How-to: Resolve PayPal card rejections

We have PayPal as our payment processor for both our web shopping carts. It wasn't my choice, but the sites are not their own legal entity, therefore we use the PayPal account belonging to the parent organisation.

Where we get calls from folks having trouble with PayPal processing debit and credit card transactions, there are some common causes. Un/fortunately these days, PayPal seldom gives the reason for the rejection (as that helps the fraudsters circumvent the anti-fraud measures)...

If the credit/debit card is being rejected by PayPal with the message:
"The card you entered cannot be used for this payment. Please enter a different credit or debit card number" it  could be caused by one of the following:

  • The card is already associated with a specific PayPal account, perhaps way back in the past. Trying to pay using the card, while NOT logged in with that particular PayPal account (as our customer found), triggers the PayPal fraud monitor. It assumes that a known card, presented outside of its PayPal account login, has been lost or stolen.
  • The card was associated with a PayPal account that has since been closed. See above.
  • The card has been linked card to a PayPal account, but the customer had not yet confirmed, that is, not answered the PayPal verification email. See above.
  • The customer exceeded the card limit with the PayPal system, or with the card issuer. The customer will need to contact PayPal or the card issuer to have their floor limit raised or otherwise clear the balance on the card.
  • The customer email address is on the fraud watch-list in PayPal's system. Advise the customer use a different email address.
  • The billing address or name on card entered for the transaction doesn’t match the billing name and address on file with the Card Issuer for that card (this may trigger once PayPal does its initial checks then dials home to the Card Issuer). In which case remind the customer that all these details need to match. The delivery address doesn’t matter.
  • The web-browser is not accepting cookies so PayPal doesn’t believe the session is secure. Advise the customer quits the shopping cart and PayPal checkout, clears existing cookies from their browser cache and try again.
Alternatively, the customer may see the message:
"Your credit card cannot be used because we cannot verify the 3-digit verification number for your card. This number is a 3-digit number printed on the back of your card. It appears after and to the right of your credit card number. Please check the number you entered and try using this card again, or enter a different card."

This is usually down to finger-trouble or general ignorance on the part of the customer; gently remind them the verification number is on the back of the card. The card number and security code are check-summed against an algorithm in the PayPal checkout page. As long as they are typed correctly, it is all but impossible for them not to corroborate.

The transposition of two digits is the most common fault of data entry of both numbers, as human brains are often tenuously connected to human fingers.

There’s a similar issue with people entering the card ‘valid from’ date in place of the expiry date and vice-versa.

The problem of rejected credit/debit cards is more likely to occur with Business/Corporate Credit and Debit Cards (as opposed to Personal Credit Cards), as the fraud monitoring engines at PayPal and the card companies are run at much lower thresholds for Corporate accounts than for personal – I can vouch for this having had entertaining calls from Barclays Corporate fraud prevention after using my card for live testing of our websites. RC


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