What To Do When Payment Authorization Fails

If you've ever tried to make a purchase online only to know that payment authorization failed, you know how frustrating reversing the process is. Perhaps you’re rushing to make a payment, or you’ve carefully planned the purchase, and suddenly your card’s declined. It can be frustrating, but luckily, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the issue. 

Credit card authorization is the process when card issuers approve the request from a credit card processor for a customer's particular purchase. An approval means the customer has sufficient funds for the transaction. 

When you are making an online purchase and receive this message: “credit card authorization could not be completed because of payment processing failure,” there could be an issue on the merchant’s or your end. It is important to understand how both occur in order to troubleshoot them effectively.


Cause Of Failure - Merchant’s End

Unfortunately, payment and banking systems offer little transparency in letting merchants know the main cause of payment authorization. Merchants only get payment decline codes, mostly generic, and cannot see in detail what caused the transaction to fail.

Declined transactions happen even when the customer is a legitimate buyer with enough funds to cover the purchase. However, there are commonly observed scenarios with higher instances of declined cards, which can typically explain the payment authorization failure. 

Expensive Items

Payment authorization failures commonly happen when buying expensive items, especially if they are outside your usual average card spending. You could have exceeded your limit, or the transaction is seen as fraudulent

Different Geographic Location

Suppose you’re using your card for an online purchase outside your usual location, i.e., a foreign country. In that case, there’s a high chance of authorization failure because banks detect the purchase as potential fraud. 

High-Risk Industry

Some industries and merchants are considered high risk by card issuers and will often result in more instances of the declined payment. Try the troubleshooting steps below if this happens.

Cause Of Failure - Buyer’s End

It can be frustrating for items and services that you pay for not to go through on the spot. Sometimes, merchants have trouble receiving your credit card payment due to system failure. 

As a purchasing customer, it’s important to know if your card is the problem or if it’s on the merchant’s end to fix the issue. You can experience payment authorization failure due to various factors like the following:

Insufficient Funds

If you’re using a credit card, you’ve reached the maximum credit limit and are no longer authorized to make additional purchases. If you’re using a debit card, the funds in the account are insufficient for the transaction. 

Incorrect Card Details

You’ve placed an incorrect expiration date or incorrect card number. 

Maximum Amount Or Number Of Charges

Some cards have a maximum limit on the amount you can charge per transaction, while others have a maximum limit on the number of charges you can make in a specified period. 

Geographic Or Platform Limitations

Some cards are restricted from online purchases or purchases outside the country where it’s issued. 


Most card issuers have strict fraud detection measures that cause even legitimate purchases to be declined. This happens if you’re purchasing from an unknown site or charging a single large transaction. 

Don't freak out if you're trying to authorize a payment and it fails. Perform the following steps for successful troubleshooting.

Resolving Payment Authorization Failure

If your card payment fails, do the following steps to resolve the issue. 

1. Check that you're using a valid form of payment. 

If you're using a credit or debit card, check that you entered card details correctly and    there are no errors in the expiration date or CVV code. If you're using PayPal, check that you have sufficient funds in your account.

2. Contact your bank or card issuer.

If everything looks correct on your end, the next step is to contact your bank or credit card issuer. They may be able to tell you why the payment was declined and help you resolve the issue.

If it’s due to your card limitations, i.e., maximum charges, geographic limits, or online purchase restrictions, you can ask them to lift those limits. You can assure them that it was a legitimate purchase if it's due to fraud. 

3. Use another form of payment. 

If all else fails, you can always try another form of payment. For example, if you're trying to pay with a credit card, but it's not working, you could try paying with PayPal instead. Alternatively, you could try using a different credit or debit card.

If the merchant offers alternative modes of payment, such as direct bank transfer, consider this option. You can also contact the merchant directly to inquire about other payment options.

While payment authorization failures can be frustrating, there are usually ways to work around them. By following the steps above, you should be able to complete your purchase successfully. Payment authorization failures happen to everyone all the time. Think of them as your bank's safeguard against credit card fraud.

For more articles about best practices when using credit cards, visit Processing Card’s blog.

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