Personal Finance: Are we facing terminal failure?

Shops and banks are working against the clock to ensure tills don't reject credit cards because of the Millennium. Paul Slade reports.

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.

Last month two cases came to light where NatWest's modification of its terminals had failed. Both happened in Ikea branches, where customers' 00 cards were rejected, forcing staff to key in card details manually.

NatWest's Nick Gill says: "The upgrade had been put through for the year 2000, but there was a problem with the software. We realised that we'd need to write a new bit of software for it, because it was a bespoke terminal."

Mr Gill says the problem affected fewer than 100 of the terminals NatWest is responsible for, all of which have now been successfully dealt with. He says the bank is ahead of its rivals on year 2000 compliance.

Liz Phillips of the Credit Card Research Group says: "When you start issuing cards, you start finding the outlets where you're getting problems. It's often smaller retailers who've got a second-hand terminal which may not have been made Millennium compliant. The good thing is that the system behind the terminals is working OK."

Gerard Long, manager of Midland's year 2000 programme says: "It's where the terminals are owned by the retailer that there's an issue. They should go to their systems supplier and ensure they get a compliant version. There's only a small number of those out there and they are being addressed."

Some believe there will be more problems for cardholders using their plastic overseas than for those in the UK. Erica Harper of Royal Bank of Scotland says: "I suppose the test will be when the holiday season arrives. Internationally, I think there's likely to be more problems. People have always been advised to take lots of ways of paying for things when they go away, but this year I think that will apply all the more."

Visa divides the world up into six regions, all of which it says are 99 per cent or 100 per cent 2000-compliant. Visa's Matthew Talbot says: "We don't see any particular problem even in the most far-flung places. In the smaller, more remote, places, where Visa might be accepted, often you'll find a manual swipe machine, and no electronics at all."

If you should find your own 00 card rejected in a shop or restaurant, the owner should be able to phone whichever bank supplied his terminal to get authorisation, take a manual imprint of the card and put the transaction through while you wait.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

    £50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own