What are the credit card decline codes and what do they mean?

Credit card declined codes are specific codes assigned to transactions when a payment cannot be processed. These codes help identify the reason for the decline, whether due to issues with the payment gateway, the processor, or the issuing bank. Each code corresponds to a specific issue and is usually accompanied by a brief explanation.

This guide provides a complete list of common credit card decline codes and their meanings to help merchants improve payment processing, recover sales and support better customer experiences.

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Soft vs. Hard Declines, What’s the Difference?

Declines usually fall into two categories: 

  • Soft Declines: A soft decline happens when the issuing bank approves a transaction, but the payment processor or gateway rejects it due to a temporary issue. Common causes include insufficient funds, exceeding the card’s limit, incorrect billing information, or unusual activity. These declines are temporary and can often be resolved by retrying the transaction later or correcting the issue, with the bank holding the funds until correction.
  • Hard Declines: A hard decline is a permanent authorization failure from the issuing bank, meaning the transaction cannot be retried or processed further. Common reasons include an invalid, expired, or cancelled card, suspected fraud, a closed or deactivated account, or an unactivated card. In these cases, merchants must request an alternative payment method to complete the purchase.

Understanding the difference between soft and hard declines allows merchants to retry soft declines and recover sales, avoid penalties for retrying hard declines, and provide accurate guidance to customers. Analyzing decline patterns also helps optimise payment processes, with gateways and processors offering codes to aid merchants in taking the right actions.

Common Credit Card Decline Codes

Here is a list of the most common credit card decline codes: 

Code Reason Explanation and Suggested Action
00 Transaction Approved Successfully The transaction is approved and completed successfully.
01 Refer To Card Issuer The issuer refuses the transaction; the cardholder should contact their bank.
03 Invalid Merchant Number Incorrect merchant details entered or merchant facility is non-functional.
04 Pick-Up Card Card may be lost or stolen; the issuer requests retaining the card.
05 Do Not Honor Issuer is unwilling to accept the transaction; customer should use another card or contact bank.
06 Error General error; if recurring, check for fraud or system error.
07 Pick Up Card, Special Condition Similar to code 04, but with specific conditions like fraud suspicion.
10 Partial Approval Transaction partially approved; remainder must be paid with another method.
12 Invalid Transaction Error in processing; ensure payment settings are correct.
13 Invalid Amount Check transaction amount for errors like negative figures or incorrect symbols.
14 Invalid Card Number Card number entered incorrectly or does not exist.
15 No Issuer Card issuer does not exist; re-check card number.
19 Re-enter Transaction Processing temporarily unavailable; retry transaction.
22 Suspected Malfunction Issuer not responding; cardholder should retry transaction.
30 Format Error Check merchant account setup for errors.
31 Bank Not Supported By Switch Bank does not support specific transaction types like mail/telephone orders.
34 Suspected Fraud, Retain Card Transaction declined due to suspected fraud; retain card and contact issuer.
41 Lost Card Card reported lost; do not retry transaction.
42 No Universal Account Invalid account type for the card number.
43 Stolen Card Card reported stolen; do not retry transaction.
46 Closed Account Transaction declined due to closed account or validation issues.
51 Insufficient Funds Not enough funds or credit limit exceeded.
54 Expired Card Card is no longer valid.
55 Invalid PIN Incorrect PIN entered.
56 No Card Record Card number does not exist.
57 Function Not Permitted To Cardholder Card cannot be used for the attempted transaction.
58 Function Not Permitted To Terminal Card or merchant account not configured for this transaction type.
59 Suspected Fraud Transaction appears fraudulent.
61 Exceeds Withdrawal Limit Transaction amount exceeds withdrawal limit.
62 Restricted Card Card not valid for the transaction or region.
63 Security Violation Security issue detected; cardholder should contact their bank.
65 Activity Limit Exceeded Card activity limit reached.
67 Capture Card Card suspected counterfeit; retain card and contact issuer.
70 Contact Card Issuer Issue with card, cardholder should contact issuer.
75 Allowable Number of PIN Tries Exceeded Customer exceeded maximum PIN entry attempts.
78 No Account Account associated with card does not exist.
79 Life Cycle Card information incorrect or expired.
80 Invalid Date Invalid card expiration date.
82 CVV/CID/CVC Check Failed Security code does not match issuer records.
83 Fraud/Security Transaction declined due to suspected fraud.
86 Cannot Verify PIN PIN verification failed.
91 Card Issuer Unavailable Unable to reach card issuer.
92 Unable to Route Transaction Transaction routing issue; retry or use another card.
93 Transaction Cannot be Completed; Violation of Law Transaction violates law or policy.
96 System Malfunction Issue with issuer’s system; retry transaction.

Improving Transactions

Merchants can improve transaction success by informing customers about the reasons for declines and suggesting alternative actions, monitoring repeated declines to spot potential fraud patterns and ensure transaction security. Additionally, implementing smart retry logic for subscriptions can help reduce decline rates without increasing the risk of fraud, ensuring a smoother transaction process.

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