The Reasons Why an ATM Card Is Declined

  Reviewed by: Ryan Cockerham, CISI Capital Markets and Corporate Finance      Updated October 20, 2018
  Written by: Lisa McQuerrey
The Reasons Why an ATM Card Is Declined

ATMs, or automatic teller machines, offer consumers with credit or debit cards fast access to cash advances or withdrawals. Typically, the card is inserted, the financial transaction request is made and the machine dispenses the correct amount of money. A variety of factors can disrupt this process and result in the card being declined. If this happens to you, contact your bank immediately to get to the root of the problem.

Inadequate Balance Issues

A common reason for a card being declined is a balance that is too low to support the requested transaction. You may have less money in your account than you thought, or a previously-made transaction, like a deposit, may not have cleared. Take into consideration both your request and the associated ATM fee. For example, if you know you have $21 in your account, and you’re attempting to take out $20, if your bank charges a $2 ATM fee, your card will be declined due to insufficient funds.

Assessing Account Changes

If your account is frozen for any reason, your ATM card will likely be declined. For example, if you recently experienced a number of overdrafts, reported a card missing or stolen or had a fraud alert put on your card, a machine will likely decline it and, in some cases, even retain the card and not give it back to you. If your card has expired, this, too can trigger a decline notice. Many financial institutions also limit how much money you can take from an ATM in a 24-hour period. If you’ve surpassed this amount, your card may be declined.

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Using the Wrong PIN

Entering the wrong PIN, or personal identification number, can cause your card to be declined as well. In most instances, the machine will prompt you to retry the PIN, but if you enter it wrong repeatedly, the ATM may hold your card in an effort to ensure that it is not being used illegally by someone else. You'll have to contact the creditor to get it back.

Other Technical Glitches

Sometimes ATMs are undergoing service or experiencing a computer malfunction that results in declined cards. ATMs can also be emptied of cash, especially on busy weekends. While most low or empty machines automatically post an “unavailable” icon of some sort to alert potential users to the problem, you may also experience a straight decline instead. If this happens, contact your bank or creditor about the matter so the issue can be addressed and resolved.

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been an award-winning writer and author for more than 25 years. She specializes in business, finance, workplace/career and education. Publications she’s written for include Southwest Exchange and InBusiness Las Vegas.

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