Credit Card Decline CodesThe Top 10 Most Common Codes & How to Respond to Each

September 19, 2022 | 14 min read

Credit Card Decline Codes

In a Nutshell

As a merchant, you should be pretty used to declined transactions by now. But do you know what all of the credit card decline codes mean and how to respond to them? This article will explain everything you need to know, including what decline codes are, what triggers them, and how to stop receiving the ten most common decline codes.

What Triggers a Credit Card Decline Code? What Do You Do About Them?

Picture this: you’re at the store with a cart full of items. You head for the checkout line, but when you dip your card into the terminal to pay, the charge is declined.

It’s happened to everyone at least once. Still, it can be humiliating if you’re a cardholder. What you may not really consider, though, is that getting credit card decline codes is even less fun if you’re the merchant.

As a merchant, a declined card means losing out on a sale that was already in the bag. It’s a real bummer. So, why do banks even decline customers’ cards in the first place? What are some of the potential reasons, and what can you do to recover the sale in question?

Let’s find out.

What are Credit Card Decline Codes?

Credit Card Decline Code

[noun]/* kredət • kard • də • klīn • kōd/

A credit card decline code is a negative message issued in response to a request for authorization during a transaction. This occurs when a payment can’t be processed for a specific reason; it may be declined by the processor or payment gateway, or by the customer’s issuing bank.

A transaction doesn’t automatically gain approval after the customer swipes a card or hits “submit.” Instead, your processor takes that transaction information and relays it to the issuing bank for approval. In most cases, the bank will provide authorization, clearing the way to finalize the sale. That said, the bank might also decline transactions that raise certain red flags.

When a card gets declined, most people assume it’s for one of two key reasons: fraud or insufficient funds. In reality, however, there are literally dozens of reasons why an institution might decline your customer’s card transaction. The bank will provide a two-digit credit card decline code as part of their response to explain why they didn’t authorize the sale.

Credit Card Decline Code Triggers

The first thing you need to know is that not every transaction decline results from a lack of funds or criminal fraud.

Many declines can be triggered by system errors, merchant input errors, or simple communication errors between banks and processors. In other cases, the card itself could be the problem. After all, it’s just a piece of plastic that will eventually wear down over time.

All that being said, there are obviously some credit card decline code triggers that are more common than others. Here are some recurring issues that you might see pop up most often to cause decline codes:

  • Credit card verification error: The card used could have a faulty microchip or magnetic stripe, which would require manual input.
  • Expired Card: Some people hang on to cards longer than they should. As a result, they might not realize their card has expired.
  • Insufficient funds: The cardholder doesn’t have the funds available in their bank account to cover the transaction.
  • Transaction not permitted: The authorized cardholder has blocked certain online transactions, or has set a manual  payment limit.
  • Exceeded credit limit: The cardholder does not have enough of their existing credit limit available to make a purchase.
  • Incorrect security code: The cardholder entered the wrong CVV number. This is usually a manual entry issue, but could be a sign of fraud.
  • Invalid card number: Either the issuing bank can’t be recognized by the routing information provided, or the card number provided is not tied to a valid account.
  • Invalid transaction: Often, this is because a card number was punched in incorrectly or the card was misread by the scanner.

These are just a few examples of the decline triggers you can expect as a merchant. To be frank, there are a lot of decline codes to sort through. They range from run of the mill errors all the way to fraudulent and outright stolen cards.

We’ll get to the full list of codes further down. If you want the truth, though: most of those codes are pretty obscure and rarely used.

There’s only a small handful of card decline codes you’ll typically run into in your day-to-day operations. With that in mind, let’s run down the ten most common decline codes and how you should respond to them.

10 Most Common Credit Card Decline Codes & How to Respond

Quick preface: credit card decline codes are not fully standardized. They can differ from one payment gateway to the next, so there may be some redundancies in the codes. They also tend to be rather vague, as this helps protect the cardholder’s privacy and avoid giving away sensitive information in the event of a genuine fraud attack.

With that out of the way, here’s the list:

Code 05 | Do not honor

What it Means

The transaction has tripped the bank’s fraud detection mechanisms. As such, the transaction may be a case of fraud.

What to Do

Call the bank and ask for further information.

Code 14 | Invalid card number

What it Means

The card/account number entered by the customer doesn’t match the number on file with the issuing bank.

What to Do

Ask the customer to try again, or try another card.

Code 41 | Lost card, pick up

What it Means

The card in question has been reported as lost by the cardholder. If in use, this is likely a case of fraud.

What to Do

Pick up the card, and ask for a valid form of payment… but be careful. If the cardholder has just handed you a potentially fraudulent card, it might be wise to request either cash or a debit card to proceed with the transaction.

Code 43 | Stolen card, pick up

What it Means

The cardholder has reported the credit card stolen. The issuer has denied the transaction and flagged the card for fraud.

What to Do

Pick up the card. Do not accept any form of payment from the customer attempting to use the card except cash, and immediately report the transaction to the credit association.

Code 51 | Insufficient Funds

What it Means

There are not enough funds in the customer’s bank account to cover the cost of the transaction.

What to Do

Ask the customer for an alternative form of payment. Ask the customer for an alternative form of payment.

Code 54 | Expired card

What it Means

The card in question is expired, and therefore no longer acceptable.

What to Do

Your customer must provide a card with a valid date. So ask for a valid card or reject the sale.

Code 61 | Exceeds issuer withdrawal limit

What it Means

The cardholder has exceeded the withdrawal limit with their issuing bank, meaning they have overdrawn their funds or spent over their available withdrawal limit for that day.

What to Do

Ask the customer to try another credit or debit card, or have them call their bank to inquire if the limit can be extended.

Code 65 | Activity limit exceeded or insufficient funds

What it Means

The cardholder has either exceeded their available credit limit, or the transaction would push them over that limit.

What to Do

Ask the customer to try another credit card, or use their network and banking APSP to pay down their balance before trying the transaction again.

Code 97 | Invalid CVV

What it Means

The card security code entered by the customer doesn’t match the number on file with the issuing bank.

What to Do

Ask the customer to try again, or try another card.

Code R0/R1 | Stop Recurring Payment

What it Means

Cardholder has requested to stop the recurring payment you’re trying to process.

What to Do

Cancel all future payments related to that card number to avoid chargebacks and their resulting fees. If the cardholder has breached your agreement in any way, contact them directly to resolve the issue.

Stop losing transactions to false declines. Accept buyers without worrying about fraud & chargebacks.


As we can see, it’s not uncommon for different parties to issue credit card decline codes that aren’t necessarily indicative of fraud or a lack of funds.

With these otherwise-valid transactions, you have a cardholder blocked from completing a purchase. This can immediately turn buyers away, driving them to your competitors. So, there’s a clear incentive to try and remove roadblocks that could prevent an authorization, or which might lead to an authorization reversal.

Complete List of Credit Card Decline Codes

Below, you’ll find a list of all the credit card codes you might run into, as reported by Visa:

0Approved and completed successfully
1Refer to card issuer
2Refer to card issuer, special condition
3Invalid merchant
4Pick up card (no fraud)
5Do not honor
7Pick up card, special condition (fraud acct.)
10Partial approval
11Approved (VIP)
12Invalid transaction
13Invalid amount or currency conversion field overflow
14Invalid account number (no such number)
15No such issuer
19Re-enter transaction
21No action taken
25Unable to locate record in file
28File temporarily not available for update or inquiry
39No credit account
41Lost card, pick up (fraud acct.)
43Stolen card, pick up (fraud acct.)
51Not sufficient funds
52No checking account
53No savings account
54Expired card or expiration date missing
55Incorrect PIN or PIN missing
57Transaction not permitted to cardholder
59Suspected fraud
61Exceeds approval amount limit
62Restricted card (invalid in region/country)
63Security violation (not correct issuer)
64Transaction does not fulfill AML requirement
65Exceeds withdrawal frequency limit
75Allowable number of PIN entry tries exceeded
76Unsolicited reversal
79Already reversed
80No financial impact
81Cryptographic error found in PIN
82Negative CAM, dCVV, iCVV, or CVV results
85No reason to decline request for address verification, CVV2 verification, or a credit voucher or merchandise return
86Cannot verify PIN
89Ineligible to receive financial position information (GIV)
91Issuer or switch inoperative and STIP not applicable or not available for this transaction; Time-out when no stand-in; POS Check Service: Destination unavailable; Credit Voucher and Merchandise Return Authorizations: V.I.P. sent the transaction to the issuer, but the issuer was unavailable
92Financial Institution or intermediate network facility cannot be found for routing
93Transaction cannot be completed – violation of law
94Duplicate transmission
96System malfunction or certain field error conditions
B2Surcharge amount not supported by debit network issuer
N0Force STIP
N3Cash service not available
N4Cash request exceeds issuer or approved limit
N5Ineligible for resubmission
N7Decline for CVV2 failure
N8Transaction amount exceeds preauthorized approval amount
Q1Card authentication failed
R0Stop payment order

Distinguishing “Hard” & “Soft” Declines

False declines cost merchants $443 billion in 2021. Shocking as that number may be…it’s probably a lot higher for this year already.

Most of these sales were legitimate, but the merchants in question wrote them off because they received credit card decline codes. It’s probably happened to you many times: a transaction seemed a little sketchy, and you ended up declining a valid shopper.

A credit card decline code doesn’t necessarily mean you should write the transaction off as a loss, though. You have the power to recover some of these lost sales. The first step is to distinguish between so-called “hard” and “soft” declines. There are different approaches you can take to respond in these situations.

What is a Soft Decline?

A soft decline occurs when the issuing bank connected to a transaction approves the payment, but there’s a problem at some other point in the process. For instance, if a payment gateway is down at the time a customer submits a transaction, it could cause a soft decline.

Your payment gateway will let you choose to block, flag, or accept soft declines. Thus, you have some influence over the credit card decline codes you receive that are attached to a soft decline.

The key to balancing due diligence and accessibility is to be reasonably sure that a transaction is valid, which means implementing a multilayer strategy to manage fraud. For instance, your strategy should include:

  • Address Verification Service (AVS)
  • CVV verification
  • Velocity checks
  • Geolocation
  • 3-D Secure 2.0 technology

The tools listed above gauge different potential fraud indicators with little-to-no impact on customer-facing friction. When combined with fraud scoring and manual reviews of transactions, these tools offer a much more detailed and dynamic picture of the individual submitting a transaction.

What is a Hard Decline?

Unlike its counterpart, a hard decline takes control completely out of your hands. A hard decline occurs when the bank does not approve the transaction.

The only way to resolve one of these is to try addressing the issue that caused the transaction to be declined in the first place. This means interpreting the credit card decline code and developing a solution.

Here’s an example: Let’s say a charge from a loyal subscription customer may be declined because the customer has insufficient funds at that moment. One way to address this is to implement automatic retries. This means waiting a few days and reattempting to charge the card. Most merchant processors allow you to implement this practice. You can also try offering alternate payment options like PayPal or Apple Pay. This is an easy way to recover sales.

For other hard credit card decline codes (expired payment card, invalid card number, etc.), it could be helpful to reach out to the customer via email. Inform the buyer of the problem, and offer suggestions for ways to resolve the issue and recover the sale.

What if the Sale Can’t Be Recovered?

There are certain credit card decline codes from which you can’t recover a sale. The approach to take in these cases is to do your best to retain customers and entice them to make future purchases. This is where it really pays to develop a personal relationship with buyers.

Like we mentioned at the top of the post, it can be embarrassing for a legitimate buyer if their card gets declined. One way to reassure them and keep their loyalty is with a personalized response. This goes beyond a basic form template. You need to reach out and forge a personal connection with your buyer. Your email should:

Credit Card Decline Codes

Apologize for the inconvenience (even if it’s not your fault).

Credit Card Decline Codes

Explain in simple, basic language why the transaction may have been declined.

Credit Card Decline Codes

Offer help with resolving the issue and continuing the transaction.

Credit Card Decline Codes

Optional: Provide an incentive, like a small discount, to help recover the sale.

With this approach, you convey to the customer that you genuinely care about them, and that you understand their problem and their pain point. Not only that, you also give them a great incentive to retry the purchase, and to continue shopping in the future.

Additionally, there are third-party services like Gravy, which are aimed at helping you recover declined transactions. Even with help, though, the core issue—the difficulty of parsing credit card decline codes—remains.

How you manage this process will impact other areas of operations, too. That’s why it’s worth giving your rejected purchases a second look.


What are Credit Card Decline Codes?

A credit card decline code is a message issued in response to a request for authorization during a transaction. This occurs when a payment can’t be processed for a specific reason; it may be declined by the processor or payment gateway, or by the customer’s issuing bank.

What triggers credit card declines?

Not every decline relates to lack of funds or fraud. Many declines can be triggered by system errors, merchant input errors, or simple communication errors between banks and processors. In other cases, the card itself could be the problem. After all, it’s just a piece of plastic that will eventually wear down over time.

What are the most common credit card decline codes?

While there are dozens of different card decline codes currently active, the most commonly used codes are as follows: 05 (Do not honor), 14 (Invalid card number), 41 (Lost card, pick up), 43 (Stolen card, pick up), 51(Insufficient funds), 54 (Expired card), 61 (Exceeds issuer withdrawal limit), 65 (Activity limit exceeded or insufficient funds), 97 (Invalid CVV), and R0/R1 (Stop Recurring Payment).

What is a “soft” credit card decline?

A soft decline occurs when the card number is likely valid but was denied by the issuing bank. Retrying the card at a later time may work.

What is a “hard” credit card decline?

A hard decline occurs when the card is outright denied by the issuing bank or processor. There is nothing the merchant can really do here; retrying the card will have the same result, no matter how many times one attempts it.

Like What You're Reading? Join our newsletter and stay up to date on the latest in payments and eCommerce trends.
Newsletter Signup
We’ll run the numbers; You’ll see the savings.
Please share a few details and we'll connect with you!
Over 18,000 companies recovered revenue with products from Chargebacks911
Close Form