Sooner or later, all merchants will experience a credit card being declined. While it may be embarrassing for the customer, knowing how to address a decline can make or break the customer experience.
Credit card declines happen when a payment can’t be processed for one reason or another. In response to a decline, your reader will display an error code.
Credit card error codes explain why a transaction was declined, which can help merchants provide advice and support to customers. All credit card processing codes are universal; therefore, they will not differ between point of sale (POS systems).
Here’s what you need to know about the list of credit card declined codes and what each one means.
What are Credit Card Decline Codes?
Visa declined codes and MasterCard declined codes will appear on your POS system whenever a customer’s card is declined.
Transactions may be declined by the processor, the payment gateway, or the issuing bank. The merchant sees only the credit card declined reason code and an error message.
Processors assign these codes to transactions to inform merchants why a particular transaction was declined.
Credit card declines can be separated into two major categories:
- Soft Decline – The issuer has approved the payment, but there’s another problem with the transaction. With a soft decline transaction, retrying the transaction often resolves the issue.
- Hard Decline – These declines occur when the issuing bank refuses to authorize the transaction. There’s typically nothing the merchant can do other than ask whether the customer has another credit card they can use.
Because soft declines are typically temporary, it’s perfectly acceptable to retry the transaction. Hard declines, on the other hand, should never be met with a “brute force” transaction.
Brute forcing a transaction can lead to future credit card chargebacks. If this occurs, you have no recourse, and you’ll be left paying out-of-pocket.
Whenever you resolve a soft or hard decline, it’s always a good idea to keep a record of the action taken in case you need to fight a chargeback dispute at a later date.
Familiarizing yourself with different credit card processing decline codes allows you to protect your business and better support your customers.
Common Reasons Credit Cards are Declined
When credit card declined codes appear, there are many potential causes and possible courses of action.
Here’s a brief overview of the most common reasons credit cards are declined:
- The customer has reached their credit limit
- A purchase was flagged as fraudulent
- The customer already has a large pending transaction
- The credit card has expired
- An account has been closed
The customer themselves can only solve most instances of a credit card decline, so it’s important to be able to provide your customers with the right advice whenever credit card declined reason codes appear.
List of Credit Card Decline Codes
While it may be unreasonable to expect cashiers to remember all credit card authorization response codes, categorizing them appropriately can indicate the right course of action.
It’s important to understand the merchant doesn’t get the full story, even when they receive a decline code. Often, the only thing a merchant can do is retry the transaction (when safe to do so) or encourage the customer to contact their issuing bank.
Let’s examine the various categories of credit card machine error codes.
When a credit card reader flashes a “CALL” or “DECLINE” code, it indicates that the issuing bank is not permitting the transaction to go through.
There are a variety of reasons this might be the case. The correct course of action is to request that the customer call their bank or use an alternative payment method.
To provide stellar customer service, you can offer to reserve your customer’s items for them for a limited time. Doing your best to accommodate a red-faced shopper can potentially get you a regular.
- 01/Refer to Issuer – There’s something wrong with the card number. The customer should contact the issuing bank.
- 02/Refer to Issuer, Special Condition – Similar to 01, the issuing bank is refusing the transaction. 02 often appears if the customer is making a larger-than-usual purchase or they’ve been traveling. Either way, the customer should contact their issuing bank.
- 04/Pick Up Card (No Fraud) – The card has been reported lost or stolen but not flagged for fraud. This code requests the merchant pick up the card and contact the issuing bank.
- 05/Do Not Honor – The issuing bank will not allow the payment to proceed. The customer is advised to contact their issuing bank.
- 51/Insufficient Funds – The card does not have the necessary funds available to make the full payment.
- 54/Expired Card – The card has expired and cannot be used.
- 57/Transaction Not Permitted, Card – The card cannot be used with this type of transaction. Provide the customer with the transaction details and ask them to contact the issuing bank to authorize the transaction.
- 65/Activity Limit Exceeded – The customer’s withdrawal frequency limit has been exceeded. Ask them to use another card or complete the purchase after limits have been refreshed.
- 93/Violation, Cannot Complete – There is a problem with the customer’s account, and they should contact their issuing bank or use another card.
Hold-call codes are more serious because they could indicate the credit card has been used fraudulently. In all instances of a hold-call code, the merchant is required to take the card and report it to the issuing bank (usually by calling a toll-free number).
When these credit card error codes are spotted, the business should not honor any transaction or provide any services.
- 07/Pick Up Card, Special Condition (Fraud Account) – The issuing bank has found the customer’s account to be fraudulent.
- 41/Lost Card, Pick Up – This card has been reported as lost. Don’t run the card a second time and don’t serve the customer. If this occurs during a recurring payment, contact the customer.
- 43/Stolen Card, Pick Up – This card has been reported as stolen. Again, don’t provide any goods or services to the customer, retain the card, and immediately report it to the issuing bank.
Credit Card Error Codes
Credit card error codes are more difficult to resolve because they encompass a wide range of potential problems. Usually, credit card machine error codes indicate a problem with your POS system. We recommend having this list handy to avoid the customer getting frustrated.
- 00/Issuer System Unavailable – A temporary communication issue. This can often be resolved by waiting a few minutes and attempting the transaction again.
- 12/Invalid Transaction – The attempted transaction is incorrect or incorrect configuration of payment batches. This often happens when businesses are attempting to issue refunds to the customer’s credit card.
- 13/Invalid Amount – Data entry error. Code 13 occurs when the merchant enters an incorrect symbol or a negative dollar amount.
- 14/Invalid Card Number – Cashier has incorrectly entered the customer’s card number. Clear all fields and enter the string of digits again.
- 15/No Such Issuer – This code is unique to AMEX, Discover, Visa, and MasterCard. They will each start with a different string of digits, but they will all contain “15” at the end. This error occurs when the initial numbers entered fail to match the card type.
- 19/Re-Enter – An unknown error has occurred. The only option is to attempt the transaction again.
- 28/File is Temporarily Unavailable – A glitch has occurred during authorization. Retry the transaction or contact the issuer.
- 58/Transaction Not Permitted, Terminal – Occurs when the merchant processing account is not configured to accept the transaction. Contact your POS issuer to reconfigure your terminal.
- 62/Invalid Service Code, Restricted – Error code 62 occurs when your POS doesn’t accept AMEX or Discover cards. It can also appear when a customer attempts to pay online with a card that isn’t authorized for online payments.
- 63/Security Violation – CVV code was read incorrectly. Retrying the transaction without the CVV code usually works. Inform the customer about this just in case the transaction is subsequently flagged as fraudulent.
- 85/No Reason to Decline – Unexplainable error has occurred. Retry the transaction or contact the issuer.
- 91/Issuer Switch is Unavailable – No specific reason why an error was encountered. Either contact the issuer or your payment processor.
- 93/Violation, Cannot Complete – A problem has occurred with the customer’s account. Ask for an alternative payment method.
- 96/System Error – A system error has occurred. Wait a couple of minutes before retrying. If the error persists, contact your payment processor.
- R0 or R1/Customer Requested Stop of Specific Recurring Payment – This error occurs when a customer has canceled a recurring payment with your business. Contact the customer to make sure this wasn’t a mistake or an outdated card.
How to Train Employees in Detecting and Acting on Credit Card Decline Codes
This long list of credit card declined codes can be daunting for employers. It’s unreasonable to expect cashiers to remember every code and what to do if one appears.
Instead, keep a reference sheet alongside your POS to help cashiers instantly look up each code and what to do in that specific situation.
In the event a hold-call code appears, it’s strongly recommended that you only confiscate the card if it’s safe to do so. Either way, the presence of a hold-call code should be reported, and information sent to the relevant authorities.
Make sure support phone numbers for your POS provider are readily available in case the problem has something to do with your system.
POS problems often occur during the setup process and a simple reconfiguration with the support of your provider can get you up and running again.
Being familiar with credit card authorization response codes and what to do about them are essential for meeting your customers’ needs.
With an increasing number of shoppers relying solely on credit cards to shop, you need a POS system supporting and growing alongside your business.
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