Despite the prevalence of credit cards and payment services, when things go wrong, cash is still king. And today, Europe and the UK got a really good reminder of that after a network crash prevented millions of Visa credit and debit card holders from making any transactions.
Then things got even worse when some MasterCard and American Express cards started getting declined after transactions were rerouted through Visa's IT network.
We are currently experiencing a service disruption which is preventing some Visa transactions in Europe from being processed. We are investigating the cause and working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation. We will keep you updated.
— Visa UK (@VisaUK) June 1, 2018
All told, this issue has created a pretty big headache for a lot of Europeans who found that when trying to buy tickets for a train or bus ride home after work, the cards in the wallets had suddenly reverted to being useless pieces of plastic.
In addition to many petrol and railway stations, other major outlets including Mark's and Spencer's and Sainsbury's are unable to accept payments from Visa cards, with The Guardian reporting that after learning about the issue, "some customers were simply dumping their shopping at the tills."
— jamie (@donttakethepeas) June 1, 2018
The one small saving grace to all this is that apparently people with Visa debit cards are still able to withdraw cash from ATMs, which is nice, but doesn't do much to help the millions of other affected Visa cardholders.
Visa UK first tweeted out a statement regarding "service disruptions" shortly before 6pm London time, which was later followed up by an announcement from UK Finance, the trade association that represents payment firms in Britain:
Visa is currently experiencing a service disruption which is preventing some Visa transactions in Europe from being processed. It is investigating the cause and acting as quickly as possible to resolve the situation.
Visa is working with banks, building societies, merchant acquirers and card providers to return to a normal service and will provide regular updates.
Customers should check their bank, building society or card provider website or contact them with any queries.
At this point, it's unclear how long Visa and other credit card services will continue to be unavailable, so if you're in Europe and were planning on going out later, you better remember to grab some cash first.