Skip to content

My credit card kept getting declined — reader mistake story

Feb. 24, 2020
5 min read
My credit card kept getting declined — reader mistake story
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Aurelio, who was low on payment options during a recent trip abroad:

We’ve been making the same trip for over 20 years, traveling from Los Angeles to Penang, Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year with my husband’s family. We’ve never had a problem with credit cards, and our Chase cards worked well when we started using them about two years ago. But after a delicious noodle meal in a Penang mall on our most recent trip, I confidently handed over my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to pay, and the waiter came back to say the card was declined.

I asked him to input the card numbers manually, but he said they couldn’t do that at their new touchscreen, handheld terminal. I handed him my Chase United Explorer Card instead, but again the transaction was declined. We tried my husband's Sapphire Preferred card with the same result, and eventually had to pay cash. We experienced the same problems throughout the city, even at merchants where we had used our cards last year.

I contacted Chase multiple times and got a variety of answers: they saw some but not all of the denied transactions on their end; they said the card was not being read completely by the merchant; they recommended entering the card numbers manually, which I told them does not work; they've had this problem for some time, but only in Malaysia and Brazil (FlyerTalk has a post discussing the problem from November); they're working on it, etc. Ultimately, their responses weren't helpful and didn't offer a solution, so our Chase cards were useless to us in Malaysia.

We reverted to using cash, which could have been a logistical embarrassment had we been paying for something like a two-week hotel stay or a local cruise. Fortunately, we were staying with relatives and could withdraw enough cash to pay for food, incidentals and shopping. To avoid this problem in the future, we could search online for any documented problems with our card and destination, and leave enough cash in the bank to pay for trip expenses. We'll also bring backup cards from different banks and processors.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Credit card transactions can fail for a variety of reasons, ranging from user errors (like a maxed out credit line or expired card) to technical issues (like incompatible terminals) and security concerns (like suspicion of fraud). Whatever the reason, a non-working card can hamper your travel plans if other payment methods are unavailable, so as Aurelio suggests, you should bring a variety of credit cards as backup. For example, I always carry my Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express, plus at least one more with benefits that complement my itinerary. Carrying backups is a sound practice in case your primary card is lost or stolen, and having multiple card issuers and payment networks at hand protects against issues like the one Aurelio encountered.

In addition to packing an assortment of physical cards, I recommend loading several onto a mobile payment app like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Mobile payment acceptance continues to grow quickly, so this is an easy way to provide yourself more payment options without having to find space in your wallet. Finally, you should always bring cash when you travel, and have a plan for how you will access more if needed. A debit card you can use to make ATM withdrawals is a great option, especially if you can avoid fees. You shouldn't rely on your credit card as a source of cash, since cash advances come with hefty fees and exorbitant interest rates, but it's worth knowing how to use the cash advance feature in case of emergencies.

Related: Best cards with no foreign transaction fees

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Aurelio a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put "Reader Mistake Story" in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image by Getty Images/500px

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees