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All the Reasons why Debit Cards are Declined in the UK

Ever had your debit card declined and wondered why? We’re here to help.

In this blog post, we’ll explain the common reasons for a declined debit card. From insufficient funds to spending limits, we’ve got all the information you need.

So, let’s get started and help you avoid any future card declines.

You Reached Your Spending Limit

One of the reasons why your debit card may have been declined is because you reached your spending limit. Banks impose a spending limit on debit cards per day. For instance, a bank may set a purchase limit of £100 to £500.

The spending limit for contactless debit cards in the UK has already risen to £100.

Prior to the pandemic, the spending limit was between £30 to £45. This increase in the limit enables shoppers to pay for higher value transactions such as their weekly shopping.

While the limit has increased, it’s crucial to be aware of potential increases in crime and difficulties in controlling spending. Therefore, it’s always important to monitor your spending and keep your card secure.

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PIN Entered Incorrectly Too Many Times

If you enter your debit card PIN incorrectly more than 3 times, your debit card will get locked. As such, you’ll be unable to make ATM withdrawals, locally and internationally. It will also be impossible to make purchases in-store and online using your debit card.

This is a security measure and prevents unauthorised users from using your debit card. In fact, it’s a sign that thieves are trying to guess your PIN. To correct this, visit your bank branch and place a request for a new PIN. Banks and security experts recommend that you change your debit card PIN every three to six months.

The Merchant Turned off Their Chip Reader

If you’re having difficulty purchasing at a specific store, it means the merchant turned off their chip reader. If this happens to you, request for an EMV compliant card reader. This type of card reader uses computer chips to authenticate transactions. It also encrypts bank information making it more secure than older magnetic stripe cards.

As of October 2015, if a customer uses a fraudulent debit card and the merchant does not have an EMV card reader, the merchant is liable for the fraud. When making a transaction, ask for an EMV compliant terminal.

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Merchant Has a Lower Daily Limit

If the merchant has a daily lower limit than you, your card issuer will decline your debit card. Let’s assume the merchant has a daily limit of £700. But your debit card has a daily limit of £1,000. The card issuer will decline your debit card.

To counter this problem, make multiple transactions. The limits are usually set by the card issuer.

Inconsistency In Your Transaction Record

Card issuers can decline debit cards that provide different information than what the bank has in its database. For example, when making a purchase online, your billing address differs from what your bank has on file.

To prevent the card issuer from declining your debit card, make sure your billing and shipping address match what the bank has on file. Otherwise, you will be unable to make purchases online in the future.

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When You Make Out of the Ordinary Purchases

One of the benefits of having a debit card is that it lets you make purchases online and in-store. As such, you don’t have to carry cash with you. Just swipe your debit card, enter your PIN correctly, and you can make purchases conveniently.

Can you buy everything with a debit card? Yes, you can buy everything using your debit card. For example, you can purchase groceries, a bus ticket, pizza, or coffee. But when you make extraordinary purchases such as buying a £2,000 large screen Smart TV or sofa, the bank’s fraud protection system will receive an alert. This will result in your debit card getting declined.

Debit Card Not Compatible

Your debit card may get declined if the merchant does not support the card. The most popular debit cards in the UK are Mastercard and Visa. If the merchant does not support Mastercard and you use your Mastercard debit card to make purchases, they will decline your debit card.

Before making a purchase, in-store or online, inquire if the merchant supports both Mastercard and Visa.

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Expired Debit Card

If your debit card expires, you will be unable to make purchases online or in-store using your debit card. The date on which your debit card will expire is usually printed on the front of your card. You should see the month, and year your debit card will expire. It’s usually shown as follows: “Expires End MM/YY.”

Generally, it takes two to three years for your debit card to expire. If you discover you have an expired debit card, visit your bank branch to receive a new one with a new expiration date. Do debit cards renew automatically? Debit cards are automatically issued to customers as long as the card is active at the time of replacement.

Card issuers replace debit cards around the first part of the month the debit card is set to expire.

You’ve a Non-Activated Debit Card

When you receive a new debit card, it will come with instructions to activate it. Banks allow debit cardholders to activate their cards online or via the online bank app. Alternatively, you can visit your bank branch to have your debit card activated in person or make a phone call.

What happens if I don’t activate a debit card? Your card issuer will contact you within 45 to 60 days to determine if you received your new debit card. However, some card issuers allow shoppers to make small purchases using their non-activated debit cards. But this varies with issuing banks.

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Suspicious Activity Detected

According to the banking body UK Finance, a total of £1.2 billion was stolen through fraud in 2021. This is a significant increase from the £412 million lost between May 2019 and the end of 2020. In the first half of 2023 alone, UK consumers lost £580 million to fraudsters.

Authorised push payment (APP) fraud cases, where victims are duped into making online transfers, usually into fraudster-controlled accounts, were up 22% to £240 million compared with the same period last year. This indicates a sharp rise in authorised push payment scams, contributing to the surge in fraud in the UK payment industry.

To protect their customers from fraudsters, banks use state-of-the-art fraud detection systems. If the system detects suspicious activity, they will need to talk to you to verify. For example, if you live in London, but your transaction record lists an international payment in Toronto or Los Angeles, this could indicate that someone has stolen your debit card or you have travelled and forgotten to inform your card issuer.

If you’re planning to travel internationally, it’s important to inform your bank. That way, if something happens, the bank will not think it’s fraudulent activity. This is just one of the many ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of bank transfer fraud.

Not Having Enough Money

Unlike a credit card, a debit card is usually connected to a bank account. As such, it works like an electronic check. When you make a purchase in-store or online, payment is usually deducted from your savings or checking account. Before approving a transaction, the bank will always verify electronically if money is available in your bank account.

If the amount in your bank account exceeds the total of your purchase, the bank will authorize the transaction. If the amount is less than your purchase total, the bank will decline the transaction. Check if funds are available in your bank account.

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How to Fix a Declined Debit Card

If your bank declined your debit card due to insufficient funds, you need to add money. You should also contact your bank if you:

  • Detect fraudulent activity
  • Have a non-activated debit card
  • Have an expired debit card
  • Make out-of-ordinary purchases.

If your card type is not accepted, check if the merchant supports your debit card. Most places will take Mastercard and Visa debit cards. But a few merchants accept either Mastercard or Visa debit cards. Inquire before making a purchase.

Remember, change your PIN every three months, inform your bank if travelling abroad and add money to your bank account.

Final Thoughts

there are numerous reasons why debit cards may be declined, ranging from insufficient funds in the account to suspicious activity detected by the bank.

It’s essential to keep your bank informed about any significant changes, such as international travel, to prevent unnecessary declines.

Regularly checking your account balance and being aware of your daily limits can also help avoid declines.

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Why was my debit card declined when I have money in my bank account?

Your debit card could be declined for several reasons. Financial institutions have fraud prevention measures in place. If your bank or credit union can’t verify it’s you making the transaction, your card could be declined.

What are some common reasons for declined debit card transactions?

Some common reasons include insufficient funds in your checking account, entering the wrong PIN, or exceeding your daily purchase limit.

Why was my debit card transaction declined online?

Online transactions may require additional verification due to new fraud prevention rules known as ‘Strong Customer Authentication (SCA)’. If your card firm can’t reach you to verify, your payment could be declined.

What should I do if my debit card is declined?

If your debit card is declined, don’t panic. Contact your financial institution immediately. Ensure your contact details are up-to-date with your bank. Regular updates to your personal information and awareness of your card’s status are crucial for uninterrupted service.

Can a declined debit card be reactivated?

Yes, a declined debit card can often be reactivated. However, the process varies between banks and credit unions. It’s best to contact your financial institution for assistance.

How can I prevent my debit card from being declined?

To prevent your debit card from being declined, ensure you have enough money in your account, double-check the information you enter during transactions, and keep your bank informed if you plan to make large or international purchases.

What does it mean when my card is declined due to suspicious activity?

Banks and credit unions monitor debit card usage for unusual activity. If a transaction doesn’t fit your normal spending habits, it may be flagged as suspicious, and your card could be declined.

Remember, if your debit card is declined, it’s important to contact your bank or credit union immediately. They can provide specific information about the decline and help resolve the issue.