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Why Is My Debit Card Not Working Online?

Has your debit card been declined? Here are reasons why your debit card was declined and fixes if your debit card is not working online.

With many consumers avoiding in-person shopping, internet shopping is at an all-time high. As a result, many people are becoming increasingly likely to use plastic to pay for purchases.

You might be buying your groceries online for home delivery, or making purchases of household items, clothing, furniture, just about anything these days to avoid shopping in a store.

You can’t beat the convenience of having everything you need delivered right to your door! But, this also means you aren’t going to be paying cash for much and you will rely on your debit card or credit card to buy things.

For some consumers, using a debit card works extremely well for cutting expenses—since you are only spending money that you already have in an account, you won’t run up high-interest charges like you might on a credit card, and, if you track your spending and balance, you will always know exactly how much money you have. It’s simple, it’s quick, but wait—sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes, just when you expect a super-quick transaction, you seem to run into difficulty because your debit card is not working online or your debit card is declined. There are plenty of common reasons for this, and most of them are totally fixable and you can quickly carry on with your purchase as planned. Other solutions may take more time, but if you know the possibilities and what to expect, things can be much easier.

If you are accustomed to making online purchases using a debit card, it can be helpful to know some of the potential snags, so that you will know just what to do when a problem arises and your debit card is declined or not working online. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the big sale that ends at midnight, right?

Reasons Why Your Debit Card Declined

Let’s go over the most common reasons your debit card may be declined or why your debit card is not working online, and what the easiest solutions to each problem are.

Know Your PIN!

When you get your debit card, you are either assigned a personal identification number (PIN) by your bank or lender, or you are asked to pick one yourself.

Either way, you are advised to store that PIN in a safe place. If you are like most people, that “safe place” means you will never remember where you stored it when you go looking for it.

It’s pretty important to remember your PIN, but since you are not supposed to use numbers easy for a hacker to guess (birthday, SS#, address, etc.), it can be hard to remember a bunch of different PINs for different cards.

Make an effort to store the PINs in a safe place, but not so obvious that a thief may look there. The problem with trying to make a purchase with your debit card online and not knowing your PIN is that your account may be locked after a few failed attempts.

Don’t worry, this can usually be fixed with a quick call to your bank, but it will delay your purchase.

Too many PIN entries

The primary way that the bank identifies the account holder during the transaction is the personal identification number or PIN. When you do not know your correct PIN, taking too many guesses will probably result in your account being blocked or frozen.

Typically, you have about five tries to get it right. Don’t exceed this limit! You will probably have to contact your bank to have your PIN reset, and you may not be able to do this right away if you are outside of normal business hours.

A very good reason to make sure you always know the correct PIN, you’d hate to miss out on those late-night shopping sprees!

Your balance is too low

Remember that a debit card is not a credit card. You are not making a purchase that you can pay for later, you have to have the full amount of the purchase on your debit card in order to make the transaction.

It’s important to keep careful track of your spending and know your balance when using a debit card. The obvious solution to this is that you have to put more money into the account before you can spend it.

If you can make an instant transfer from another account, then you may be able to proceed with the transaction. Otherwise, you are out of luck until you have more money to spend. Some banks may allow you to set up overdraft protection, which allows you to spend a little more than you have, and this amount will usually go to a credit account.

This is not a great habit to get into, you shouldn’t be spending more money than you have or that you can afford. If this is a problem you run across frequently, you may want to consider getting a low rate credit card that you can use and just be sure to pay it off each month—otherwise, that great deal you found on the internet gets to be a whole lot more expensive when you start paying interest on it for keeping a balance on the credit card.

Keeping close track of your spending and the balance in your account will prevent this from happening.

Your debit card is expired

Remember last month when you received a new card in the mail? Where exactly did you put that, anyway? Your bank will send you a new card shortly before your debit card is set to expire. It’s extremely important to open that mail, activate your new card, and destroy the old one right away.

Otherwise, you will find yourself in a position where your debit card is not working online, or anywhere, for that matter. Until you find and activate your new card, you’re out of luck.

There is a transaction limit on your debit card

Are you trying to make a large purchase? Many debit cards have a daily transaction limit, often $400 or $500 per day. If you are trying to make a purchase that exceeds this limit, or you have already withdrawn cash or made other purchases on that same day, your debit card will be declined for your online purchase.

You may need to wait until the next day, but if your purchase will exceed your daily limit, you should try calling your bank to get an exception for this particular planned purchase or get the transaction limit raised before you can try making that purchase again.

Your personal information is incorrect

When making a purchase online, most merchants will require your credit or debit information, including the billing information such as your name, address, and phone number. If all of the information that you enter does not exactly match what the bank has on file, your debit card will not work online and will be declined.

Have you moved? Have you changed your name or phone number? It’s critical that you keep your banking information updated with any important changes like these. If you run into this problem while shopping online, be sure to use the information that you gave the bank, and then update any changes as soon as possible to prevent this from happening in the future.

The transaction is suspicious

Are you making a large purchase from a company in another country? Is the purchase price unusually large for your budget? Your bank may flag the transaction as suspicious. This can also happen if you are doing business with a company that has had suspicious activity reported in the past, or companies that are located in a region where fraudulent activity is known to be high.

Just because your bank may think it is a suspicious transaction doesn’t mean that it is. Not to worry, most banks will alert you and get your permission to proceed with the transaction. With identity fraud being at an all-time high, you can’t be too safe.

It might be a pain to go through these extra steps, but just remember that your bank is looking out for you—and if any suspicious activity was noted, then you’d have the opportunity to decline the purchase and take steps to protect your account.

Again, this might take a quick call to the bank, but many banks are handling this type of issue through email or text. Make sure your contact information is up to date in your account profile.

You are trying to make an international purchase

If you have plans to travel out of the country, it’s a good idea to let your bank know in advance. They can update your account to include your travel location, making it easier to make purchases.

If you try to use your debit card in another country, your bank may notify you that there is suspicious activity. In fact, your account could even be frozen, which can lead to bigger hassles while you are out of the country.

Make contacting your bank part of your vacation planning and avoid this hassle. Take action ahead of time and let your bank know your plans so that you can make purchases freely.

Your card was deactivated

Is your bank account a joint account with another person? There is always the possibility that the joint account holder has deactivated the card or closed the account. This may happen for a valid reason, such as the joint account holder suspected fraudulent activity.

Just realize that if the other person deactivates their card, yours will be deactivated, too. You will need to contact your bank to get a new card before you can make any transactions. One way to avoid this issue is to set up your account so that all of the joint account holders must sign to make any changes to an account.

This way, your card cannot be deactivated without your knowledge, sparing you the headache of finding out as you are clicking on “process order.”

Related: How to Open a Bank Account

You have not yet activated your card

Did you recently get a new card or replacement card? If you have not yet activated your card either calling the bank or activating online, then the card will not yet be valid.

Follow the instructions that came with the card to get this straightened out, it’s usually a pretty simple process that only takes a few minutes.

Best to do it right away when you get the card so that you are ready to shop at a moment’s notice!

Technical issues

There are a variety of technical issues that may arise when you are making an online purchase.

If you are wondering why your debit card was declined, it may be due to issues including the vendor not accepting the type of card you are using (some vendors only accept credit cards and not debit cards), the website may be temporarily malfunctioning, there may be too many people shopping at the same time trying to take advantage of a great deal, or there may be other technical issues that are out of your control.

You can try using a different card (if you have one) if your debit card was declined, or you can try the transaction again at a later time.

Conclusion on Why You May Have Your Debit Card Declined

While making your purchases online can be one of the ultimate modern conveniences, and it is supposed to be a piece of cake, it is not always a simple process.

Sometimes there are glitches when using technology.

If your debit card is declined online when you are trying to make purchases, check through the possible reasons listed above to see why it could be happening and what you can do to quickly fix the problem and get your card working properly again.

Some solutions are quick and simple, some may require a little more time invested talking with an associate at your bank.

But, just about all of the problems you encounter can be easily remedied.

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs is a personal finance expert, and the founder of Smarts, a personal finance site helping you easily explore your best money options. He helps readers follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. He regularly writes about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. He has been quoted as a top personal finance blogger in major publications including Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, and more.
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