Mastercard has suffered what appears to be a worldwide outage of card services this evening. This comes just weeks after VISA suffered a similar fate.
What Happens To Your Card During an Outage
Imagine the scene. After a long day at the office, a quick trip to the physio on the walk home, I stop into Dunnes on Stephen’s Green. I needed to pick up some peppered steaks and a couple of cans of Brew Dog, for little more reason than I can. Typically, I tap my P20 Pro against card machines at least twice a day thanks to Google Pay; I nearly never use my card any more.
The payment failed so I tapped again. Failed. Switched between Debit and Credit cards on Google Pay; failed. Ugh. I reluctantly pulled out my card and tapped that, before eventually sliding it into the machine and typing my pin. Failed, failed, failed. What the hell. Thankfully, I had one more card up my sleeve; Revolut. Nada, ah jaysus. Out to the ATM and both my KBC and Revolut cards wouldn’t let me withdraw cash.
There was only one thing left to do; check Twitter for Mastercard. Sure enough, the first tweet I found was from Revolut:
There is a problem with the MasterCard network which is causing some card payments to fail. This issue is affecting a large number of international banks. We'll update you as soon as we know more.
— Revolut (@RevolutApp) July 12, 2018
What Happened to Mastercard?
I have to admit, it’s a worrying experience when your cards let you down completely. I’m a fan of Doomsday Preppers, just for the lols, but suddenly you start to realise how lost you are when you never carry cash. VISA described their recent outage as “a hardware failure” and that they had “no reason to believe this was associated with any unauthorised access or malicious event”. Mastercard has yet to comment officially on the outage beyond acknowledging it happened:
We are aware there may have been some issues in processing a limited number of transactions earlier. The situation has been resolved and those transactions are now working as normal.
— Mastercard News (@MastercardNews) July 12, 2018
I reached out to Mastercard who said:
“a scheduled system update caused Mastercard transactions to be declined for a brief period of time earlier yesterday. The situation has been resolved and all systems are working as normal. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
They also confirmed this has no connection to the recent VISA outage.
What is the Impact of this Outage?
Mastercard suffering an outage simply isn’t as massive a deal as VISA going down. KBC is the only bank who primarily depend upon Mastercard along with some digital disrupters like Revolut and N26. As a result, the impact is going to be minimal. For example, I was in a busy city centre grocery store and I was the first to tell them Mastercard was down – they may have still just thought I was a broke ass dude.
To be honest, it didn’t even light up Google Trends. Let’s be honest, as I recently pointed out in the Sunday Times, very few people are using Revolut or N26 as their primary bank accounts and an even smaller segment, like me, are KBC along with Revolut or N26. Chances are, most people either carry cash and just paid with that or they had a VISA card from another bank.
Most importantly, it would appear that the outage didn’t go on for too long and has been completely resolved by now.
How to Avoid Embarrassment During an Outage?
The most important step I took was going back to the cashier to tell her that Mastercard was down. There was now a slightly smaller chance she thought I was just broke.
There was now a slightly smaller chance she thought I was just broke
A slightly more practical solution is to always carry cash. Will I carry cash from now on? Probably not if I’m totally honest, but it’s great advice to slip a tenner in between your phone and its case, even if I won’t do it myself.