January 06, 2010

In a New Year's surprise, many German debit and credit cardholders trying to use their card at an ATM or store have had their cards rejected or swallowed over the last few days, according to German newspaper reports. But although about 30 million German credit and debit cards are potentially affected by a Y2K-like bug, in which ATMs and POS terminals reject cards due to an inability to understand the year 2010, Gemalto, a large supplier of payment cards to German banks, says it's working with customers to develop a solution that won't require the replacement of all the affected cards. The company says that in fact, most ATMs and point of sales terminals have already been adjusted to accept the cards and are dispensing cash.

But the German savings bank association DSVG doesn't expect a complete resolution to the problem to come about until Monday, and meanwhile is advising cardholders to refrain from using their credit cards.

Ironically, old cards with magnetic strips are said to be working fine. Newer cards that store data on a microchip are the ones affected by the software glitch. The DSGV estimates that roughly 20 million out of 45 million German debit cards, and about 3.5 million of 8 million German credit cards are vulnerable. Germany is slowly phasing in microchip credit and debit cards and the changeover from magnetic strip technology is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

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