Credit Card Declined and Error Codes: The Complete Guide

 Discover everything you need to know about credit card decline and error codes including what each code means and what you should do about it.

Credit card declines are an unfortunate and frustrating part of doing business. They occur for many reasons, from insufficient funds to technical issues and even fraud. They come with a code that often leaves merchants confused about what to do next.

In this guide, I’ll explain what credit card decline codes are and who issues them. I’ll also provide a complete list of decline codes including what each one means and what you can do about it when it occurs.

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What Is a Credit Card Declined Code?

A credit card decline code is a numerical code indicating that the processing of a credit card transaction has failed. Decline codes, usually accompanied by a short error message, can happen for various reasons, from card expiry or insufficient credit to suspected fraudulent activity. There are two main types of credit declines:

Soft declines occur when a transaction receives card issuer approval but fails due to temporary authorization issues caused somewhere else in the payment processing chain. Soft declines 

Hard declines occur when a transaction is rejected by the card issuer due to issues like suspected fraudulent activity. They are final and cannot be overcome by retrying the transaction.

Who Issues Credit Card Declined Codes?

Credit card decline codes can originate from any party involved in the transaction process. This includes your payment processor or gateway or your customer’s card issuing bank. The card issuing bank will likely be responsible for most of the declines you experience, as they have many different risks and assessments to make around the validity of each transaction.

The Most Common Reasons Credit Cards Are Declined

Insufficient funds: A cardholder tries to use their credit card but has reached their credit limit.

Transactional error: A cardholder incorrectly types credit card details such as the card number, CVV2 code, or PIN.

Expired card: A cardholder uses a credit card that has passed its validity date. 

Address change: A cardholder’s address doesn’t match the billing address registered with the card issuer.

Lost or stolen card: The transaction occurs with a card that has been reported lost or stolen.

Unusual location: The transaction occurs from an area outside the normal geographic boundaries where a cardholder usually makes transactions. For example, a cardholder makes a transaction from a foreign country while traveling and doesn’t inform the issuing bank.

Fraud: A transaction or series of transactions doesn’t meet a cardholder’s usual usage behavior. For example, any sudden change in purchasing habits, suspiciously timed purchases or larger than normal purchases can result in a decline.

Credit Card Declined Codes: A Complete List 

Now that we’ve run through what a credit decline is and the most common reasons they occur, it’s time to understand the various codes you may encounter. 

Here’s a list of decline codes with easy-to-understand explanations and instructions on what actions to take if they happen. Keep these handy so you’ve always got a reference the next time you get a decline!

Decline code Explanation What to do
00 Issuer system unavailable Indicates communication error (usually temporary) Advise customers to retry the transaction and contact their card issuer if the problem persists
01 Refer to issuer Card issuer declined the transaction. Can occur for a variety of reasons Advise customers to use another payment method or contact card issuer for further information
02 Refer to issuer (special condition) Card issuer declined the transaction. Can occur for a variety of reasons Advise customers to use another payment method or contact card issuer for further information
04 Pick up card (no fraud) Card reported lost or stolen but not suspected of fraudulent use Hold the card and request that the customer contact their bank for further information. If online, advise the customer to contact the card issuer
05 Do not honor Card issuer declined the transaction. Can occur for a variety of reasons Request customer use another payment method or contact card issuer for further information
07 Hold card, special condition (Fraud) Card issuer stops the transaction due to suspected fraudulent activity Do not attempt retry. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If online, advise the customer to contact the card issuer
12 Invalid transaction Card issuer declined the transaction as invalid. Can occur for a variety of reasons Request customer re-enter payment information and ensure no errors. If the problem persists, advise customer to contact card issuer
13 Invalid amount Card issuer declined the transaction due to invalid purchase amount. Usually caused by a typing error Request the customer retry transaction with correct information
14 Invalid card number Invalid card number entered by customer. Usually caused by a typing error Request the customer re-enter their card details correctly
15 No such issuer The first digit of card number, which identifies the card issuer/scheme, was incorrectly entered Request the customer re-enter their card details correctly
19 Re-enter An error of unknown origin occured Request the customer re-enter their card details correctly
28 File is temporarily unavailable Connection interrupted during authorization process Wait and retry transaction. If the problem persists, contact card issuer or your merchant account provider
41 Lost Card $ Customer has reported their card as lost Do not attempt retry. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If online, advise the customer to contact the card issuer.
43 Stolen Card Customer’s card reported stolen, suspected fraud Do not attempt retry. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If online, advise the customer to contact the card issuer
51 Insufficient Funds Cardholder does not have the funds to complete transaction Request customer use a different card or payment method
54 Expired card Customer’s card has expired Request customer contact card issuer
57 Transaction not permitted The card issuer declined a transaction due to the card’s configuration Request customer use a different card or payment method or contact card issuer
58 Transaction not permitted, terminal
                  
The card issuer declined a transaction to the card’s
                  
Request customer use a different card or payment
                  
configuration method
62 Invalid service code, restricted Merchant account provider does not accept the card type (Eg., American Express) used by customer Request customer use a different card or payment method
63 Security violation Card issuer cannot approve the transaction because the card’s security code (CVV2) does not match the code entered Request the customer re-enter their card details correctly
65 Activity limit exceeded Customer exceeded their credit limit for given period Request customer use another payment method or contact card issuer
85 No reason to decline Card issuer declined the transaction but issuer cannot identify problem Request customer retry the transaction or use another payment method
91 Issuer or switch inoperative Card issuer was unavailable at time of transaction Request customer retry the transaction and contact their card issuer is problem continues
93 Violation, cannot complete Card issuer declined the transaction and requires customer to make contact Request customer contact card issuer
96 System error Card issuer cannot process transaction due to system malfunction Request customer retry the transaction and contact their card issuer is problem continues
CV Card type verification error Customer’s card type is not supported (Most common with American Express and Discover). May also occur due to incorrect CVV error Request customer retry the transaction and contact their card issuer is problem continues
R0 or R1 Customer prohibited recurring payment Customer has prohibited card issuer to make recurring payments to your business Cancel future scheduled payments to prevent chargebacks. Reach out to your customer to resolve the situation
W1, W2, W9 Banking connection error
         
Can occur due to a power or service disruption
         
Wait for disruption to end or contact your merchant account provider for more information
         

Error Codes for Credit Card Fraud

Fraud is a serious and growing issue that can impact your business. The following are some of the most common fraud-related codes you should look out for.

07 Hold card, special conditions: If you see this code, the card issuer declined the transaction because it suspects a card or account is fraudulent. You should not attempt to retry the transaction. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If you cannot hold the card because the transaction was online, advise the customer to contact the card issuer.

41 Lost card: In this case, the card issuer has declined the transaction because the cardholder has reported it lost. You should not attempt to retry the transaction. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If you cannot hold the card because the transaction was online, request the customer to get in touch with the card issuer.

43 Stolen card: Another common fraud-related code occurs when the card issuer has declined a transaction because the cardholder reported it stolen. In this instance, you should take the same actions as you would after receiving decline codes 07 and 41. You shouldn't attempt to retry the transaction. Hold the card and contact the card issuer. If you cannot hold the card because the transaction was online, request the customer to get in touch with the card issuer.

What's the Best Way for a Business to Accept Credit Cards? 

A payment service provider is undoubtedly the best way to start accepting credit cards for most merchants. This is especially the case for merchants with a limited budget or limited payment processing experience.

When you use Pay.com as your payment service provider, you don't need to invest thousands of dollars, struggle with complicated setups, or wait weeks to get up and running. 

Pay.com allows you to quickly and easily accept credit card payments through your website. You can also create Pay Links to send customers via email or SMS. When a customer clicks a link, they go to a personalized checkout page where they can make a credit card payment. You can even speak to customers to get their credit card details over the phone and then enter them into your Pay Virtual Terminal to collect payment. 

Pay.com offers the highest security and fraud protection levels as well. We have level 1 PCI DSS compliance and support 3D Secure 2.0 (3DS2), so you can deploy Strong Customer Authentication to better protect against fraud and follow EU PSD2 regulations.

Beyond letting your business securely accept credit cards, Pay.com also helps you overcome costly payment declines. Pay.com's account updater fetches updated information from Visa or Mastercard if one of your customers pays using an expired card. 

Click here to get started with Pay.com now!

The Bottom Line: Credit Card Declined Codes

Credit card decline codes provide valuable insights into why transactions get declined. By taking the time to understand the different codes using this guide, you can take steps to reduce future declines and cut the impact they have on your bottom line. 

But understanding these codes and knowing what to do when they occur is only half the battle. Partnering with the right payment service provider is also a critical part of your efforts to manage and decrease your declines. 

With Pay.com, you’ll have a partner that works behind the scenes to reduce your decline rates, so you can deliver the smoothest possible customer experience, no matter what happens. Click here to sign up now!

FAQs

How can a business accept credit card payments?

With Pay.com, your business can accept credit cards through your website. You can also easily create Pay Links and send them to customers via email or SMS. Pay.com also enables you to collect customer card details over the phone and enter them into the Pay Virtual Terminal to receive a payment. Click here to get started.

How can I protect my business from credit card fraud?

The most effective way to protect your business is to partner with a payment service provider that complies with payment industry standards and offers advanced security features. Pay.com has Level 1 PCI DSS compliance and supports 3D Secure 2.0 (3DS2) to help merchants better protect against credit card fraud and comply with EU PSD2 regulations.

Can you prevent credit card processing errors?

It’s impossible to prevent credit processing errors altogether but there are things you can do to minimize your decline rates. A few ways to reduce processing errors include: resubmitting payments when soft declines occur, joining an account update program offered by Visa and Mastercard, using an intelligent payment routing system, and setting a recurring billing indicator.

How do credit card declined codes affect your business?

Declined transactions cause significant revenue losses from abandoned purchases. They also create friction between your business and its customers which can cause irreversible reputational damage. Some customers who experience a payment failure may never return to make a future purchase from your website, even if the failure is not on your end.

Meet the author

Anthony Back

Anthony is an experienced fintech analyst, content marketer, and copywriter based in Tel Aviv, Israel. With a deep understanding of payment technologies, he has worked with leading financial institutions and fintech companies worldwide.
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