The leader of the free world has a lot on his mind, and now we know that “credit card getting declined” is one of the items he’s worried about. On July 10, 2014, President Obama pulled out his card to pay a bill of over $300 at a popular barbecue joint in Austin, Texas. Before he handed it over to the cashier, he asked an aide if the card would work.
Luckily, President Obama was able to swipe successfully. But if you’ve ever wondered what you should do if your card gets declined, the Nerds have a few tips to share. If you happen to know President Obama, be sure to pass them along!
1. Use your backup card
Trying to get through the checkout line at the drug store or fill up your tank, only to find that your credit card is declined? In the heat of the moment, it’s best to just stay calm and use your backup credit card. Swiping a malfunctioning card again and again isn’t going to make it work, and it’s best not to keep others in line waiting.
If you don’t usually carry a backup credit card, it’s time to consider getting one. There are lots of reasons your card could get declined, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and stash extra plastic in your wallet.
The Nerds recommend a rewards credit card with no annual fee as a backup. It doesn’t make sense to pay an annual fee on a card you rarely use, and taking advantage of the opportunity to rack up points or cash back on every purchases is always a smart move.
Now that you’ve made it past the payment terminal and have a moment to think, it’s time to brainstorm some reasons for why your card was declined. Before placing a call to your issuer’s customer service line, see if you can come up with the answer on your own. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is my card expired? We all get busy and forget about things, so if it slipped your mind to activate your new credit card, your old one might have passed its expiration date. Try to use it, and you’re out of luck!
- Is my card maxed out? Charging so much that you hit your credit limit is another possible reason your card could get declined. Check online to see if you’ve used up all of your available credit. If so, pay it off as soon as you can. Maxing out a card renders it useless, but it’s also bad for your credit score.
- Is my card damaged? Physically damaging your credit card’s magnetic strip could make it unreadable to some credit card terminals. Look it over for scratches, scrapes and other signs of injury.
If the answers to the questions above don’t yield an obvious reason why your card was declined, it’s time to get in touch with your credit card company. Call its customer service number (usually listed on the back of your card) and clearly explain the situation, including the merchant you were trying to use your card at when it was declined.
There’s probably a simple explanation; for example, if you were trying to buy something online with an international retailer when your card got declined, your issuer might have flagged the purchase as suspicious and blocked it. Or there might be a “hold” on your card from a hotel stay or rental car reservation.
Whatever the case may be, your credit card company will help you straighten it out. If they can’t restore your plastic to good working order, request a replacement. They will probably be happy to oblige!
The bottom line: A declined credit card is cause for concern, but don’t get too anxious. You’ll likely get to the bottom of the problem on your own. If not, call your credit card company for help. As always, be sure to check in with the Nerds often for more helpful tips!
Credit card declined image via Shutterstock