Why credit card transactions get declined

Learn why your card could be declined, how to resolve it and ways to prevent this in the future.

Why credit card transactions get declined

Learn why your card could be declined, how to resolve it and ways to prevent this in the future.

If your credit card transaction is declined, we know it can be a headache and inconvenience. When this happens, it’s important to know why your transaction may have been declined, what you can do to resolve the issue, and how to prevent future declines. You can set up automatic Card Decline alerts to get notified about a decline right away. 

In many cases, you can quickly fix the problem yourself. Here are some common card decline scenarios and next steps to resolve them:

Did you enter the correct card information at checkout, or was there an error with the payment terminal at the merchant?

When your card gets declined, there may be nothing wrong with your card or account. An online purchase can be declined if you enter the wrong card information, such as billing address, expiration date, or CVV number. Declines can also happen during in-person transactions because of a malfunctioning chip reader or your card’s magnetic stripe not reading correctly when swiped. 

Re-enter your card information online or swipe again with the merchant.

Is your card expired? Have you activated your new card?

If you are trying to use your card after its expiration month or you haven’t activated your new card, your transaction will be declined. 

If you have an email on file with us, we’ll send you information about receiving your new card during the months prior to your expiration date. Once you get your new card, make sure to activate it before using it to avoid any surprises at checkout. Click here if you need to replace an expired card.

Have you locked your card?

Forgetting to unlock your card before making a purchase is a common reason transactions are declined. If you are the primary cardholder, sign into your account and unlock your card before attempting the transaction again. On our Capital One Mobile app, select the card you’d like to unlock, scroll down to the “Need Help?” section, and tap “Unlock Card.” Learn more about locking your card and Capital One’s other credit card security features. 

If you are an authorized user, ask the primary cardholder if the card is locked.

Have you reached your card’s credit limit?

The transaction may be declined if you go over your credit limit. Your credit limit takes into account your pending transactions, so make sure to keep an eye on your total balance and pending transactions when making purchases. Capital One offers SMS and online alerts to help keep you updated on your available credit to avoid future surprises. Set up automatic alerts.

If the credit limit is the reason for the decline, you can make a payment on your card. Your available credit typically updates within 1-2 days.

Has there been unauthorized activity on your account?

If there’s activity on your card that looks unauthorized, the transaction may be declined to help protect your account. 

With Capital One’s SMS and email fraud alerts, you can quickly tell us if you recognize the purchase. Let us know and continue using your card as normal. If it wasn’t you, in many cases you can resolve this online, where we’ll help you lock your account, ship you a new card and help you report other unauthorized purchases.

Have you stayed up to date on your payments?

If you’re behind on your payments, your card may be restricted, and transactions can be declined. If this happens, get in touch with us to figure out how we can help, such as setting up a payment plan.

You can also enroll in Autopay to help avoid missed payments. Learn more about the potential impact of late payments.

Has your account been closed?

If your account has been closed, all transactions on the card will be declined.

To verify that your account is open, sign in to your account. If you believe that your account was closed incorrectly, get in touch with us so we can sort out what happened and resolve this.

Tips for preventing future declines

  • When making online purchases, double check that information entered is correct, including card number, billing address, CVV code and expiration date.

  • You can ask Eno for your balance or set up automatic alerts to avoid going over your credit limit. 

  • Watch out for fraud alerts from us and continue to check your account for purchases you didn’t make.

  • Double check your card’s expiration date and make sure to activate your new card as soon as you get it.

Related Content

Checking & Savings

Setting up AutoPay

Set up automatic payments for your schedule.

Credit Cards

Increase your credit limit

You might be eligible for a credit limit increase. Here's how to request one.