We’ve all had these moments: You’re at a romantic restaurant and the evening went great. But just as you and your date are readying to leave, an embarrassed waiter appears and whispers, “I’m afraid your card has been denied.” So much for romance.
The same thing can happen at the grocery store, when shopping online or worst of all, when you’re traveling and don’t have a backup means of payment. Why do credit card transactions get denied and what can you do to prevent it?
Banks and other credit card issuers have developed complex algorithms that track credit card behavior and highlight unusual usage patterns commonly associated with card theft or fraud.
“Unusual activities” that jump out to card issuers include:
• When you ordinarily use your card only rarely, but suddenly make several charges in one day.
• Making multiple purchases at the same store (or website) within a few minutes of each other.
• An unusually large purchase – say for a major appliance, furniture or jewelry. Alert your card issuer before making large purchases.
• One small purchase quickly followed by larger ones. Thieves will test the waters to see if a small purchase is denied; if it’s not, they’ll quickly run up major charges.
• Exceeding daily spending limits. Some cards limit how much you can charge per day, even if you have sufficient remaining credit.
• Making large purchases outside your geographic area.
• Multiple out-of-town purchases in short succession.
• International purchases, whether online or while traveling. Other common triggers for credit card denials include:
• Outdated or incorrect personal information – for example, when you’re asked to enter your zip code at a gas station. Always alert your card issuer whenever you move.
• Also, make sure you don’t mistype your credit card number, expiration date, security code, address or other identifying information.
• Expired card. Always check the card’s expiration date.
• You’ve reached your credit limit.
• A temporary hold has been placed on your card.
• You miss a monthly payment.
• The primary cardholder made changes on the account and forgot to tell other authorized users.
By Jason Alderman