Credit Card Decline & Error Codes: What They Mean & What You Can Do About Them
You’re minding your own business, ringing up another sale for your next customer, and then it happens–your normally boring credit card terminal spits out a strange number and message indicating that the transaction did not go through as expected.
You’ve just received a credit card decline code, in fact. But what does it mean, and what can you do about it?
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What Are Credit Card Decline Codes?
Credit card decline codes are sent to merchants from credit card processors when a transaction is unable to be processed. Each numerical code corresponds to a different reason a transaction may be declined, such as the card in question being reported lost or stolen.
Who Issues Credit Card Decline Codes?
Credit card decline codes can originate from just about any point in the transaction cycle. That means it’s possible for any of the following to be the source of the code you receive:
- Your payment processor
- Your payment gateway (if you’re using one)
- The card’s issuing bank
That said, there are certain codes that are more likely to come from one of those sources than the others. For example, a code 51 (insufficient funds) is probably coming from the issuing bank, not the payment processor or gateway. It should be noted that error codes that originate from the issuing bank tend to be harder, if not impossible, to resolve at the point of sale.
Common Reasons For Credit Card Declined Codes
Broadly speaking, a credit card decline code occurs when some technical or financial factor prevents a transaction from completing. Very often, there’s an issue with the cardholder’s account or the card itself.
A card might be declined if the cardholder has insufficient credit remaining on their account. It may be declined if the card is reported as lost or stolen. It may also be declined if fraud alerts are triggered. And, of course, it will be declined if the card is expired. These are just a few of the more common reasons you might receive a credit card declined code.
List Of Credit Card Declined Codes, Explained
There are a lot of credit card codes. Typically, when you receive a credit card code, you’ll also get a brief note explaining why the transaction was declined. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to have a reference of the types of codes you might encounter.
|00||No reason given||The transaction failed for unclear reasons, possibly due to a connection error.|
|01||Refer to issuer||This a broad error code indicating the card issuer has blocked the transaction.|
|02||Refer to issuer (special condition)||Essentially a variation of error code 01, but for reasons not encompassed by the parameters of error code 01.|
|04||Pick up card (non-fraud)||The card issuer has blocked the transaction and is requesting that you seize/hold it. This code may occur if the card is reported lost or is expired.|
|05||Do not honor||The card issuer has blocked the transaction and is asking you not to honor the card.|
|06||Error||Similar to 05, the issuer is asking you not to honor the card for transactions|
|07||Pick up card (fraud)||The card issuer has flagged the card for fraudulent activity and is requesting that you seize/hold the card.|
|12||Invalid transaction||Often the result of user-error, something went wrong when the transaction’s information entered the system, something was mistyped, etc.|
|13||Invalid amount||Something in the number field of the transaction threw an error, typically because a non-numerical character was accidentally entered|
|14||Invalid card number||Your terminal or gateway can’t find the account that was entered.|
|15||No such issuer||The card number entered doesn’t correspond to any issuing network.|
|19||Re enter||An unknown error occurred, and you should try the transaction again.|
|22||Suspected malfunction||Your terminal or gateway can’t reach the issuing bank.|
|25||POS condition code invalid value||Something is wrong with the customer’s billing information or other entered information.|
|28||File is temporarily unavailable||The customer’s information temporarily couldn’t be reached. It may possibly clear on a second attempt.|
|30||Format error||Something may be wrong with the setup of your merchant account|
|31||Bank not supported by switch||The issuing bank declined the transaction, usually because the card can’t be used for this type of transaction.|
|34||Suspected fraud, retain card||Another code you may encounter if a customer tries to use a flagged card.|
|37||Contact acquirer security department||Yet another “decline and retain” code, although with the request that the customer contact their issuing bank.|
|41||Lost card||The card’s owner has reported the card lost, and the issuer is requesting you retain it.|
|42||No universal accounts||The issuing bank declined the transaction due to a problem with the card’s account type.|
|43||Stolen card||The card’s owner has reported the card stolen, and the issuer is requesting that you retain it.|
|49||Card declined||The card may not be valid for this type of transaction.|
|51||Insufficient funds||The issuing bank is declining the transaction because it would put the customer’s account over their credit limit.|
|54||Expired card||The card has passed its expiration date and is no longer valid.|
|56||No card record||The issuing bank, which in this case may not in fact be the issuing bank, has declined the card because it can’t locate an account with the card’s number.|
|57||Transaction not permitted||The issuing bank says the card can’t be used for this type of transaction.|
|58||Transaction not permitted (terminal)||Your merchant account is not configured for this type of transaction.|
|59||Suspected fraud||The issuing bank declined the transaction due to suspected fraud, but no hold/retain request.|
|61||Exceeds withdrawal limit||Another code you may encounter if the customer has insufficient funds for the transaction|
|62||Invalid service code||The transaction violates some restrictions put on the card (product type, location, etc.)|
|63||Security violation||This code indicates there’s some problem with the card’s security code (CVV/CID). Usually, this can be overridden, but at the risk of the transaction later being flagged.|
|65||Activity limit exceeded||The issuing bank is declining the transaction. May be due to a high volume of transactions within a limited time, or possibly exceeding the credit limit.|
|67||Capture card||The issuing bank has declined the transaction and is requesting you capture the card, possibly due to the card being fake.|
|78||Invalid account||The issuing bank can’t find an account for the card number in question.|
|85||Issuer system unavailable||Similar to 00, the transaction failed, likely due to a communication issue on your processor’s end.|
|91||Issuer or switch is unavailable||The transaction couldn’t be authorized, likely a processor-side communication issue|
|92||Unable to route transaction||Usually seen when testing transactions when configuring a gateway, indicating that the card information can’t be found locally.|
|93||Violation, cannot complete||The issuing bank isn’t allowing the transaction.|
|96||System error||Something went wrong with the transaction, usually due to a temporary systemic error.|
|97||Invalid CVV||The Card Verification Value (CVV)–that three- or four-digit number on the front or back of a card–doesn’t match the card or account.|
|R0||Requested stop of recurring payment||The transaction was declined because the customer requested that a recurring payment no longer be processed.|
This list doesn’t represent every possible error code you could get (payment processors also have their own), but these are by far the most common. You’ll note that some codes are very similar to each other. You don’t need to necessarily know the systemic quirks that produce a code 00 instead of a code 85, however. Just have a general sense of what went wrong and what, if anything, you can do about it.
How To Deal With Credit Card Error Codes
Credit card error codes can be an annoying interruption to the normal flow of your business, so you’re probably interested in what you can do about them when they arise. The actions you can, or should, take will depend on the type of code you received.
If The Code Is From The Issuer…
These codes are the ones you probably don’t want to see as they are very often “hard” declines. That means that you won’t be able to fix the problem by running the transaction again. In these cases, there’s usually a problem with the customer’s account. This problem can range from the card not being set up for this type of transaction, to an overdrawn account, to an expired card, to blatant attempts at fraud. Frequently the code will suggest that either you or the customer contact the issuer for more information about the error. Depending on the code, you may also be expected to retain the customer’s card.
These types of rejections can be difficult to handle as they’ll require you, or your employee, to explain that the card cannot be used for the transaction. In the case of fraud, you may be asked to discreetly monitor the customers’ attempts to pay by other means, or refuse to honor any payment attempts from the customer. Use your best judgment in how to safely deal with any potentially dangerous situation. If you have employees, having an official policy for how to handle these kinds of situations and at least one person on-site trained to handle credit card issues can be very helpful.
One thing you can do, however, is to make sure you’re abiding by requests to cancel recurring payments when your customer asks.
If The Code Was Due To Human Error…
Payments may be more automated than ever, but many systems still require human fingers to hit buttons or touchscreens in just the right sequence for everything to work right. Useful but pesky features like CVVs may be misread. And you really need to get everything right if you’re entering a payment through a virtual terminal. The good news is that the solution for these codes is just to reenter the transaction and try again.
If The Code Was Due To Hardware Or Software…
Credit card terminals require some setup, as do many payment gateways. Even your merchant account needs to be set up correctly. Sometimes, someone made a mistake during setup, or the process was never finished. If you get an error code that says something is wrong on your end, you can either try to fix the problem yourself (if you have the technical knowledge) or contact your payment processor for guidance.
If The Code Was Systemic…
Ah, technology. Sometimes systems go down for maintenance or are temporarily interrupted for reasons ranging from glitches, to regional outages, to gremlins gnawing on the wires. If you get a vague, miscellaneous error code, your best bet is to try the transaction again. If it still doesn’t go through, you can investigate whether there’s a service outage in your area by contacting your payment processor or a representative of the payment network in question.
Can You Prevent Credit Card Processing Error Codes?
Since there are multiple points of origin for credit card processing codes, and your business is only one of them, it’s not possible to completely prevent them. After all, you have no control over what’s going on with your customers’ credit card accounts.
Still, there are things you can do to reduce the number of error codes you receive. If you’re getting a lot of errors related to your payment processor, you may want to consider changing payment processors. That goes double if you find that you’re dealing with an unusually high volume of fraudulent transactions, particularly eCommerce transactions. If you are, it may be time to consider a processor with advanced anti-fraud features.
If you’re running into a lot of problems with human error, you may want to reconsider your hardware, terminals, or online checkout. Are they intuitive and reasonably painless to use?
How Do Credit Card Decline Codes Really Affect Your Business?
If you accept credit card payments as part of your business, credit card decline codes just come with the territory. Usually, they’re just momentary interruptions to the flow of your business and rarely constitute full-blown crises. In most cases, you should be able to resolve the problem by running the transaction again, or asking your customer if they have either another card or cash to pay with.
Is your terminal spitting out too many credit card decline codes? Consider upgrading with one of The Best Credit Card Machines & Terminals For Small Business.