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Declined transactions are painfully common for both merchants and customers – they are as old as credit cards themselves, and businesses have been facing the consequences of declined credit cards since the 1920s. 

According to a study conducted by Ethoca, over 1.9 billion card-not-present purchases are declined each year across the globe – a number that represents the mind-blowing $145 billion dollars in sales. 

And if that was not enough, VISA and Mastercard report that over 15% of recurring payments are declined, a percentage that can go even higher for certain industries. 

However, while declined transactions represent a quite familiar experience for merchants and customers, the reason why this happens can vary greatly, and in many occasions, it is not clear at all

In this article, we will talk about the most common credit card decline codes, and what each one of them means.

What is a credit card decline code?

A credit card decline code is a numerical code that appears on the credit card processor when the transaction hasn’t been completed successfully. These codes help merchants understand what exactly happened to prevent the transaction from going forward, and what caused the error in the first place.

Before a transaction is deemed successful, it will go through a variety of approval stages – from the issuing bank through the payment gateway and then the payment processor. 

Errors may occur at any stage of the payment process, which is why these codes are so important. They provide the information that merchants need in order to understand at what stage the error occurred, and what can be done in order to manage it.

What are the two types of credit card declines?

There are two types of credit card declines: soft declines and hard declines. Soft declines are temporary authorization issues that can happen during a transaction, meaning that the cardholder can try again later with the same payment information. Hard declines, on another hand, happen when the issuing bank of the customer rejected the payment – they are permanent and the payment should not be retried.

1. Soft declines

Soft declines occur when the payment has been approved by the issuing bank, but the transaction failed at some point of the payment process as a result of a technical issue. Some common reasons for that include:

  • Lack of funds in the credit card
  • A decline by the payment processor
  • Limits on the credit card
  • The IP address and the billing address don’t match
  • The card has expired

These transaction failures are usually temporary, which means that the cardholder can retry the payment later, or when the issue behind the decline has been solved.

2. Hard declines

Hard declines occur when the payment has been rejected by the issuing bank. As opposed to soft declines, hard declines are permanent authorization failures, and they should not be retried with the same payment data.

In most occasions, hard declines are associated with payment fraud or suspicious activity, for example:

  • The credit card has been reported as stolen
  • The card contains invalid information
  • Or the account of the cardholder has been closed.

After a hard decline, retrying the transaction with the same card will not work. In this case, there is very little that merchants can do to resolve the issue on their side.

When this happens, the customer will have to resolve the failure on their own by contacting the issuing bank or the payment processor.

But what’s more, there are some providers adding a different response code for those who are not very savvy about error codes. The advice or recommendation codes simplify the whole decision making when a payment is denied.

As a difference, if the hard and soft declines classification helps to understand the response from the issuer, the advice or recommendations codes help to take control of all the process, also the gateway; and since it’s note constraint by the card scheme rules or the issuers restrictions, it can be applied as a rule of thumb independently of where it is applied.

The recommendation code will advise whether it is a good option to retry, or otherwise if you would rather refrain from retying a payment. Or else if you here is not enough information, so you can trust your guts.

MYMOID, for example, is offering this recommendation code as an additional feature to make further decisions. Furthermore, since it’s part of the synchronous response of a payment intent, it is very helpful to program retries, or to offer an alternative payment method to the customer to accomplish a payment successfully on the go. 

Most common credit card decline codes and what they mean

Code 00: Successful transaction

This means that the transaction has been approved and processed successfully, in which case no further action is needed on the merchant’s or the customer’s side.

Code 01: Refer to card issuer

This is one of the most common credit decline codes, and it means that the issuing bank (Mastercard, VISA, etc.) has prevented the transaction from happening without mentioning a specific reason.

This code is categorised as a soft decline. In this case, the customer would have to use an alternative payment method, or call the issuing bank to understand the exact reason why the transaction couldn’t go through. 

Code 02: Refer to card issuer – special condition

This code usually indicates that there was an issue with the credit card data. The course of action is similar to code 01 – the customer would either have to complete the payment with an alternative method, or call the bank to understand the exact issue behind it.

Normally it is related to fraud risk or deactivated payment card.

Code 03: Invalid merchant

When the terminal or gateway shows this error code, it usually means that there is a configuration error in which the merchant login ID appears invalid, or the account is inactive. 

In the case of physical card machines, it can also mean that the Chip and PIN terminal aren’t properly connected to the merchant account.

Code 04: Pick up card

Next on our list of credit card decline codes is 04: Pick up card, and it means that the card has been reported as lost or stolen. 

However, it doesn’t imply that there has been a fraudulent transaction – in most cases, it’s a decline as a result of overdrawn cards or expired ones.

Code 05: Do not honor

This code falls within the category of soft credit card declines. It means that the customer’s bank has prevented the transactions, telling the merchant not to honor the card. 

There can be multiple reasons why this happens – for example, if the entered billing address doesn’t match, the customer is in another country, or if there is any red flag that may have been triggered.

The best course of action would be calling the bank to understand what has happened.

Code 06: Error

This code means that something went wrong with the transaction, but the issuing bank can’t specify the exact reason for the error. If the issue persists, the best course of action is to call the bank to ask for a more specific reason.

Code 07: Pick up card

Next on our list of credit card decline codes is “pick up card”. When this code appears, it usually means that the customer’s bank has stopped the transaction because the card has been marked as fraudulent. 

As a merchant, if this is a one-time transaction, avoid running the card again or providing any goods or services to the cardholder until the issue has been clarified.

Code 08: Honour with identification

This code means that the transaction has been processed successfully, and no identification is required. Some banks return this code instead of a 00 response.

Code 09: Request in progress 

This is a type of soft decline in which the card issuer indicates that there has been a problem with the credit card number. When this happens, the customer should either contact their bank for more information, or try using a different payment method.

Code 10: Partial amount approved

This one of our credit card decline codes means that the issuing bank accepts a part of the payment, but blocks the rest. 

This is typically a soft decline and it can happen if the cardholder has exceeded their credit card limit, or if they don’t have enough funds in their account.

Code 12: Invalid transaction 

This type of soft decline indicates that the attempted transaction has been invalid.

It means that the issuing bank does not accept the transaction, which can be for a variety of reasons – for example, if the entered information is not correct, or if the cardholder is trying something unusual such as refunding a refund.

Code 13: Invalid amount

Code 13 is one of the most common credit card decline codes, and it simply indicates that the amount entered for the transaction is not valid. For example, if the cardholder has entered the currency sign along with the amount.

In this case, the solution is simple – the user can simply re-start the transaction entering the correct amount in the correct format.

Code 14: Invalid card number

This code is a type of soft decline that indicates that the number of the credit card is not correct, which means that the credit card processor can’t find the correct account.

In this case, the user can start the transaction over again and make sure that all the digits are entered accurately. 

Code 15: No such issuer

This decline happens when the first digit of the credit card number has been entered incorrectly. 

This number identifies the issuing bank of the credit card (for example, 3 is for American Express and 5 is for Mastercard), so if it isn’t correct, the payment processor won’t be able to identify it properly.

Code 16: Issuer does not identify gambling payout

This decline arises if you are trying to cash out money from your gambling app, but your issuer won’t accept the transaction.

Code 17: Customer cancellation

You will get this error code if your customer has cancelled the operation on their side before reaching out to you. Although it’s not very common nowadays, it may happen if your payment process is asynchronous or it has been delayed for some reason.

Code 19: Re-enter

Next on our list of credit card decline codes is Re-enter, which means that an unknown error has occurred. In this case, the cardholder can restart the transaction and make sure that all the data is entered correctly.

Code 21: No action taken

This code represents a soft decline error, indicating that there is a problem with the credit card number according to the customer’s card issuer. In this case, it is advised that the customer uses an alternate payment method or calls their bank. 

Code 22: Suspected malfunction

When it comes to common credit card decline codes, a suspected malfunction means that the card issuer could not be contacted during the transaction. 

In this case, the customer can try processing the transaction later.

Code 23: Unacceptable transaction fee

When this code shows up, it means that an unspecified bank error has occurred. In this occasion, the customer should either attempt to process the transaction again, or call his bank to receive more information about the issue.

Code 25: Unable to locate record on file

When this soft decline occurs, it means that the issuing bank of the cardholder doesn’t recognize the details of the credit card. 

In this case, it is recommended to re-check the card details and try processing the payment again later.

Code 28: File update file locked out

Code 28 on our list of common credit card decline codes means that an error occurred during the authorization process of the transaction. 

Typically, the specific reason isn’t indicated, but the customer can try restarting the transaction and ensuring that all information is entered correctly. If the issue persists, he can contact his bank or merchant provider.

Code 30: Format error

Format error is a type of soft decline during which the credit card issuer of the customer can’t recognize the transaction as a result of wrongly formatted payment details. 

In this case, the customer should re-check the information to make sure that everything is entered in the correct format.

Code 31: Bank not supported by Switch

This credit card decline code indicates that the transaction has been declined by the issuing bank. It usually means that the specific card can’t be used for the type of transaction that the customer is initiating (mail, phone, fax, email, Internet orders, etc.)

Code 33: Expired card

This is one of the most common credit card decline codes, and it usually means that either the date of the credit card has expired, or the expiry date has been entered incorrectly.

If the card itself doesn’t seem to be expired, most likely the customer is facing the second issue. In this case, he can retry processing the transaction again making sure that all the details are correct.

Code 34: Suspected fraud

Code 34 is usually a hard decline, and it means that the issuing bank is suspecting fraud on the credit card number associated with the transaction. 

For merchants, it will be very important to monitor repeat transactions following this particular error to make sure there isn’t any suspicious activity.

Code 35: Card Acceptor, Contact Acquirer, Retain Card

If the credit card that the customer is using during the transaction has been reported as lost or stolen, the card issuer can decline the transaction and request that the card is retained. In this case, you will see code 35.

Code 36: Restricted / retained card

In a similar manner to 36, when this type of decline happens, it means that the customer’s credit card issuer has declined the transaction and requested for the card to be retained.

Code 37: Contact Acquirer Security Department, Retain Card

This is another “decline and retain” code similar to the previous credit card decline codes. However, in this case, the bank is also requesting that the customer contacts them about the issue.

Code 38: Allowable PIN tries exceeded

Next on our list of credit card decline codes is allowable PIN tries exceeded. This means that. if the customer enters an incorrect PIN three or more times, the issuer of the credit card will decline the transaction with this code.

Code 41: Lost card pick up

This type of hard decline means that the legitimate owner of the credit card has reported it as lost or stolen. As a result, the issuing bank is declining the transaction. 

In this case, the cardholder should call their bank right away. The merchant may request an alternative payment method in order to complete the transaction.

Code 42: No universal amount

Code 42 means that the issuing bank of the credit card has declined the transaction because it detected a problem with the card’s account type.

Code 43: Pick up, stolen card

This code means that the cardholder has reported his credit card as stolen, in which case the issuing bank is requesting for the card to be retained.

Code 49: Card declined

When this one of our credit card decline codes occurs, it typically means that the credit card is not valid for this particular type of transaction. 

Code 51: Insufficient funds

This is probably one of the most common credit card decline codes. 

It is a soft decline and it means that the transaction has been denied by the customer’s issuing bank because the customer has exceeded their card limit, or because the transaction will put them over the limit. 

In this case, the merchant can suggest trying an alternative payment method.

Code 54: Expired card

This type of soft decline happens when the expiration date of the credit card has already passed.

In this case, the customer should use a credit card that is still valid, or re-try the transaction with the new card that should have arrived at their email (which is sent by the bank once the previous one expires).

Code 55: Incorrect PIN

This is also among the most common credit card decline codes, and it means that the cardholder has tried completing the transaction by entering an incorrect PIN. 

Code 56: No card record

This type of soft decline means that the issuing bank has declined the credit card because they can’t locate an account with this number. 

In this case, the cardholder should re-check the information to make sure that their account is associated with the correct issuer.

Code 57: Transaction not allowed for cardholder

Code 57 typically shows up when the cardholder is trying to complete a transaction that’s not allowed, such as transferring funds to a foreign merchant account.

In this case, the customer can either try using a card that’s configured for this type of transaction, or contact their bank to see if it’s allowed to change the configuration in order to complete it successfully.

Code 58: Transaction not permitted to terminal

This one on our list of credit card decline codes means that the merchant account hasn’t been properly configured or connected to the terminal or payment processor. 

In this case, the merchant would have to call their bank to investigate further regarding the exact issue and how it can be solved. If this happens to customers, they may try using a different payment method.

Code 59: Suspected fraud

This code means that the issuing bank has declined the transaction as a result of suspected fraud. However, as opposed to codes 34-37, there is no request to hold or retain the card.

Code 60: Card acceptor contact acquirer

This code warns that the card issuer has declined the transaction on its end. Since this decline will persist, the user should contact her bank and retry. 

Code 61: Exceeds withdrawal limit

In a similar manner to code 51, code 61 is another alternative for credit card decline codes that indicate that the customer doesn’t have enough funds to complete the transaction. 

Code 62: Restricted card

This type of soft decline happens when the transaction is violating certain restrictions put on the credit card. They can be summed up into 2 different reasons.

One of them is that the cardholder is attempting to process an American Express or Discover card on systems that don’t support them. 

The other highly common reason is that the cardholder has tried making a purchase online with a card that doesn’t support online payments.

In this case, the best course of action for the customer would be to call their merchant provider and ensure that the system is supporting American Express / Discover cards. 

If the error is associated with online payments, merchants can offer multiple options for payment, such as face-to-face transactions.

Code 63: Security violation

This code means that the 3-digit CVV2 or CVC (or the 4-digit CID security code) wasn’t entered correctly, or the system didn’t read it properly for some reason. 

In this case, the customer can restart the transaction, making sure that all details have been entered correctly.

Code 64: Wrong original amount

This decline is due to an inconsistency between the transaction amount and the expected from the card issuer. In this case, the right way to proceed should be contacting the issuer bank and retrying later.

Code 65: Activity limit exceeded

This common credit card decline code means that the activity limit of the card has been exceeded. 

For example, it can mean a high number of transactions within a limited timeframe, or that the cardholder has exceeded their credit card limit (or the transaction would put them over the limit).

Code 66: Card acceptor call acquirer security

As it happens with several error codes, the code 66 is vague and opaque in explanations. However, this error is a hard decline kind, so it is encouraged from the issuer to pick the card and to not retry.

Code 67: Capture card

This code usually means that the transaction has been declined by the issuing bank, and they are requesting you to capture the card. A common reason why this happens is because the card has been identified as fake.

Code 68: Response received too late

Code 68 is a system error code – for example, if the ATM wasn’t able to physically process the transaction. 

In this case, the cardholder can retry the withdrawal in another ATM or do this over the counter in the bank.

Code 75: PIN tries exceeded

This is one of the most common types of credit card decline codes. This transaction response code simply means that the customer has entered their PIN more than three times, and the issuing bank blocked the transaction as a result.

Code 76: Wrong PIN, number of PIN tries exceeded

In a similar manner to code 75, this credit card decline code means that the PIN that the cardholder has entered is incorrect, or that they have entered the wrong PIN more than three times.

Code 77: Wrong reference number

This one on our list of credit card decline codes means that the merchant processed a transaction against an account number that doesn’t coincide with the account number of the card holder (on the issuing bank’s master file).

Code 78: Record not found, invalid account

Code 78 is a type of soft decline that indicates that the issuing bank of the credit card can’t find an account for the card.

Code 80: Network error

Quite obvious, but important to know. This error comes up when there’s a lack of communication with the card network, generally from physical POS if they can’t dial properly.

Code 82: Timeout at issuer system

Next on our list of credit card decline codes is timeout at issuer system.

This error code may happen if there is a delay in the response from the issuer –normally coming from a communication issue. For security reasons, the operation needs to be interrupted, but it is okay to try again once the communication is reestablished.

Code 84: Pre-authorization timed out

Stick only to preauthorizations, this error code warns about a delay in the response from the card issuer. If it happens, there is no risk in retrying, given that no amount has been charged and it doesn’t imply any hard decline from the issuer.

Code 85: No reason to decline

This code means that the transaction couldn’t go through, but the issuing bank couldn’t identify a specific problem. This can also happen as a result of a temporary communication error.

When this happens, the customer can restart the transaction, and if it still doesn’t go through, contact their bank to further investigate the issue. They can also try with a different card to see if the issue was related to the specific merchant.

Code 86: Cannot verify PIN

This one from our credit card decline codes means that the issuing bank wasn’t able to verify the PIN of the credit card, which resulted in a declined transaction. 

Code 91: Issuer not available

Next on our list of common credit card decline codes is 91. It is a type of soft decline, and it means that the terminal or the payment processor wasn’t able to complete the payment authorization.

This often happens because the authorization communication failed, and the transaction can be retried later.

Code 92: Unable to route at acquirer mode

This soft decline code means that the terminal is unable to reach the card issuer in order to process the transaction successfully.

This error happens often in transaction testing when configuring a payment gateway.

Code 93: Transaction cannot be completed, violation of law

Code 93 means that the transaction cannot be completed because the issuing bank has identified a legal violation on the part of the cardholder. 

As a result, the assets are frozen, and the transaction is declined.

Code 96: System malfunction

This soft decline means that there is a temporary issue with the payment processor, usually a temporary systematic error. In this case, the cardholder can wait for a few minutes and try completing the transaction again.

If the issue persists, they can contact the merchant provider to investigate the issue.

Code 97: Invalid CVV

Another one among the most common credit card decline codes is CVV mismatch. This means that the CVV code (the three or four digit number found at the back of the card) didn’t match the card or the account.

As a result, the transaction was declined. When this happens, the customer can try filling out the payment details making sure that the CVV entered is the correct one.

This was our list of credit card decline codes! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.