Getting your credit card declined causes the reddest faces, according to a new survey released Wednesday.
CouponCabin.com found that Americans named that financial embarrassment as the most awkward to handle. It beat out getting pressure to give money to charity on behalf of someone you know, refusing to give cash to a panhandler or splitting the bill with other diners.
No one wants to be with a large group of people at a fancy restaurant and the waiter comes back, credit card in hand, and whispers in your ear that your card was decline. No one needs to be within earshot to know what's happening.
To prevent such an embarrassment means to practice sound credit card habits, such as paying off your entire bill every month (and on time) and keeping balances low. The rule of thumb to help boost your credit score the most is use less than 10 percent of the total credit line.
Of course, there are other reasons why your credit card might be declined besides hitting the limit.
If you're traveling overseas, an issuer may keep a transaction from going through if you don't travel often. Foreign purchases are 10 times more likely to be fraudulent than domestic ones, says Mike Urban, FICO's fraud chief.
"Issuers are much more likely to deny a transaction coming from another country because of the level of risk," he told me in a previous interview on credit card fraud. He recommends telling your issuer about your travel plans ahead of time.
Even a purchase outside your typical spending habits could trigger a decline. If you use your credit card for mostly gas and groceries, and then one day buy some jewelry, expensive electronics and designer clothes within a short time period, the issuer may place a security hold on the card until it can verify that you're making the purchases.
Always carry another form of payment (or another credit card) to avoid getting into a bind.
The online survey polled 2,415 U.S. adults over 18 years from June 4-6. CouponCabin.com offers online coupon codes, printable coupons and more on its website.
Have you ever been declined? How did you handle it?
Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.