Gateway Response Codes – Part II: How to Handle Common Response Codes

Published by Jeffrey Pauletto on

January 22, 2021 by: Jeffrey Pauletto

Heads up! Before you dig into the most common response codes, we recommend taking a look at Part I of this article series. The first article goes into more detail on what these codes are and the five categories.

How to Handle Common Response Codes

As we noted in part I, there are hundreds of gateway response codes. This article goes over the 10 most common response codes and how you can manage them.

Insufficient Funds (NSF)

An insufficient funds decline means just what it says – the customer doesn’t have enough money in their account to pay for the transaction. To get it to approve, you need to wait until they do have enough, so you should retry at some point in the future. Ideally, you can do this on days they’re most likely to have money again, like a payday Friday.

Generic Bank Decline

These are, as the description indicates, generic. There are many reasons why a bank could decline it under this reason, but ultimately, it’s a soft decline that will be best recovered by trying another. Unlike NSF declines, there’s no day that’s going to be better than others unless you have a lot of data and can analyze by day, by BIN, by day of the week, by MCC, by amount, to best determine when to retry. Just give it another try in a few days and see how it goes.

Do Not Honor

Very similar to Generic Bank Decline, a Do Not Honor implies the bank has rejected the transaction for some reason they’re not divulging. And just as the recovery strategy is for that, unless you have a vast swath of data to understand how to retry, your best bet is just to try again in a few days and see how it goes.

Transaction cannot be completed

This can be the result of a few different issues. It could be that the transaction had a timeout in-transit, that the merchant bank can’t (or doesn’t want) to make a decision at this time, or one of a myriad of other issues. It’s becoming a recurring theme, but unless you really know how to optimize these declines, just try again in a few days, and see how it goes.

You need to refer to the Card Issuer

This is sometimes the same as the declines listed above, one that can be recovered by simply retrying a few times, but it could be resolved by doing exactly what the message says – reach out to the card issuer. If you know the cardholder’s bank, you can call them as the merchant, and see if there’s anything you can do to resolve the issue.  Sometimes it’s as simple as getting validation from the merchant that it’s a legitimate transaction, and sometimes they won’t be able to help you at all, but at least it gives you another avenue to explore.

Invalid card number

Invalid card number is a hard decline, and there isn’t much you can do with it. It means the card number simply won’t ever work again, regardless of how much you’d want to try.  There are services available to some merchants, like Account Updater, that can give you updated credit card information if available, but that can be a very expensive service. You’ll have to see if the ROI makes sense for your business.  Alternatively, most reputable recovery services (like FlexPay) offer this for free.

Transaction not permitted to that cardholder (or Cardholder transaction not permitted)

Think of this as the customer unsubscribing from your service the hard way.  The most common way this can happen is because they’ve deactivated their subscription in some management system (generally PayPal), or their merchant bank has blocked the transaction on the customer’s behalf.  In any case, the likelihood of a recovery on this is next to nil.

Restricted Card

These most often appear if a customer’s using a business card. Businesses can block transactions based on the MCC of the merchant.  If you are a merchant with multiple merchant accounts under different MCCs, you may find success by moving the customer over to your other MIDs.

The bank has requested that you retrieve the card from the cardholder

The card has been flagged as lost or stolen.  Don’t try to recover, but you can use Account Updater to try and get the customer’s new credit card details.  Note that if you see a significant portion of your traffic (over 5%) with this response code, you’re likely getting bad traffic sent to your site and will want to do something to prevent scammers from using your site to try bad credit cards.

Risk Blocked Transaction refused due to risk model

The gateway generally returns this. If you see this often, you’ll want to reach out to the gateway to determine what’s causing this and what you can do to resolve this issue.


Now that you’ve had a chance to review the most common response codes, our hope is that you’ll feel more confident knowing how to handle them yourself. Please don’t be overwhelmed by all this information, there are great solutions available to help you manage response codes and recover declined transactions.

Contact our team to get a better understand of how we can help your business double your recovery!

Categories: Blog