The Visa payment system has crashed, leaving some people unable to buy things or complete transactions.
Even shoppers not using Visa have been unable to make purchases, because the network provides payment systems for a range of shops and financial institutions.
Customers have reported arriving at tills to have their cards declined. Retailers say they have been left unable to take payments in shops, bars and other outlets, forcing them to resort to only taking cash or not making sales at all.
The payments look to customers like they are being declined, in the same way as when a card has insufficient funds. But the issues are actually a consequence of the global network of payments run by Visa.
Visa users received messages telling them there is a “disruption of service”, meaning payment providers are unable to receive or send money.
A statement from Visa suggested that it didn’t yet know the cause of the outage.
“Visa is currently experiencing a service disruption,” it read.
“This incident is preventing some Visa transactions in Europe from being processed.
Frustrated Visa customers took to social media to vent.
One said: “Sat in a bar in Vienna, can’t pay the bill because visa is down everywhere… and then an advert for visa debit comes on. Oh the irony.”
Another said: “So visa and MasterCard have gone down and I kid you not, London has gone into meltdown. Ya’ll it’s the apocalypse.”
Others described scenes of “bedlam” in supermarkets.
One Twitter user said: “Card machines have just gone down all over Europe. Some visa error. In Asda and it’s full of abandoned trolleys absolutely full of food. It’s like 28 Days Later in here man.”
Paymentsense, an organisation which offers card facilities to small and medium-sized companies, confirmed the issue was affecting businesses across the UK,
They Tweeted: “There is currently a disruption of service in taking payments from Visa. It is affecting all payment providers across the UK and Ireland.
“We are in touch with Visa to help provide a fix to this and we’ll issue an update via our social channels and email as soon as we have one.”