Credit Card Processing Outage

Whether you run an online or brick-and-mortar business, you depend on credit card payments from your customers. Debit or credit cards have become the preferred payment method for most shoppers, with 57% of total payments being completed by card.

So what happens when your credit card system is down and you can’t accept card payments? Card outages happen, making it difficult — if not impossible — for customers to pay. Here’s what you can do if card readers are down to reduce the impact on your business.


Credit Card Outages Happen

Most payment card transactions happen instantly, taking seconds from the time the customer taps their card or types in their payment details. The transaction is fast, but a lot goes on behind the scenes. The payments platform sends the customer’s card information to the issuing bank, which approves or declines the transaction based on different factors.

The approval or rejection travels back to the card network, then the merchant’s account, then the payment processor.

When credit card machines are down or there’s a credit card outage, the process can’t happen. Something is standing in the way. Since credit card systems need the internet to function, it could be due to an internet outage.

A credit card outage can stem from several sources. The merchant’s equipment could be to blame. Your Wi-Fi router might be acting up, making it difficult to connect to the internet. Refreshing your router or switching to a wired connection may clear up the issue.

Sometimes, the outage stems from the credit card processor itself. A Visa debit card outage may happen when Visa’s having connectivity issues, for example. The software a business uses to process card payments may be experiencing a glitch or outage.

An outage, no matter its cause, can disrupt your business and lead to a drop in customer satisfaction.


How Does a Credit Card Outage Affect Your Business?

Because credit card outages can have a tangible impact on your company, you should do what you can to make these issues as rare as possible. Some effects of a card outage can include:

  • Loss of business: A credit card outage can cause an immediate loss of business — all the customers who planned on paying with their debit or credit card can’t anymore. If you operate a physical store, some of those customers can switch to cash payments instead. If your sales are primarily online, your customers most likely can’t complete their purchases until the outage is resolved. You may notice a dip in sales on the day of the outage.
  • Unhappy customers: Credit cards offer convenience and security that cash can’t match, and many shoppers primarily carry cards because of that safety. If someone loses their debit or credit card, they can report the loss to their bank, pause and cancel the card so they don’t have to worry about losing actual money. If someone drops $20 on the street, that money is gone for good. When customers can’t use their preferred payment methods, they might take their business elsewhere.
  • Negative reputation: Frequent outages can adversely affect your business’s reputation. Customers may start to assume that your card machines won’t be working and may be more likely to visit your competitors. Faulty payment card equipment can also cause customers to question your business’s trustworthiness.


What Causes a Credit Card Outage?

Card outages can happen for a few reasons. Some issues are widespread and may affect multiple merchants and businesses simultaneously, while others occur only with your business.

Power Outages

Bad weather — from thunderstorms to hurricanes, blizzards, and extreme heat or cold — can affect the power grid. When many people use large amounts of power at once, such as to run their heaters or air conditioners during a cold snap or heatwave, the grid can go down. Electrical lines can also be damaged by lightning, ice buildup or intense winds.

During a power outage, everything will be down. Your business’s point-of-sale system may not operate, and your computers won’t power on. If your customers are shopping online, they may get cut off from shopping if their own power goes out.

If you’re experiencing a power outage, talk to your electric company. Inform them of the outage so they can send out a crew to investigate and fix the issue if possible. The electric company can also give you an estimate of when you can expect them to restore power.

Some brick-and-mortar stores choose to add generators and backup power to their premises to keep their point-of-sale systems running if the power does go off.

Internet Issues

Card payment processing needs an internet connection to work — if the connection gets interrupted, the payment can’t go through. Internet issues can take multiple forms and have different sources:

  • Wi-Fi problems: The Wi-Fi signal may be weak or blocked, or your router may not function properly. Sometimes, moving the router or switching to a wired connection is all you need to do to solve the problem.
  • Provider outage: An outage may stem from the provider. Storms and severe weather may affect your internet service provider’s ability to establish a connection. Many service providers have outage maps online and keep their customers in the loop if there’s an issue in the area. In this case, all you can do is wait for the connection to be restored.

Hardware Troubles

The hardware you use to process sales and read payment cards may have issues, which can look like a credit card outage. For example, the card reader may wear out or become unable to detect contactless payments. If the hardware isn’t updated, it can also stop working.

Sometimes, the ports that connect your register to the card reader can become worn out. In that case, you may need to replace your hardware to get your system up and running again.

Software Issues

In rare cases, the payment processor’s software may cause a card outage. If the payment processor goes down, your business and numerous others will be affected. It can also be the case that one of the major card companies, such as Visa or Mastercard, is experiencing an outage.


What to Do During a Credit Card Outage

During a card outage, you don’t have to wait for the issue to be resolved. Being proactive can help protect your reputation, get to the root of the issue and keep your customers happy.

Take these steps if your credit card system is down:

1. Tell Your Customers

As soon as you detect a problem, tell your customers about it. Email people to inform them of the issue, put a message on your website or social media, and post a sign on the door of your physical location. Explain what’s happening and how you’re working to fix it.

2. Accept Other Forms of Payment

The more payment options customers have, the more likely they are to complete their purchase. If you can’t accept credit or debit cards now, let people know which payment methods are working, whether it’s cash, e-Checks or alternative payment options like PayPal or Venmo.

3. Troubleshoot

Try to find the source of the problem — it could be something you can fix on your own. Fix Wi-Fi issues by restarting the router, or look for loose cables in your point-of-sale system. Check for updates on your software and hardware, as well.

4. Ask Around

If you can’t find an immediately obvious source of the problem, find out if other businesses are experiencing the same issue. Once you know the problem is bigger than your company, you can monitor the situation and inform the parties who are most likely going to resolve it.

5. Offer a Discount

Your customers may be inconvenienced during a card outage. One way to smooth over the situation and encourage them to shop with you again is to offer a discount code or coupon to use on a future purchase.

6. Take Steps to Prevent Credit Card Outages in the Future

Being proactive can help reduce the chance of a credit card outage in the future. Purchasing a backup generator, switching internet providers and preparing for bad weather are helpful steps to take.

Another option is to keep your hardware and software up to date to reduce the chance of malfunctions. It’s also worthwhile to find a payment platform with a proven track record and stellar reputation.


Choose CSG Forte as Your Payment Platform

You need to have a payment platform that will have your back during a card outage and that will provide the flexibility you need to respond to any outage issues. CSG Forte has over 20 years of experience as a complete payment solution. We’ll help you accept all payments and keep your business online. Contact us today to get started.