back to article UK chip and PIN readers fall ill: Don't switch off that terminal!

A problem with credit and debit card readers has left some unlucky UK retailers staring at an error message rather than collecting cash. Register reader Toby Hewett noted that problems began from 7am yesterday, UK time, and sought assistance from payment processing giant Mastercard. The cash slinger popped out a message, seen …

  1. el kabong

    Whaaattt? Turning it off and on again is not allowed???

    How are people supposed to fix things if barred from using the absolute best tool of their trade? Turning it off and on again really works, nearly 99% of all problems can be fixed that way, it's magic!

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed???

      The trick is to know which part of the network needs to be switched off and on again.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

      Other fixes include cutting the blue wire No!! the blue wire!! swearing at it, smacking it smartly on the side, putting it a bag of rice, spraying it with WD 40, blowing into the ports, squeezing the case near the power supply input, wrapping it duck tape, putting it in an oven to reflow the solder, plugging it in to a different ring to that used by the fridge, poking it with a stick, and finally, not feeding it for 24 hours.

      After you've performed these basic trouble shooting techniques tech support will look into your issue.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

        You forgot the Rite of AshkEnte

      2. Giovani Tapini

        Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

        You forgot

        Blowing on the card

        Rubbing the card on your clothes

        Bending the card a little back and forth

        Banging it violently into the chip reader slot

        Rubbing it violently through the mag-stripe reader

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

          Joking aside, I've seen a shopkeeper place my card with a cracked magnetic strip into a fold of a polythene bag, and it worked. I can't remember the last time I used the magnetic strip on a bank card, but my works fuel card still uses one.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

            "Joking aside, I've seen a shopkeeper place my card with a cracked magnetic strip into a fold of a polythene bag, and it worked."

            That's not surprising at all. A magstripe contains no moving parts, not even electrons. You can cut and slice it, as long as you put back all the bits in order, it'll be perfectly readable. Precisely like any sort of linear magnetic records, eg audio tapes.

        2. Milo Tsukroff
          Thumb Up

          Re: Whaaat? Turning it off and on again is not allowed?

          And also - putting the card in a WalMart bag then swiping while inside said bag. Worked like a charm at WalMart.

    3. Velv

      Re: Whaaattt? Turning it off and on again is not allowed???

      "88.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot" (Vic Reeves)

  2. big_D Silver badge

    Cash on the barrel head

    Luckily, electronic and other non-cash payments are only tolerated and cash is the only legal tender.

    So, of course, everybody has the equivalent in cash, just in case the machines don't work or the retailer won't accept non-cash payments for other reasons... ;-)

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Cash on the barrel head

      Try paying by cash on a London bus and let me know how you get on.

      1. Kernel

        Re: Cash on the barrel head

        "Try paying by cash on a London bus and let me know how you get on."

        I also know a bar where you're going to be very thirsty - although I have heard that they may, if you're lucky and they're in the right mood, accept cash - but don't expect any change from whatever size note you hand over for that beer.

        It's all made clear on the sign as you enter the bar that it is 'cashless'.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Cash on the barrel head

        @katrinab legally, they have to accept cash. Electronic payments are an "option" under the law, but neither the merchant nor the customer have to use it and either side can insist on using cash.

        It is the same in Germany, although I think they are trying to ban transactions in excess of 5,000€ or 10,000€ being made in cash.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          "It is the same in Germany, although I think they are trying to ban transactions in excess of 5,000€ or 10,000€ being made in cash."

          In France, even though cash MUST be accepted by regular shops if the exact amount is given, the legal limit is already set at 1000€ (there are some other conditions and exceptions, eg for foreigners).

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          They have to accept legal tender in settlement of a debt. No debt is incurred if they refuse service or they take back the product.

          IANAL, but if they won't accept cash after you've already consumed the product or put the petrol in your car, you're probably within your rights to consider the debt cancelled and walk away.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Cash on the barrel head

      And as your link explains, legal tender has nowt to do with agreements you and a shop keeper might enter into.

      That aside, I'm surprised by the number of people who don't carry a bit of cash, negating a trip to a cash machine after discovering the chippy only takes cash, or the pub's card reader has gone down again.

      1. Lee D

        Re: Cash on the barrel head

        You only accept cash? Then I have several problems with that - I don't carry cash, therefore I won't use you, therefore I won't bother with you, therefore I probably won't even remember to use you again even if I'm walking past the shop with cash in my hand.

        Also, it makes me worry about what you're doing tax-wise. Sure, a lot of places deal legitimately in 100% cash. But it worries me, and when was the last time you got a receipt with your fish and chips?

        Past that, if you choose a single vendor (in an age where for £50 I myself can get a credit card reader that charges minimal percentages and deposit direct into my bank whether I use it once a year or a thousand times a day) and you can't be bothered to have a backup from another manufacturer, it makes me wonder how important taking money from your customers actually is.

        Tougher in a big-brand store, sure, but you should have your own resiliencies and SLA's in such places. But if the chip shop won't take card because "the machine is down", then how long will it be down before you're losing money for the sake of a £50 backup under the counter? I'd say... what... 5-6 customers? That's a fast time to lose money for the sake of your customer's convenience.

        And, no, I won't go to the ATM to draw out cash to take into a shop to pay for something. Besides the fact that it's a pain in the butt, it also leaves me with a pocket of change that I don't want. I've seen several people this week alone turn around and walk away because a shop won't take their card. I even saw a guy trying to buy nuts on an airplane and they took no cash, only card.

        The tide turned already. Maybe 10, 20, 30 years ago. But nowadays? There is literally nothing that I can't pay for on card... and those places I can't always have a competitor just down the road who will take card (e.g. car parks, etc.).

        It lets me track every penny of my money. It lets the taxman track every penny I give them (and I view tax evasion/avoidance as something that crushes smaller companies and competitors and steals my tax-funded resources without paying back). And it's much quicker, more hygienic, less waste (we have to PAY to mould those coins, you know, they aren't made of thin air), and ultimately you're gonna up end cashless in your old age whether you like it or not. You're not going to want to go to the ATM, carry round lots of money, try and squint at the numbers and count it out etc. versus a card that has a password on it and a guarantee of refund if you're ever defrauded.

        Legal tender is not up for question here. It's not relevant. But handling *your* cash costs me whenever I use a firm that has to traipse to the bank, piss about with coin handling, security, coin modules on vending machines, etc. etc. etc. The costs must exceed that of handling a card, with a backup system.

        If you don't take card, as far as I'm concerned it's similar to saying you don't take Luncheon Vouchers (as were), book tokens, gift vouchers, etc. We all laugh at those people with American Express, but you are literally refusing customer's money and inconveniencing them. Even the pound shops take cards. It honestly can't cost that much to have them.

        As such, if they fail, and therefore you can't take money... it's probably not a company I want to be doing business with anyway. They couldn't even be bothered to buy an emergency £50 Zettle-or-whatever reading and stick it in the stockroom.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          Ah yes, this is Lee D - who has previously stated that he can't imagine any scenario in which a waterproof phone would be useful - from which, in addition to his fear of germs, I'm assuming he's a city dweller. Thats fine, I guess. Meanwhile however, back in many a small town, we walk to the pub, might get caught in a rainstorm, stop to smell the flowers, mess about in boats and occasionally use merchants who only take cash, or else have card machines that don't always work (see recent MasterCard outage, conveniently on a Friday).

          1. Simon Harris

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            My local kebab shop does very good kebabs and takes both cards and cash.

            I always end up paying cash, even if I have my card with me, as the change gives me something to leave in the tips jar.

            1. joshimitsu

              Re: Cash on the barrel head

              There is a salad chain called "Tosser" (typo is on purpose) that only takes card or phone payments. Sometimes I leave my jacket in the office which contains phone and wallet, so count me out.

              Overpriced even compared to the likes of Pod anyway.

          2. The humble print monkey

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            Good luck if you’ve just filled the car up, to find the card payment system’s gone down.

            1. VBF

              Re: Cash on the barrel head

              THAT is the garage's problem! Offer them cash, legal currency, and if they don't take it, leave, telling them to note your number - if they ask for your name & address, let them have it, making clear that you're OFFERING to pay legally - not your fault if they don't wish to accept it!

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          I don't know whether I should up- or down-vote this one... I agree with some of what Lee says, but at the same time shake my head at some of the more... umm... extreme I don't agree with... Jeez, lighten up, will ya? Wow. Ranty ranty RANTY! Just *breathe*. In. Out. In. Out. Iiiiiiin. Ouuuuuuuut. There.

          1. joshimitsu

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            bit of an essay wasn't it. I just saw all that text and thought "yadda YADDA yadda yah eddie. Yadda yadda yadda EDDIE".

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          @Lee D - The majority of financial fraud is carried out electronically.

          Could you be a fraudster?...Are you more vulnerable for not using cash? Are you a troll? Am I trolling you?

          So many questions so little time.

        4. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          when was the last time you got a receipt with your fish and chips?

          A couple of weeks ago in the UK from the excellent Kerbisher and Malt (http://www​ since you asked.

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            on Friday, Big Johns in Birmingham for myself. They even have a "report it if you don't get a receipt" policy.

        5. GIRZiM

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          You don't accept cash? Then I have several problems with that - I only pay with cash, therefore I won't use you until you do.

          I don't care what your feeble-arsed reasoning for it is; either you're a commercial concern and want my money or you deserve to go out of business.

          Won't take cash?

          Want to waste my time waiting for your machine to complete a connection, waiting for the transaction to complete, waiting for it to print a receipt - all for the sake of a packet of fags?

          This is London, keep up: people don't have time to waste, they want to get in, grab their stuff, pay and go about their business not piss their lives away waiting for your sorry arse.

          Forget it, I'll go somewhere where they want my money - it'll be quicker to walk there than to waste my time waiting for your l337 haxxor systems to catch up with the bus/tube timetable.

          Jesus wept - I've got a life to lead, you know, no time to waste on scriptkiddie wetdreams that were already outdated when 'Mirrorshades' was first published.

          1. DryBones

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            Sounds like a mutually beneficial situation to me.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cash on the barrel head

          You obviously never attend any large concerts in the UK or Europe - where beer/food/merchandising queues get served at a grindingly slow pace, all thanks to people insisting on paying for two beers using debit cards ... which take 2-3 minutes for the wonderful £50 card readers to actually get a connection and then complete the damn transaction. No amount of backup card readers can solve that and the end result is an ever-increasing queue of increasingly irritated punters (I missed the start of the Foo Fighters concert at the London Olympic Stadium this summer thanks to 45 minute queues while card transactions for small numbers of beers were taking 3 minutes a go). While us people with cash just get in there, pay, then take our goods away. Transaction completed in seconds.

          Don't even mention the queues for the beer and merchandising booths at Mad Cool Festival in Madrid... sheer torture caused by card machine readers.

          And of course, we are totally ignoring a number of other issues here .... no-one is going to be able to use a card skimmer to read the cash in my wallet; if I lose my wallet, I just lose the cash inside, but if my card is skimmed, it can be $$$ and take lots of time/money/missed direct debits or mortgage payments before the skimmed money is repaid by the bank ("why, only you have the PINs so only YOU are liable for these transactions... you did read and agree to the small print/agreements to Validated by Visa/MasterCard before using them, right?").

          I will let others touch on the civil freedom aspect of cash vs card as I need to be somewhere now...

          1. Tom Paine

            Re: Cash on the barrel head

            They don't have contactless yet? That's pretty shit for a but very rare by now, surely.

  3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    That's odd

    Same thing happened with the Multibanco network here in Portugal the other day too.

    Coincidence? Probably, I'd think.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: That's odd

      I believe there have been several gateway type issues that affected different countries with a common cause. As for me, I take different credit cards, cash cards and cash, so I always try to be prepared. The funny thing is that while I can almost understand Lee's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder like symptoms I guess I have an issue with obstructive technology disorder as technology always throws a hissy fit at the least possibly convenient time, e.g. when my wife is checking in for a hospital visit requiring umpteen items of data to be entered by a one fingered, possibly bind and certainly arthritic typist.

  4. Electric Panda

    Not sure if this is linked, but the card machines at my office canteen and on-site shops were all painfully slow today.

    It was causing such big queues that some of the tills went cash only just to hurry people along.

  5. Lord Kipper III

    Cars alternative

    Meanwhile in Bristol (UK) where I work we have our own currency called imaginatively the Bristol Pound that many fine retailers and even the council accept in payment for goods and services. Should you live in Bristol and not just work there (rules of the Credit Union that runs the scheme) you can upgrade from the paper notes to an app based currency that uses text messages to carry out the transactions using either good old SMS or for the more advanced, a smartphone app. Each retailer in the scheme has a cheap candy bar phone that confirms the transaction between punter and the shop by receiving at text message. Not sure what the security model for that system and what the backend is like but provided the phone network stays up then it should be pretty resilient.

    1. Tom Paine

      Re: Cars alternative

      Candy bars? In Brizzle?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's worse than that, it's dead Jim

    The "service event on the EU Retail Gateway" (or indeed anything Mastercard may or may not have done) is unrelated to this issue; its purely that older versions of Verifone's VIPA software rely on a certificate that just expired. Looks like the card reader powers up, fails a self-check and puts itself out of action.

    This also means that the card reader is no longer listening to any comms channel; hopefully Verifone are hiring lots and lots of engineers to visit every affected shop. I look forward to their response to your enquiries.

  7. Mr. Flibble

    We have been told it's a certificate problem....

    Gent had a power cut yesterday, and now all the hotels of a certain owner can't process cards :(


    We got 2 replacements for our devices taxied to Brussels from Luxembourg yesterday to fix 2 that were broken here, but I doubt anyone else is that lucky.

    We were lucky cos we were doing a migration at the time, and our provider (3C) thought that they had caused the issue I assume.

    At least the replacements worked or that would be 1 more hotel broken.

    Apparently I'm not allowed to reflash the broken devices myself for security reasons, which is a bit shit, as surely everything is cryptographically signed anyway isn't it??......... <tumbleweed>.......

  8. plunet

    Seems like verifone have put up a statement but details are very sparse.

  9. Neon Teepee

    The cashless society

    The thing with cash is that:

    It never runs out of battery

    It can get run over by a lorry

    If keeps working when the internet is down

    No system admin in an office can fat finger something and stop cash working

    It keeps working during backups/system upgrades/equipment replacement

    It doesn't wait until bank processing cut offs to be transferred from one place to another.

    If a shop takes cash it doesn't have to pay 2% to someone else to process it.

    When the fire sale happens cash will still be working.

    It makes it real hard for the government/google/whoever to track what you are up to.

    It's been stress tested in the production environment since early man started using rocks and beads

    You can fold it in half/tear it and put it back together with sticky tape

    If you lose it you lose just the cash not your identity/everything in your bank account.

    If you want to steal it from me you are going to have to mug me or rob my house.

    Its a lot harder to 'clone' than a card/phone.

    If I'm on a night out and I run out of cash I generally know its time to go home.

    I have to pay attention to how much I am being charged if I have to hand over notes instead of tapping something on the area of the device that is displaying how much I am being charged. I'm looking at you taxi drivers.

    As for hygiene have you looked at the crack between the glass and body of your phone, you know the thing you hold against your face. Personally I have to be really really drunk before cash touches my face.

  10. Neon Teepee

    "There is literally nothing that I can't pay for on card"


    An amazing sunset

    The love of a good woman (debatable I guess)

    A child's first word/step/solid poo

    A stimulating conversation

    Lying in a field looking at the stars

    The smell of cut grass

    Spending time with your family

    Laughing at a really good joke


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