A lot of families are prepared for emergency situations like power outages and blizzards, but have you ever considered preparing for a credit card emergency? On Monday, Visa cards nationwide were temporarily relegated to shiny pieces of plastic when the credit card giant’s processing system unexpectedly went down. Although the disruption was apparently caused by a third party provider, this isn’t the first time and it surely won’t be the last such an outage occurs. The Visa outage only lasted for a few hours, but it reminds Canadians how dependent we are on our credit cards. Here are payment alternatives to prepare for the next credit card outage.
Cash is King
It’s always a good idea to carry some extra cash in your wallet for emergency situations. Whether it’s $50 to take a cab ride home or $100 to buy groceries if your credit card goes down, it’s well worth it. Although you can always depend on the kindness of strangers, chances are if you credit card isn’t working, neither is theirs. Nobody wants to spend an hour shopping and lining up at the grocery store only to find out there’s a credit card outage and you have to put everything back. Cash is especially handy in a power outage – if we ever have a repeat of the power outage of 2003, you’ll be glad you have some extra cash on hand.
Carry a Spare Credit Card
Typically credit card outages only affect a single credit card provider. That’s why it’s a good idea to always carry a spare credit card. For example, if you have a Visa card, you might consider getting a MasterCard as a backup. If you’re afraid you’ll be tempted to splurge on items you don’t need, it’s a consider putting a low limit like $1,000 or opt for cash instead.
Debit cards are just like credit cards – they’re quick, easy and convenient. They’re a great alternative if your credit card is temporarily down. They’re also a good way to control spending because you’re immediately accountable. Money is immediately debited out of your bank account, unlike credit cards which are “out of sight, out of mind” until you receive your credit card statement at the end of the month. Debit cards have the added security of a PIN, so if you lose your card you won’t have to sweat as a stranger isn’t likely to know your PIN.
A couple decades ago, before credit cards were all the rage, customers used to regularly pay with personal cheques. Although it’s a rarity, nowadays, a lot of major retailers still accept cheques, and it doesn’t hurt to carry a few spare ones in your pocket. If you’re making an expensive purchase like a new TV set, you probably won’t have enough cash on hand, so a cheque is perfect backup.
Paying With Your Mobile Phone
Although still in its infancy, merchants are increasingly starting to accept mobile phone transactions. Apps like Paypal Mobile, Google Wallet and Pay with Square turn your smartphone into a virtual credit card. Buying a Starbucks coffee is as easy as scanning your mobile device. In a few years we could see mobile phone transactions rival that of credit cards.