Living with credit, Protecting yourself

Card denied? Here’s what to do and not do

Julie Loffredi

Ever hand over your card at a restaurant only to have the server say that it was denied? We’ve all be there.

Even Justin Bieber. When he flashed his credit card to pay for his foot-long sandwich at Subway, the transaction was rejected, according to the Daily Mail.

So, what should you do if you find you’re in a financial pickle at checkout at a sub shop or wherever you’re using your trusty card? Here are some coping strategies: 

Don’t lie
If your credit card was declined, chances are the cashier may already know why.  So, if you don’t have the funds to purchase that cashmere sweater and choose instead to make up some tale about your card just being expired as the likely culprit — the clerk will probably call you a Pinocchio.

The reason? Some credit card readers will provide clues as to why the card isn’t working. Here are some top explanations:

  • Insufficient funds.
  • Declined (without providing additional reasons).
  • Temporary hold.
  • Expired card.
  • Invalid number.
  • Credit limit was reached.
  • Suspicious transaction.

The cashier may not voluntarily tell you the reason for the denial. Ask why your card didn’t go through, so you can get the problem fixed.

Always have a backup card
Card denials often happen when we are in a rush, on a trip, or are trying to make an important purchase. That’s why I always have a backup card in the wallet – just in case. Also, some stores also may not accept certain credit cards, so it’s just good practice.

Admit it. You are embarrassed.
It’s never a good feeling to hand over a credit card only to have it handed back as denied. This happened to me once at a maternity store.

As it turned out, my issuer deemed my purchase suspicious and had placed a temporary hold on the card.

Luckily, while I was talking with the cashier, I got a text message from my card company stating that fraud was suspected. I showed the message to the cashier, and was relieved she didn’t think I was a loser.

5 ways to prevent a denial
Here are five ways card users can try to prevent a credit card denial from happening in the first place:

1. Inform your credit card company about your travels. This will prevent your card issuer from suspecting fraud and freezing your account.

2. Know your daily limit. Some cards will prevent further use when you hit a spending threshold.

3. Pay your bill on time. A card linked to a delinquent account could become invalid.

4. Don’t change your spending habits. Odd spending patterns may send a red flag to the card company and look suspicious.

5. Keep cards current. An expired card will no longer work. Be sure to activate new cards as soon as you get them. 

If all of the above fails and your card is rejected, maybe a stranger will come to your rescue. That’s what happened when Bieber’s card was declined at the Subway in West Hollywood, California. Someone in line stepped up to pay for the pop star’s sub tab.

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