Credit Finances & Money

5 Reasons Merchants Might Deny Credit Cards

by Jonathan

This is a guest article from Jonathan at Master Your Card. He wanted me to link to his site with the words “credit card”, but I refuse to do so. Ok, well, fine then…credit card. I feel so dirty now.

It’s pretty embarrassing when your credit card gets denied, but it’s especially irritating when you know that you have the available funds for the purchase you’re trying to make. Instead of expending all your energy trying to convince the merchant and all the other customers around you that your credit is good, get to work finding out the problem and fixing it so you can make your purchases without fear of embarrassment.

Here are five common reasons why your credit card might get denied by a merchant:

1. You’ve exceeded your spending limit

Credit card companies can be fickle. Sometimes they’ll let a purchase go through even if it exceeds the preset spending limit, but they’ll fee you like there’s no tomorrow. Other companies deny the transaction but still fee you for the attempt. If you think you might be close to your limit and your card is denied,
chances are your credit card company isn’t the type of company to let you go over your limit.

2. Your payment is late

Some credit card companies shut off access to your card whenever your payment is late. It may not even be your fault…maybe your payment got lost in the mail or there was a glitch with your automatic payment. Whatever the reason, contact your credit card company and make the payment immediately so you can have access to your card again. Brace yourself; there will probably be some fees involved unless you can sweet-talk your way out of them.

3. Your purchase deviates from your normal spending habits

Credit card companies often keep tabs on the kind of spending you do. They know that you charge a latte every morning and occasionally overspend at the book store. If an attempted charge that is out of the ordinary for your usually spending habits occurs, like if you suddenly get the urge to buy up a bunch of adult DVDs off the Internet, then your credit card company might step in because they assume you aren’t the one making the purchase. You’ll have to contact the credit card company to verify that you are indeed the person trying to make the purchase before they’ll allow you to do it.

4. You’re trying to buy something overseas

Unless you are a frequent overseas traveler, you may find that in certain locations you’ll encounter problems with using your card abroad. The reasoning behind this is your credit card company assumes you’re still home and a criminal is trying to use your card number somewhere overseas. The best way to avoid this
situation is to call your credit card company before you start your travels and tell them to make a note of your trip in their system. This should stop them from freezing your account.

5. The system is down

As annoying as this may be, sometimes the merchant’s computer processing system just doesn’t want to work. Once in a while the technical issue may be on the end of the credit card company. Regardless of who is at fault, sometimes a credit card charge won’t go through just because the merchant’s computers and the credit card company’s computers aren’t talking to each other.

Don’t ever ignore an instance of your credit card being denied, even if you are pretty sure you know the reason. You should always call the credit card company and find out exactly what the issue is, and how you can fix it.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • We were in Vegas with a bunch of family members and about 20 of us went to dinner, the bill was around $2000 I think, anyway, my brother-in-law tried to use his debit card and it was denied. He called the bank and they said they were doing maintenance and were only able to authorize $250 of spending, no more, until the maintenance was done. He had to have everyone else pay, it was quite embarrassing for him and he actually moved all his accounts to a different bank because of the incident. They should have at least informed their customers of the maintenance or the possibility of a charge not going through. Maybe they did, but he sure wasn’t aware of it.

  • @ Schoon: Good for him! Maybe next time they will think twice before treating their customers with such disdain and disrespect. What if, god forbid, your brother in law had needed to access HIS money for an emergency?

    @ Celver Dude: Sell out! (and I meant to say ‘credit card blog’… ooops…)

  • Another reason: your magnetic strip got damaged or demagnitized. Normally, the merchant would just enter the card number manually when sliding it doesn’t work, but occasionally if you are abroad you can meet somone especially stupid…

    I was in Spain some years ago. At some point during the trip my card’s magnetic strip stopped working. At most places, the clerk or cashier or waiter would just type in the numbers and everything was fine. But in this one restaurant in Barcelona, I got an especially stupid waiter. He took my card, then came back to me saying my card wasn’t good. I asked him to enter the numbers manually. He said that it was all automatic. He had this look like I used a stolen card or something. It was close to the end of my trip and I was trying to avoid changing more money; and this was one of the better restaurants I went to, so this way very annoying. His suspicious look was actually even more annoying then the fact I needed to get more foreign currency.

    Since then I started taking two cards with me – one for use, one as a backup.

  • Don’t assume that while oevrseas Visa ans Mastercard are interchangeable. There are places that take one and not the other. And lots of places do not take Amex because of the higher fees they impose on merchants.

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    piece of writing here at my home.

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