Why Your Credit Card Won't Work

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The worst time to find out your credit card isn’t working is when you’re in the middle of a transaction. Depending on the issue, you may be able to fix it right away or you might have to use another payment method. Worst-case scenario, you’ll have to save your purchase until you fix your credit card issue. Here are some reasons your credit card may not work.

It’s new and you haven’t activated it.

New credit cards are affixed with a sticker with instructions for activating your new credit card.

Typically, you only have to call a 1-800 number and enter the last four of your social security number or the billing zip code. The call will only take a few moments and your credit card is activated right away. Some credit card issuers let you activate your credit card online, but calling may be quicker.

It’s expired.

Your credit card may stop working during and especially after your expiration month. If you think your credit card has expired, check your mail. Your credit card issuer has probably sent a replacement credit card already. Otherwise, call your credit card issuer to find out whether a new credit card is on the way.

Your credit card issuer has sent a new card.

If your credit card number has been compromised, for example after a major data breach, your credit card issuer may automatically send a new credit card and cancel the old one. Many credit card issuers are sending more secure credit cards with EMV chips.

Your card issuer may deactivate your credit card after the new card has been mailed to you. Once you receive your new credit card, you’ll have to call to activate it before you can use it.

It’s been demagnetized or scratched.

The magnetic strip on some credit cards may stop working after the card has been too close to a magnet or sometimes a cell phone.

When the credit card has been demagnetized, there may be a credit card read error or nothing will happen after the swipe. Scratches or bends on the magnetic strip may also prevent your credit card from being swiped. Your card number can still be manually entered, but you’ll have to get a new credit card to make swipe purchases.

There are technical issues with your credit card issuer, the merchant, or the payment processor.

Credit card transactions processed electronically. The information passes through a few different layers before the transaction is approved. Technical difficulties at any stage can cause issues with your payment processing. The merchant may be able to hold your credit card information and run the transaction once the technical issues have been resolved.

You don’t have enough available credit.

Your credit card may be declined if you don’t have enough available credit for the transaction. Since a credit card payment may not process quickly enough to free up your available credit (unless the card is linked to your checking account), it’s best to use another payment method in this case.

There’s been fraud on your account.

Your credit card may stop working if your credit card issuer suspects there has been fraud on your account.

This can happen in cases of legitimate fraud, or when you make purchases that are out of the ordinary for your typical spending habits. For example, your credit card issuer may suspect fraud if you use your credit card in another country, or sometimes even another state.

You’re entering the wrong billing information.

Online purchases require you to enter the billing information on your credit card account. Your credit card won’t work if your billing information is wrong, even if everything else is accurate. Verify all the credit card information matches your credit card statement. 

You may have to request a replacement credit card if your old one continues to give you problems. Use a backup form of payment until you receive the new credit card in the mail.