Visa gives banks weeks to fix year 2000 problem

Banks that have not yet updated their information systems to cope with the 2000 date issue will not relish a knock on the door from Visa International next month. The credit card company has decided to hit where it hurts, threatening to fine any bank that has not prepared their computer systems to handle dates of January 1, 2000 and later, by the beginning of April.

Banks that have not yet updated their information systems to cope with the 2000 date issue will not relish a knock on the door from Visa International next month.

The credit card company has decided to hit where it hurts, threatening to fine any bank that has not prepared their computer systems to handle dates of January 1, 2000 and later, by the beginning of April.

Visa, which is a consortium of 20,000 banks around the globe, decided in March 1994 that all point of sales terminals and automatic teller machines (ATMs) needed to be modified to read credit cards with a 2000 expiration date.

The member banks agreed on an original conversion date of Jan. 1, 1996, which has since slid forward to April 1997. Starting next month, Visa will run spot checks on banks and point of sales terminals to unearth offenders. Banks that have not sorted out the 2000 glitch in their systems will face hefty fines.

European banks can rest relatively easy, largely because they are ahead of their US counterparts, according to a spokesman for Visa International in London.

"There's no particular reason, they just got on with it," said the spokesman.

Also the issue is less pressing in Europe, as credit cards here generally expire within two years of the issue date. Unlike in the US, European ATMs have not yet had to deal with cards with 2000 expiry dates, the spokesman said.

Last year European banks were ahead in the race to complete conversion of their ATMs to solve the 2000 problem, with 95% having made the necessary changes, compared to 90% of banks worldwide. The US figures were in line with global averages of 90%.

The percentage of banks whose ATMs are now ready to deal with change to 2000 has since risen across the board, with European banks now almost completely ready, said the spokesman, although he had no exact figures available. Problems with stragglers now exist mainly in the US, he added.

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