Opinions vary over whether the progress made from needing to pay with cash to using electronic payments is good or bad for society. While there are many benefits to not needing to always have cash on-hand, the disadvantages cannot so easily be ignored. Despite which side of the fence you may be on, the Visa disruption that occurred recently within Europe is making everyone ponder the risks involved with electronic payments.
Visa Disruption Causes Frustration and Anger Among Users
Writer John Detrixhe from Quartz reported on Friday that there were massive reports regarding payment failures that spread across Europe for those using a Visa card. Frustrated travelers and shoppers took to Twitter to voice their anger and desperation over the situation. Another posting on HSBC UK Twitter page was able to ease some minds by stating that Visa was aware of the situation and was working hard to resolve the problem; however, Mastercard and ATM transactions were fortunately not impacted.
We are aware of an industry wide issue affecting Visa payments which is under investigation. ATM and MasterCard transactions are not impacted. Visa are working hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. We will continue to support our impacted customers as needed.
— HSBC UK (@HSBC_UK) June 1, 2018
Confirmation came on June 1st from a Visa spokesperson who acknowledged the outage while stating the company is both investigating the cause(s) and attempting to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. Although it was reported that the ATM machines were unaffected, the Financial Times (paywall) reported that some ATM machines that were in the UK were running out of cash due to people rushing to withdraw money; they noted that over ninety-five percent of debt cards within Britain run on Visa’s network.
Reasons Why Cash May be Better Than Electronic Payment
Obviously, the outage has made many think again if it is better to use and have cash on-hand than strictly rely on electronic payment tools, such as credit cards and bitcoin. According to the consulting and research firm RBR, the market regarding global payment cards is controlled by China’s Mastercard, UnionPay and Visa. Since Visa acquired Visa Europe back in 2016, it has become the vital backbone for payments not only in the UK but also the rest of Europe.
This would explain why so many people were affected by the Visa outage and I am sure that the same people will learn from this a lesson to not become strictly dependent on their Visa card. Another suggestion might be a decentralized network, something that might resemble an encrypted ledger system like that behind bitcoin, might potentially provide an alternative redundancy if a failure would occur.
However, this is assuming that this type of system could be designed to handle the large amounts of quick payments that Visa currently provides. Unfortunately, this system would most likely be vulnerable to major disasters and power outages as well. This is why problems such as these suggest that it would be a good idea to keep cold cash on-hand no matter how easier it may seem to use any form of electronic payment.
Technology has created ways to purchase things without having the need to pay with cash. Electronic payments made with credit cards and Apple Pay make it fun and easier without the worry of having cash on-hand; unfortunately, the recent Visa outage that affected people in the UK and throughout Europe has made many rethink how dependent society has become on using the tools of electronic payment.
While society will continue using some form of electronic payment, it is important to remember the risks involved and would probably be a good idea to have cash available if needed.