Helen Geraghty   24 September 2019

A photo showing a man holding his phone trying to pay for a service in a restaurant via card

It's happened to us all at one time or another. You go to make a payment and your credit card is declined. This is inconvenient wherever you are but, if you’re abroad, it’s particularly worrying.

Sometimes, a declined transaction can be put right by taking a deep breath and re-entering your details. In other cases, a quick call to your bank can solve the issue. But sometimes the problem might take a little longer to fix.

Fortunately, the fact that your card was declined doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of options. We’ve prepared a useful checklist to help prevent this happening, and tips on how to deal with it if it does.

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Why was your card declined abroad?

If you’re wondering “why was my credit card declined?”, here are some common reasons why people run into problems when using credit and debit cards abroad.

1. Incorrect information entered

We’re all human. Clumsy fingers or a lapse in concentration means you may enter the wrong details when trying to put a card payment through. Whether you’re entering your card details online, or you're punching in your pin at a cash machine or in-store, just one wrong digit could cause your card to be declined.

Our tip: if your card is declined, carefully re-enter your details in case you’ve made a mistake the first time round.

2. Visiting a country where credit card fraud is prevalent

Sadly, in some countries around the world, fraud can be quite commonplace. So, you may have problems when using a credit card abroad in these countries. The countries your bank might be more aware of are the United States, Brazil or India. Credit card companies tend to be more vigilant with monitoring activity from these countries in order to protect you and your money.

Our tip: notify your card issuer about your plans to use your card in a different country - especially if you’re visiting a country where fraud is prevalent.

3. Fraudulent activity on your account

If your card issuer suspects there’s been fraudulent activity on your account, they’ll stop your card immediately to protect you from further criminal activity. Usually, they’ll contact you soon after to question the suspicious activity and help you to dispute the transactions if they are indeed fraudulent. They may also cancel your card and send out a new one.

Our tip: have a back-up option to retrieve money without the affected card. We explore these options later on in the article.

4. Card has expired

Once the expiration date on your card passes, your existing card will no longer work, and you’ll need to use a new one. This is usually provided by your bank or card issuer just before the old one is due to expire.

Our tip: before going away, check the expiration dates on your debit and credit cards to ensure that they’re not due to expire imminently.

5. Card isn’t accepted in the country you’re in

Not all credit and debit cards are accepted in every country or by every merchant. Whilst Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most countries around the world, lesser-known credit card networks are less widely accepted.

Our tip: if in doubt, always check with your card issuer before travelling that you will indeed be able to use your card when you reach your destination.

6. Credit limit reached

Once you’ve reached your agreed credit limit your card will be declined for further transactions. If you’re going abroad, know that temporary holds for car rentals or hotel bookings will eat into this limit.

Keep track of how much you’re spending and monitor your balance regularly to avoid spending up to your limit.

Our tip: make a rule to never spend more than 75% of your total credit limit. This will give you a buffer in case of unexpected expenses.

7. You’ve made one or more unusual transactions

Unexpected or unusual transactions may trigger the card issuer’s automatic fraud prevention system to decline a transaction or suspend your account. Unexpected transactions can include those made overseas, for very large sums, or multiple transactions over a short period of time.

Our tip: if you’re planning on making any transactions that are out of the ordinary, it’s always best to call your card issuer and notify them before attempting to make the purchase.

8. Missed credit card payments

If you’ve fallen behind with your credit card payments, then your issuer may decline any further transactions until you’ve caught up.

Our tip: before going abroad, ensure you know where you stand with your credit card balance and if possible, settle any outstanding payments before you go.

9. The issuer has closed your account or cancelled your card

It’s possible for your card issuer to cancel your card or account without warning, which would mean your card is declined when you next try to use it. This may happen for a number of reasons including; a long period of inactivity missed payments or negative changes to your credit report.

Our tip: you’ll usually receive some warning if your account or card are going to be cancelled, so stay up to date with letters and emails from your bank or issuer to avoid it coming as an unpleasant surprise.

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Additional tips to prevent your card from getting declined abroad

Here’s what you can do to prevent potential problems before travelling abroad.

Speak to your bank
Let your bank or issuer know where you’re going – as well as when and how long for. Keep them updated if your plans change, so they can add a note to your account to prevent your transactions being flagged as unusual or suspicious.

Ensure your card issuer can speak to you
Check that the contact details that your bank or card issuer have on file for you are correct and that your phone can accept international calls whilst you’re abroad. This will mean that your card issuer can contact you if there are any problems with your account, hopefully before it causes you problems.

Always keep your card in sight
Where possible, try to shop, eat and drink at larger establishments that use wireless chip and pin devices. Don’t let anyone take your card out of your sight to process a transaction.

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How can I get money abroad with no card?

There are simple ways to access your money overseas besides using your card. Our online money transfer service allows you to send and receive money internationally quickly, safely and conveniently, without the need of having your card physically on you.

Many of our customers already use our services to send money to themselves when they’re abroad.

The good news is that we offer a variety of pay-out options so that you can get your money in a way that is most convenient for you, including:

  • Cash pickup - Collect your cash from a nearby shop or bank

  • Airtime – Top up your phone’s airtime. All you need is our app and your mobile number.

  • Mobile money – Send money to your mobile money account and then pick up the cash from a local agent or pay for goods using your phone in participating shops

Use our international money transfer service to avoid high commission fees, ATM charges and poor conversion rates when sending yourself money overseas.

Sign up with WorldRemit and download our app before travelling. This will make accessing your money abroad simple and stress-free if you do have any problems with your credit or debit card.

Send money with WorldRemit