**** banks
July 10, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I have a UK Cooperative bank visa debit card. Recently I was unable to make a purchase on-line so I phoned the store and was told the card is a 'visa electron' not a visa debit card, even though it clearly says it's a visa debit on my card. what is going on?

I know the Cooperative' changed from visa electron to visa debit but that was 2 years ago.
posted by randomizer to Work & Money (8 answers total)
...they could be wrong. I assume this card is < 2 years old - ie post changeover from electron to debit?. When you got a new card, did it have the same number as the old one or a new one?
posted by missmagenta at 8:23 AM on July 10, 2011

Are the numbers on the card embossed or flat? That's an easy way to tell, as Electron cards have non-embossed numbers/names that are just printed on the card.
posted by helios at 8:46 AM on July 10, 2011

The card is roughly a year old and the numbers are embossed. Never had this problem before.
posted by randomizer at 9:20 AM on July 10, 2011

The numbers are the same. I've been reading up about this but it doesn't make much sense. It is a Visa Debit but it's still a Visa Electron as it has a Visa Electron number but it is a Visa Debit...
posted by randomizer at 9:25 AM on July 10, 2011

Your problem is the number then - their system will still recognise it as an electron card even though it has been 'reclassified' as a Debit - either because their store software pre-validates card numbers before sending them to their card processor or because the processor hasn't updated its system. (I read somewhere - don't know how true it is - that coop notified the other banks of the reclassification but Lloyds hadn't updated their system - that was 6 months ago but since the change was 2 years ago, seems likely that they still haven't - if its at all true - can't believe everything you read online ;))
posted by missmagenta at 9:50 AM on July 10, 2011

There are Visa Debit cards which nevertheless require online authorization for each transaction; UK banks have mostly moved away from the Electron, but the need for a card which can't ever become overdrawn is still present. You may have one of these.
posted by topynate at 9:54 AM on July 10, 2011

I am a long standing Co-Operative customer and had a long conversation with a higher-up about this issue a while back. Previously, there were the two Visa card types - Visa Debit (previously Visa Delta) and Visa Electron. Visa Debit does not require a merchant check if the account holder has funds available for certain amounts, whereas Electron always requires that the account balance is checked to ensure there are funds available to cover the proposed transaction, which is why some retailers don't accept it (they aren't able to do an immediate check on available funds).

Naturally with most matters banking that annoy and confuse end users, most of the problems stem from contract issues between the merchants and the card issuers (i.e. transaction fees, fraud liability and so forth). The general rule is that Visa Debit is more likely to be accepted than Visa Electron. It is easy to spot an Electron card - they don't carry embossed details like most cards.

Of course, this is much to simple a system to have in place so Visa introduced a third option, a card that requires fully cleared funds like Electron but called Visa Debit, just like the original Visa Debit card. This card can have traditional embossed details, making it indistinguishable from a regular Visa Debit card. Because the merchant contract terms are similar if not the same for this card as Electron (Visa want to replace all Electron cards with this one, but some banks still issue traditional Electron cards), it will act in the same manner as an old Electron card when used to purchase. Except when it doesn't - as it is a Visa Debit card, some retailers will accept it as such even when they do not accept Electron. One of the most notable of these is Tesco when shopping online.

So, to summarise, we now have 3 types of card - original Visa Debit, Visa Electron and Visa Debit "lite" which is supposed to replace Electron and will act like a real Visa Debit card or a Visa Electron card depending on how the retailer interprets it.

In Co-Operative's specific case, as you mention, you have your original PAN (Primary Account Number). This is because Co-Operative (some argue in breach of regulations) have updated a portion of PANs beginning 4508 75 from being Electrons to Visa Debit, although the Visa clearing system will still recognise and process them as Electrons. I would expect that your card is one of these.

TL;DR: Co-Operative decided to make a rebrand a load of Visa Electron cards as Visa Debit cards as per Visa's new marketing push, but the clearing system still recognises the card number as being an Electron. Some retailers will process them as Visa Debit, however.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 4:29 PM on July 10, 2011

don't think there's much more to say on the matter...
posted by randomizer at 3:41 AM on July 11, 2011

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