Credit Card Decline Codes

What Are Credit Card Decline Codes?

Credit card decline codes are messages that reveal why a requested transaction cannot proceed. The bank that issued the credit card, the payment processor, and the payment gateway can all decline a payment. The credit card decline code reveals why they have done so.

If your business sells goods or services, it’s likely you’re already familiar with the disruption that a declined credit card transaction can cause. However, it’s not just the customer having insufficient funds or exceeding their credit limit that can cause this to happen. By recognizing credit card error codes and understanding what triggers them, you are in a strong position to do all you can to ensure as many payments as possible are successful.

In so doing, you are not just maximizing the number of payments that are successful, you could also reduce your customer churn rate, by removing friction that might otherwise send your customers in the direction of your competitors.

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Soft Credit Card Declines vs Hard Credit Card Declines 

Before we dive into the details of the most common credit card decline codes and what they mean, it’s important to understand the difference between soft and hard credit card declines.

Soft Credit Card Declines 

A soft credit card decline is when a temporary situation causes the authorization to fail when a merchant tries to take payment. According to, 80-90% of all credit card declines are soft declines.

Soft credit card declines occur for a wide range of reasons. A few examples include:

·  a problem with the payment processor or payment gateway’s systems

·  unusual expenditure prompting the card issuing authority to check and authenticate the cardholder

·  the cardholder having insufficient funds

·  a card being used overseas

·  the customer entering their billing address details incorrectly

·  the customer failing Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) checks

In each of these situations, the merchant can try to process the payment again, once the reason for the failure has been addressed. Understanding credit card declined reason codes may help speed this process up, by enabling swift identification of the cause of the payment failure.

Hard Credit Card Declines

Hard credit card declines occur when there is a permanent reason that a credit card is not working. They come from the card issuer. If a credit card has expired, for example, the card issuer will reject all attempts to use it for payments. The same applies if a cardholder has reported their credit card lost or stolen.

In the case of hard declines, there is no point in a merchant retrying the payment, as it will fail every time. As such, merchants who understand decline codes for credit cards that relate to such issues can avoid wasting time retrying payments. Instead, they can focus their efforts on letting the customer know they will need to provide alternative payment details.

Examples of Credit Card Decline Codes

There are dozens of decline codes that may be triggered by payment failures. Some provide more detail than others. Let’s take a look at some of the most common examples.

Call Decline Codes 

Credit card readers may flash up “call” or “decline” for a range of reasons. Numerous codes help to shed light on these reasons, with some of the most common being shown below:

Decline code 05Do not honor
Credit card decline code 51Insufficient funds
Decline code 54Expired card
Declined card code 65Activity limit exceeded

In many of these cases, a quick call from the cardholder to the bank is sufficient to resolve the situation.

While credit card declined code 51 and the others listed above are some of the most common, there are other call decline codes of which merchants should be aware. These include 01 (refer to issuer), 02 (refer to issuer, special condition), 04 (pick up card, no fraud), 57 (transaction not permitted), and 93 (violation, cannot complete).

Hold-Call Codes 

The list of credit card declined codes includes three important hold-call codes, with which every merchant should be familiar. These are:

Decline code 07Pick up card, special condition (fraud account)
Credit card decline code 41Lost card, pick up
Decline code 43Stolen card, pick up

All three of these declined credit card codes require the merchant to take the card from the customer and contact the card issuer to confirm that they have done so (for in-person transactions). These codes indicate that credit card fraud may be taking place, meaning it is essential that merchants recognize the meanings of these codes and take swift action as a result.

Error Codes

There are many error codes that may pop up when a credit card transaction fails. Often, they result from incorrectly entered details, from zip codes to CVV numbers and expiry dates. As such, many of these error codes mean that merchants simply need to try the payment again, being careful that the correct details are used.

Some common error codes are detailed below.

Error code 14Invalid card number
Credit card decline code 500Card issuer malfunction
Decline code 00Issuer system unavailable
481 declined code credit cardPayment authorization failed

The details of some error codes are more helpful than others. Codes R0 and R1, for example, indicate that the customer has requested that a specific recurring payment be stopped. This provides the merchant with a precise reason for the payment failure, meaning they can take appropriate action. This is more helpful than, for example, a more general code such as 96 (system error) or 85 (no reason to decline or issuer system unavailable).

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Complete List of Credit Card Decline Codes

Other credit card decline codes that merchants may come across – and that we have not already mentioned above – are detailed below.

6Other error
10Partial approval
12Invalid transaction
13Invalid amount
15No such issuer
28No reply/response
58Transaction not permitted – terminal
62Invalid service code, restricted
63Security violation
91Issuer or switch is unavailable
92Unable to route transaction
CVCard type verification error
W1, W2, W9Error connecting to bank

Why Are Credit Card Decline Codes Important?

Given the effort that merchants must make to market their goods and attract customers, it is essential that all those who try to checkout should be supported to do so. As such, credit card decline codes are important to merchants as they can rapidly bring clarity to situations where payments have failed.

Knowledge of what different codes mean gives merchants the power to liaise with customers, card issuers, payment processors, and payment gateways (as required) to attempt to resolve the payment failure situation as swiftly and successfully as possible.

By focusing on credit card decline codes and processes, merchants can try to keep their customers happier, grow their bottom lines, and avoid customer churn. Some 20 to 40% of customer churn results from declined payments. Merchants who take a proactive stance to decline codes can do their best to limit the impact of failed transactions.

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