Why Is My Credit Card Being Declined?

By Damon Poeter

Banks often have rules that are designed to prevent criminals from fraudulently using your card and sticking you with the bill.  But those same rules can sometimes impact the cardholder as well.  Consider the following scenario:

You just handed off your credit card to cover the entire check for a lovely dinner out with friends when the server returns saying, “I’m afraid your card was declined.” What should have been a generous gesture has become awkward and embarrassing instead. Having a credit or debit card declined can be humiliating, frustrating, and downright maddening — especially if you have available credit or enough funds in your bank account. When you’re traveling, it can be even more problematic — nobody wants to get stuck in a bad situation while on the road or in a foreign country.

Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to happen to you if you take a few simple steps.

Credit Card Hold Triggers

Temporary holds may be placed on credit and debit cards when a credit card company or bank deems certain activity to be unusual enough to possibly be fraudulent, such as:

  • Unusually large transactions: An attempt to purchase a big-ticket item, like a huge LCD TV, can trigger a hold.
  • Charges in locations far outside of your home area: This can be a sign of unusual activity that arouses suspicion.

The Pluses and Minuses of Fraud Prevention

Fraud protection is a good thing overall, says Chris Medlin, Digital Product Manager at USAA. If a temporary credit or debit card hold is inconvenient, think how much more of a hassle it would be to deal with the fallout if your card really was stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases.

“Fraud protection is put in place to protect customers. When a card that’s usually only used in Austin suddenly shows charges in New York City, it’s possible that your card has been compromised,” he says. “Maybe you’re traveling, but we can’t be certain if we don’t have a heads up.”

Those holds can certainly be triggered by false positives, which can certainly be frustrating.

“It can be embarrassing to have your card declined at a restaurant or hotel because of a fraud prevention hold. But there are ways to reduce the chances it will happen to you,” he says.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Credit Card Problems

The simplest way to avoid these sorts of issues is call the customer service number to pre-authorize a big purchase or inform the issuer about upcoming travel plans.

Of course, waiting on hold can be a drag. So many card issuers, including USAA, now even offer the convenience of pre-authorization on their websites and mobile apps, eliminating the need to talk to a rep.

What to Do If a Hold is Placed on Your Card

Let’s say that despite taking those preventative steps, you still somehow trigger a fraud prevention hold on your card. Clearing it up may be easier than you think.

  1. Contact the card issuer. They will typically take you through a step-by-step process.
  2. Prove your identity as the card holder. This can be a bit of a bother, but many card issuers are streamlining this process with technologies like voice identification.
  3. Verify a few recent transactions. This can lift the hold on your card almost immediately or within minutes.

Avoid Temporary Credit Card Holds in The Future

Some credit card companies and banks send automated calls or text alerts to your cell phone when suspicious activity is detected. If your card issuer offers such services, think about signing up.

Contact a financial advisor at (800) 427-USAA to learn about pre-authorizing purchases and avoiding fraud prevention holds. Apply for a USAA Bank Credit Card here. 

Chris Medlin is Digital Product Storefront Manager for the DXD Bank Services Team at USAA. He recently completed the Certified Experience Analyst certification and is working towards the Certified Usability Analyst designation. He is also a GE-Certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt in process improvement and supported quality and process improvement programs for a number of companies prior to joining USAA, including GE, Chase and Compaq. Chris is a proud Aggie and studied at both Texas A&M in College Station and the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico.


This credit card is issued by USAA Savings Bank, Member FDIC.

 

 

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