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Top 7 Reasons Your Debit Card was Declined

Alex Resetar | September 22, 2014

Updated: February 14, 2017

It’s happened to all of us. You’re in the check-out line ready to pay, and the cashier informs you that your card has been declined. It can be embarrassing, not to mention inconvenient. However, it’s important to know that you are not the only one who’s experienced this and has been left wondering ‘why was my debit card declined?’

In fact, it happens so often that we have put together a list of the seven most common reasons your debit card can be declined.


1. Insufficient funds

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One of the most common reasons your card may be declined is simply because your checking account doesn’t have enough funds in it to cover the cost of your purchase. If you aren’t regularly keeping track of the account’s history, it can be easy to miscalculate how much available funds you truly have.

Tip: Download your financial institution’s mobile app, and you’ll be able to check your account every day, anywhere in the world to make sure you have available funds.

2. Invalid PIN

If you don’t use your debit card often, it can be easy to forget the 4-digit pin needed to make a purchase or withdrawal.

Tip: Call your bank or credit union if you forget your pin. They will be able to reset it for you.

3. Too many invalid PIN attempts

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If you punch in the wrong PIN too many times, your card will be blocked in order to protect you from theft and fraud.

Tip: Call your financial institution to unblock your card and reset your pin!

4. Withdrawal amount not a multiple of denomination 


While many ATMs are now equipped with smart technology and can provide any withdrawal amount, there are still older ATMS out there that will only supply certain denominations. If you end up at an older ATM and request $35, it may deny your request if it only offers multiples of twenty.

Tip: Follow the ATM’s directions. If you need to enter your own amount, pay attention to what denomination the withdrawal examples used.

5. Maxed out daily limit

Some financial institutions put a cap on the daily spending limit allowed on a specific card. If you’ve tried to make an extra large purchase, or too many purchases in a day, your card may be declined.

Tip: Call your financial institution to ask if they can waive the spending limit for you, or wait to make the purchase on a different day.

6. Card is NOT activated

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Many people receive a new debit card in the mail, but forget to have it activated. Have you called the number on the sticker located on the front of your card? If you haven’t, then your card has not been activated and will be declined.

Tip: Simply call the number on the sticker to activate your card. If you’ve already removed your sticker, you can call your financial institution to ask for directions.

7. Suspicious activity

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Your financial institution’s fraud department carefully manages your accounts. If your card is flagged for suspicious activity, purchases will not go through and your transaction will be declined. Red flags your credit union may look for are an unusually high amount of purchases in a short period of time or a purchase made internationally without notice.

Tip: Give your financial institution a head’s up if you’re going to be using your card in another country, or even just another state. That way they will know that activity is authorized before you leave for vacation!


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Always carry a back-up credit card with you! If your debit card is declined for any of the above reasons, and you don’t have time to call us to fix the issue, use a different credit card to pay for your purchases until the issue is resolved. Learn more about AmeriChoice’s secured VISA, and apply for that back-up credit card today!

The next time your card is declined, don’t panic. It happens all the time, and can usually be fixed easily. Just follow the advice above and we’ll get you back to shopping and paying bills in no time!