Personal Finance: Are We Facing Terminal Failure? Shops and Banks Are Working against the Clock to Ensure Tillsdon't Reject Credit Cards Because of the Millennium. Paul Slade Reports
Slade, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
Barclays Bank, the first card issuer to start giving customers cards with a year 2000 expiry date, says the new cards are failing at the rate of one a day.
The problem arises when retailer systems fail to recognise the cards as valid. Like other computer systems, they were originally programmed to read only the final two digits of any given year, and crash when confronted with a reading of "00".
Visa and Mastercard's embargo on producing cards expiring in the year 2000 ended on 1 October last year. Barclays started producing 00 cards immediately, and now has over 1 million in use. The bank has so far had about 350 complaints from cardholders who have had their 00 cards rejected in shops and other outlets round the world, including 30 complaints in January. Most other card issuers are also distributing 00 cards now, although none started as soon as Barclays. About four in 10 of the Barclays complaints arose in October. "Systems are becoming more compliant as time goes on," says the bank's Kirsty Robbie. The big high street banks also supply their own credit card terminals to retailers, and have been busy updating those terminals to cope with the millennium bug for the past few years. Now, they say, all but a tiny handful of systems should be able to accept 00 cards with no problem. But American Express is refusing to start producing its own 00 cards yet because it fears retail outlets worldwide will not be ready to accept them. Atalia DaSilva of American Express says: "I'm sure we'll issue year 2000 cards this year, but I don't know when. We want to make sure the merchants are ready to accept them in their point of sale devices. When a merchant's system rejects a card, it doesn't say why. It just rejects it. We want to avoid that happening." Abbey National will not start issuing 00 cards till June this year, when its own systems testing is complete and it can be "completely confident" cards will not be rejected at point of sale. This has meant cutting the lifetime of its own cards to just 18 months - an expensive move for the bank. NatWest started producing 00 credit cards about a month ago, and has since issued some 400,000, with no complaints so far. The bank has also been responsible for modifying the 170,000 terminals it has in shops and other retail outlets. …