Visa apologises as card outage causes chaos across Europe

Cards are ‘operating near normal’ after customers were left unable to pay for purchases

A Visa card outage caused problems across Ireland and Europe on Friday, creating long queues at ATMs as people found themselves unable to make cashless transactions.

While some Visa cards were still working in ATMs, there were fears that if the outage was prolonged long queues would form and machines would quickly run out of money ahead of the bank holiday.

In a statement Visa said the problem resulted from “a hardware failure. We have no reason to believe this was associated with any unauthorised access or malicious event”.

Lorraine Higgins, deputy chief executive of Retail Ireland, the representative group for businesses, said it expected shops to lose sales this bank holiday weekend as a result of the problems.


Ms Higgins was at the Dundrum Town Centre on Friday evening where she described long queues at ATMs, indicative of possible “panic withdrawals” by those fearing machines could run out of money.

“It’s causing a lot of disruption to both retailers and customers,” she said. “This should be a traditionally busy shopping weekend. There is huge upheaval as a result.”

At 10 pm on Friday, Visa said in a statement the system failure “ impacted customers across Europe.

“Our goal is to ensure all Visa cards work reliably 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We fell well short of this goal today and we apologise to all of our partners, and most especially, to Visa cardholders.

“Visa cardholders can now use their Visa cards as we are currently operating at close to normal levels.”

Disruption to business

Dan Ryan, manager of The Long Stone pub in Dublin, said at first staff thought it was a problem with the wifi supporting their card machines, adding the outage caused disruption to business.

“Obviously, the majority of people are paying by card now so you are [GETTING]65 or 75 per cent of your business on Visa cards so it’s a big problem,” he said on Friday evening.

“One fella I was talking to was in four banks (ATMs) before he got here.”

Standing outside another city bar with his friends, Jonathan Tiernan from Roscommon said it was only when he tried to buy a round of drinks that he found out his card was temporarily worthless.

“The bar man said: Do you not realise? It has been on the news,” he said, explaining that he ended up going on a search for cash.

“The first bank machine didn’t work so I had to go to Burger King and get some burgers and get some cash back.

“We are told we are in a cashless society; you should be able to operate without it.”

Staff at the Mongolian Barbecue restaurant in Dublin’s Temple Bar said: “We had lots of peoples’ cards rejected. We thought it was our machine or internet’s fault at first; very embarrassing! Had to ask people to go to an ATM.”

People shopping in some of the largest retailers in the State including Tesco, Arnotts, Supervalu and Next said their cards had been declined completely or payments only went through after multiple attempts.

Mastercard said its payment network was operating normally. “We are seeing nothing abnormal on our network right now,” a spokesman said.

Bank of Ireland told users who contacted it via Twitter: “We are aware customers are experiencing Visa debit card issues. This is impacting multiple banks across Europe. We will update when we know more.”

Permanent TSB tweeted that there “is currently an error affecting Visa Debit And Credit Cards across all banks. Apologies for any inconvenience this is causing. We will update once the issue has been resolved.”

AIB said: “We are aware of intermittent issues with AIB cards today. We are working to resolve the matter and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The problem was Europe-wide and Irish tourists found themselves struggling to access money or buy goods and services in a number of countries. There were also reports of Irish bank customers in the United States having difficulty completing transactions.

European response

In Spain, the Guardia Civil had been reassuring people affected via Twitter. Under a picture of Johnny Depp as a Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, the force said: “Stay calm. If you can’t pay it’s not because you’ve been robbed or hacked. Visa is suffering a service crash in Europe that’s stopping payments going through in its cards.”

Paymentsense, which offers merchant services to over 60,000 businesses across the UK and Ireland, tweeted: “Visa has advised us that they are having issues with its authorisation service since 14:36pm which may cause intermittent authorisation call failures & time outs.”

In a subsequent tweet the company said it had been informed “that Visa has corrected the outage and transactions are now starting to go through. There is still some intermittency however, we believe this is due to a backlog of transactions”.

When contacted a spokeswoman for Visa Ireland could not confirm the veracity of the tweet.

The British consumer advocacy group Which? said people impacted by the Visa failure should keep evidence of all additional expenses incurred as a result of the problems so they could claim them back in the future.

“Visa and the banks need to ensure no-one is left out of pocket due to this outage,” said Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times