You’ve finally found the perfect big screen TV at the right price. You pull out your credit card to pay, and then it happens. The cashier gives you that uncomfortable look. She makes a quick call. After what seems like an interminable amount of time comes the verdict: your card is denied. Now what? Do you put the TV back? Do you call the credit card issuer?

What to Do When Your Credit Card Is Declined:

  • Call the credit card company immediately. But first do a mental checklist. Did you make your last payment on time? Are you over your limit? Even if one or both are true, all is not lost. When you get a credit card representative on the phone, explain your situation (out of earshot of the cashier.) If you are over your credit limit by a small amount, ask for a temporary extension. If you are a good customer, the card issuer will often authorize the purchase. If you are late on your payment, that may be a different story. In that case, ask the representative how much credit they would be willing to extend. You might then be able to split the purchase between two cards.
  • Ask the cashier to hold your item at least until the end of the day. At that point consider your options. You could (a.) make an online or phone payment to the card issuer, or (b.) use another credit card, or (c.) pay cash. Either way, you need to get current on your credit card payments fast. And maybe a big screen TV is not what you should be buying right now.
  • If you are not near your credit card limit and you have been making payments on time, take a look at your recent activity. Often the credit card company will deny a purchase if they think someone else is using your card. If you are making a lot of little purchases, uncharacteristic of your normal spending habits, or if you just went out of town and used your credit card frequently for unusual purchases, this could flag the card issuer. These are measures that are designed to protect you against identity theft. So all it takes to rectify the situation is a quick call to the company and they should be able to unfreeze your credit immediately.

Whatever the reason your credit card was denied, one thing you can’t get rid of is the embarrassment factor. The solution: get out of the store quickly!