If you’ve made many purchases with your debit card in one day, then sometimes banks will decline them so that they can be sure that all of these transactions are legitimate and not just the result of someone stealing your information.

This usually happens when big purchases are being made, like if some people have their credit cards stolen and maxed out by others because they didn’t check their statements properly.

Banks need to verify whether or not customers spent this much money on things, and since large purchases can often be flagged as suspicious, declining debit card payments is one way to prevent fraud.

What Should You Do if Your Debit Card Was Declined But Money Still Taken?

Sometimes your debit card can be declined, but the money is still taken as the transaction typically occurred. Don’t worry.

what to do if your debit card was declined but money still taken
The first step is always to contact your bank if debit card declined, but money still taken.

Here are the steps below on what to do if this happens to you:

1 . Contact your bank about the issue.

In some cases, the charges may still go through after you’ve talked to your bank about it if they feel a mistake with the system or perhaps a glitch. It’s best to contact them directly so that you can resolve any issues right away and not have to pay for anything twice when this happens. If everything is processed normally after talking to them, no action will need to be taken on your part as they’ll cancel any previous transactions from the machine that didn’t go through properly.

If it’s an account balance issue, there are check cashing apps that don’t use Ingo to make deposits.

2 . Report fraudulent activity in a timely manner.

Suppose you notice suspicious activity on your account, like purchases made at places that you don’t go very often or other strange activity. In that case, you should contact your bank as soon as possible so that they can step in and prevent the fraud from escalating. It’s essential to take action promptly since fraud crimes are often reported when customers don’t notice them until much later.

3 . Request a new card after fraudulent activity has occurred.

If someone steals your bank debit card information and makes large purchases with it, then it’s best to request a new one so that they cannot do it again since they won’t have access to an actual debit card anymore.

If you’ve already seen charges made to your account after this has happened, then you’ll need to cancel those credits or ask it be reversed immediately for the bank not to process them. You can also contact appropriate government agencies to assist.

How to Fix a Declined Debit Card

If your debit card transaction was declined and no money was taken from your account, you should still look into how to fix your declined debit card transaction.

To fix a declined debit card, you should:

Try to use your debit card again

If you notice that your account was charged for a declined debit card transaction, they may just be using an old system and processing it the next day. It’s good to check if the charges will process when you try again to ensure you aren’t double charged or paying money that isn’t going through properly. 

Call your bank about the issue

Sometimes banks will decline payments to protect users from fraud or not having enough funds available for large purchases. If you see this happening on your account, it’s best to contact them directly to explain why this happened and fix any problems with previous transactions charged due to the declined debit card. 

Make sure your card isn’t expired

If you’re using a debit card that’s past the expiration date or is a prepaid debit card that can only be used a limited number of times, then it may not be able to process payments properly anymore. This would avoid any problems when the declined [or unprocessed] transaction occurred since they couldn’t complete this payment with an ineffective card.

If you need to make a payment immediately, look into cashier’s check vs. certified check as options.

Replace your debit/ATM card if needed

If someone else has access to your ATM or debit card and they use it without permission, then there’s no way around this scenario once those charges have been put on your account. To fix these types of issues, you’ll need to get new cards so that your debit account is no longer accessible to anyone in the first place.

What to Do if Your Debit Card is Declined at Walmart Online?

If you find your debit card is declined when shopping online through Walmart, then it’s good first to contact your bank since this may be related to their system or security measures. If everything checks out there, try another debit card (not a credit card) and see if it works properly.

debit card declined at Walmart online

Always check the status of your account after making an online purchase at Walmart as they do run into processing issues from time to time with customers who have their payments decline due to large purchases, so it’s best to make sure that your money will be available for them not to double charge you for something like this.

If these steps don’t work, then I recommend using PayPal [a free service provided by many sites] for any future online purchases.

Will My Bank Account Become Locked if My Debit Card is Declined?

Your bank account won’t be locked if your debit card is declined, so make sure you call them to explain the issue and ask for help. If they decline large purchases due to concern for fraud or not having enough money in your account, then they may lock your debit card temporarily, but this will only occur if there’s a problem with it.

You may not need a debit card because there are a lot of places that offer buy now pay later no credit check instant approval no money down for items.

The Need for Fraud Protection

Debit cards are a popular choice when paying for items because of how convenient they can be since they take money directly from your bank account.

If criminals could get access to credit card information without permission, then the person’s bank would be responsible [since it was an authorized transaction], and chargebacks often happen within this type of situation. Since debit card transactions are considered a direct withdrawal, the bank will not take any responsibility in cases like this. 

If you find out that your debit card is declined at Walmart and have questions about whether or not it’s safe to use their ATM, for the time being, you should contact them about this concern first and see what they recommend doing.

Will My Debit Card Be Cancelled if I Don’t Use it?

If you find your debit card is declined, then you should call the issuing bank to let them know about this problem. They may turn off automatic payments but will never cancel your debit card or ask for a different type of payment because of concern for fraud or lack of funds. You can always use third party checks for payment.

Summary on Reasons and Fixes for a Denied Debit Card

Reasons for a denied debit card can vary, but the most common ones (that are easy to fix) include using an expired card, getting charged twice by the same company/for the same thing, or someone else has access to your debit card and used it without permission. 

Following the guidelines above on how to fix a declined debit card should ease any worries about making payments for future things and will help you to not miss out on using the card that you have linked with your bank account. You can also check with the FTC as well.

If everything checks out, but you find that your debit card is declined for an online purchase, then be sure to use a different debit card number and see if this method works. If it’s still declined during online purchases to take money from your bank account, then there may be some concerns with having too many people trying to access these services online. 

Even for cell phones there are buy now pay later cell phone financing no credit check options.

Just as there are many causes for debit card declined transactions, there are also many fixes and solutions that can be done to prevent this from happening in the future. If you do run into issues with this, then be sure to ask for help.

BG Vance

For over 20 years, BG Vance has been a leader in public and personal financial management. He's developed and managed public budgets in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars. He is passionate about the FIRE movement and was featured in the Detroit News in 2001 about saving for retirement. Through the years, he's assisted families and individuals with getting their finances on track. He holds an MPA, is a licensed Realtor, and is currently working on a book about personal finance.

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