The outage was widespread, but not universal: users could still use their cards, but some major banks, such as Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Ireland were affected. Customers could withdraw money from ATMs, but some retailers resorted to using paper slips to take down customer information. Visa says that the issue was the “result of a hardware failure within one of our European systems,” and that it wasn’t a cyberattack.
While the issue has been resolved, it does highlight a weak point as countries are increasingly moving towards becoming cashless societies. Australia recently announced that it is implementing limits on cash purchases next year, while London recently introduced a way to pay buskers without physical currency. Technical issues such as these — or even malicious attacks — can become extremely disruptive to a financial system, demonstrating that it’s still useful to keep some cash around.