Progressive Payment Solutions

The Complete Guide to Credit Card Decline and Error Codes: What They Mean and What To Do

The Complete Guide to Credit Card Decline and Error Codes: What They Mean and What To Do

Find out what every credit card decline and error code means and what you should do about it.

Every business needs sales. Period. If there’s not an exchange of payment for a product or service, then there can’t be a sustainable business.

So what do you do when things go wrong with a payment? The solution lies with understanding what the error is.

The sooner you can diagnose the problem, the sooner it can be corrected to continue to receive payments from the customer.

PPS is here to help when a credit card is declined or an error code occurs. Let’s take a look at what common error codes exist and what to do when they appear.

What is a credit card decline code?

With 189 million American adults carrying at least one credit card, there are bound to be errors or problems at some point. 

When there’s a problem with a credit card payment, there will be an error code. This code will appear on the POS (point of sale) system to help the merchant understand what exactly the problem is. 

These codes are usually two characters that are numbers, but sometimes three and can include letters as well. Knowing what they mean will help you quickly identify the problem with the payment.

Credit credit card decline and error codes

To help you quickly identify problems with payments, we’ve put together a complete list of every credit card decline and error code and what they mean. We’ll also help you know what you should do about it.

00 Issuer System unavailable – This is a temporary communication error caused by a problem with the system. 

What do do: Because it’s a network or system error, simply waiting a few minutes should clear up this problem.

01 Refer to Issuer – When a cardholder’s issuing bank (such as Visa or Mastercard) blocks the transaction, this code will show up.

What do do: Since it’s a problem with their card, kindly ask if they have a different card to pay with. If they don’t, invite them to call the credit card company using the toll free number on the back of the card to see why they blocked the transaction. 

02 Refer to Issuer (special condition) – This is very similar to code 01, where a cardholder’s issuing bank has blocked the transaction.

What to do: Again, tactfully ask if they have another card that they can use. If not, refer to the phone number on the back of their card to call their credit card company to inquire what the issue is.

04 Pick up card – The cause of this code is that the issuing bank has blocked the transaction. However, this is likely due to suspicious activity: a card that’s lost/misplaced or fraud. But there also may simply be an expiration issue.

What to do: Once again, inquire to see if the customer has another card that they can use. If not, suggest calling the phone number on the back of their card to see what the issue is.

05 Do not honor – The issuing bank has stopped the transaction, asking you to “not honor” the card. 

What to do: Discreetly suggest the customer use another card, while inviting them to inquire with the credit card company about why there’s a problem with their card. 

06 Other error – The issuing bank wasn’t able to complete the transaction, citing an unknown error.

What do do: This may be a temporary network or system error, so trying again may clear up this problem. If not, call the issuing bank to see what the problem is.

07 Hold or Pickup card, special condition (fraud) – This code appears when the issuing bank stops the transaction because of suspected fraud.

What to do: Don’t run the card again. Do not accept payment from the customer. If possible, discreetly call the phone number on the card to inform the bank of what has occurred.

10 Partial approval – When there’s partial approval, the issuing bank accepts part of the payment but blocks the rest. This is often from exceeding the credit limit or funds in the account.

What to do: Have the customer call the bank to understand and clear up the issue. If it’s a matter of credit limits, see if the customer can use a different form of payment.

12 Invalid transaction – This may be the result of merchant error (your business). This invalid code may be the result of entering incorrect information, dollar amounts, or from pressing the wrong button. 

What to do: Reenter all of the information entered: card, billing, etc. being careful not to use incorrect symbols or negative amounts.

13 Invalid amount – When entering the number field for dollar amount, an error occurred with the merchant (your business). It might have been a letter or symbol that was erroneously entered.

What to do: Simply enter the correct dollar amount and try again.

14 Invalid card number – The merchant (your business) incorrectly entered the credit card number.

What to do: Using greater care, enter the correct card number.

15 No such issuer – Here the credit card number doesn’t start with the correct number. All American Express card numbers start with a 3, Visa 4, Mastercard 5, and Discover 6.

What to do: Make sure the first number entered is the correct one and start again. 

19 Re-enter – This is basically saying “something went wrong, and we don’t know what”. 

What to do: Try sending the transaction again. If this doesn’t work, have the customer call the issuing bank. If there’s no problem there, contact your merchant provider.

25 POS condition code invalid value – This is the result of incorrect information being sent.

What to do: Reenter the information with greater care and try again.

28 File is temporarily unavailable – During the first part of the process while the payment was being authorized, an error occurred. 

What to do: This might just be a temporary error, so retry after a few minutes. If it continues, first have the customer contact their issuing bank to make sure there aren’t any problems. If that doesn’t work, contact your merchant account provider. 

41 Lost/Hold call, pick up card (fraud) – This is from a customer reporting a card to be lost or stolen, thus the issuing bank has denied the transaction. 

What to do: It’s not recommended to accept other payments from this customer, since they might be using other stolen credit cards not yet reported. If possible, discreetly call the phone number on the card and report the incident to the issuing bank.

43 Stolen, pick up card (fraud) – Just like 41, this is when the issuing bank denies the transaction due to a card being reported stolen.

What to do: Again, don’t accept other payments from this customer, since there’s a risk that they may be using other stolen credit cards not yet reported. If possible, discreetly call the phone number on the card and report the incident to the issuing bank.

51 Insufficient funds – If the cardholder has reached their spending limit, this error will appear. This will also be the error if the attempted transaction would cause them to reach their spending limit. For example, if they have a $10,000 limit and they have a balance of $9,990, purchasing anything over $10 will cause this code to appear.

What to do: Kindly and discreetly advise them that the transaction isn’t possible with that credit card. Politely ask for another form of payment.

54 Expired card – Because the expiration date for the card has passed, the transaction was denied.

What to do: First, confirm whether or not the card has expired by looking at the expiration date. If it has, kindly mention this to the customer and ask for another card or form or payment.

57 Transaction not permitted, Card – This simply means the customer’s card isn’t configured for that type of transaction.

What to do: Give the customer the option of either calling their issuing bank and ask if that type of transaction can be permitted, or request that they use a different card or form of payment

58 Transaction not permitted, Terminal – This is due to the merchant processing account not being properly set up for that type of transaction.

What to do: Contact your merchant provider representative to request that they set up your account or POS to accept that type of transaction. 

61 Exceeds issuer withdrawal limit – When the customer has withdrawn or overspent beyond their limits (or are too close to their limit to complete that purchase), this code will appear.

What to do: If the customer doesn’t have another card or manner to pay, invite them to contact their issuing bank.

62 Invalid service code, restricted – This can be due to two reasons. The first is that your business is attempting to do an AMEX or Discover transaction on a merchant’s system that isn’t signed up to use these cards.
The second reason is if a customer is trying to pay online with a card that isn’t set up for online payments.

What to do: For the first reason, contact your merchant provider to make sure your POS supports these types of card.
For the second, invite the customer to either pay in person or pay online with a card that is authorized.

63 Security violation – If the three-digit CVV code or the four-digit CID code on the back of the card wasn’t entered correctly, this error will come up.

What to do: Enter the card information without entering the code. Advise the customer that the issuing bank may flag the transaction as fraudulent. 

65 Activity limit exceeded – Much like 61, this means the customer has exceeded their spending limit or will do so with this transaction.

What to do: Invite them to use a different card, or suggest that they contact their bank for a credit limit increase.

78 No account, invalid account, or nonexistent account – This basically means that the bank didn’t recognize the account. This may be due to an inactive status.

What to do: Kindly let them know this status and invite them to inquire of their bank to clear things up. Invite them to use a different card or form of payment. 

85 Issuer System unavailable – This is just like 00: a temporary communication error caused by a problem with the system. 

What do do: Because it’s just like 00 and is the result of a network or system error, simply waiting a few minutes should clear up this problem.

91 Issuer or switch unavailable – This is a temporary communication error or system error. 

What do do: Wait a few minutes and try again once the system is back.

92 Unable to route transaction – If the terminal can’t reach the card issuer to process the transaction, this code will appear.

What to do: Simply wait a few minutes and try again. If things aren’t fixed, contact the issuing bank.

93 Violation, cannot complete – The issuing bank has blocked the transaction due to some sort of issue with the customer’s account.

What to do: Invite the customer to use another card or form of payment, and recommend they inquire with their bank to understand the situation.

96 System malfunction / System error – This is likely due to a temporary problem with your terminal or payment processor. 

What to do: Try again after a few minutes. If this doesn’t resolve things, contact your payment processor to correct the problem.

97 Invalid CVV – Like code 63, this code happens if the three-digit CVV code on the back of the card wasn’t entered correctly.

What to do: Simply re enter the card information with the correct CVV code, or try entering it without the CVV code. 

215, 534, 596 Lost/stolen card (fraud) – These codes appear after the payment was denied due to the card already being reported as lost or stolen.

What to do: Merchants are discouraged from accepting other payments from this customer, since they might be using other stolen credit cards. If possible, discreetly call the phone number on the card and report the incident to the issuing bank.

RO, R1 – This code is a unique one. It’s sent to subscription businesses that charge recurring payments. If the customer has informed the card issuer to stop recurring payments to your business, this code will appear.

What to do: To avoid chargeback fees to your business, stop charging the card. Inquire with the customer as to why they didn’t cancel with you to make sure it was done on purpose.

CV Card type verification error – This simply means the card reader had a problem verifying the physical card, perhaps due to contamination of the magnetic stripe or chip.

What to do: The best way to handle this is to clean the card. If you have any cleaning products handy, use those. If nothing else, whip it on your clothing to remove any contamination. If this doesn’t work, enter the card information manually.

W1, W2, W9 Error connecting to bank – If there’s a power outage or other cause for the system to go offline, these codes may appear. 

What to do: Wait for the power to come back on or the system to come back online. If this doesn’t solve things, contact your merchant bank.

Summary

Whether it’s an innocent user error, system problems, or even fraud, there’s a number of different issues that businesses may need to deal with in order to sort out codes that come from processing credit cards. 

You may have noticed a common solution for a number of the codes was “contact your merchant provider” or “contact your payment processor”. 

That means you need to work with a processor that is ready to help keep you moving. Contact us today to team up with a processor that’s there to help when you need it.