Over the last couple of months, my debit card has become increasingly unreliable. It’s become slightly bent and the chip is slightly scratched. It’s not completely unusable. It probably works about 75% of the time in cash machines, and those times when a cash machine rejects it, if I try again with the same machine, it normally accepts it the second time round. But it’s causing me problems.
The first time was in Fopp. I was buying something and the machine wouldn’t accept my card. “It looks like the chip is a bit scratched” the man behind the counter said. “You can sign for it instead.”
It worked a few more times, and then it happened again, this time in Uniqlo. “Oh, I think the chip is a bit scratched,” I said, “Can I sign for it instead?” The woman behind the counter was confused. “It’s not accepting your card” she said. “Yes, I think the chip is a bit scratched. Can I sign for it instead?” I asked. “It’s not accepting your card” she replied. “OK, can I just go across the road to the cash machine and get some money out? I’ll be back in a minute.” I went across the road and took out some cash and then went back and paid for my items.
The problem is not only the inconvenience of having to go to the cash machine, but that it is not always apparent to the people serving me or the other people nearby that the problem is with the card itself and not that I don’t have enough money in my account. My card is not being declined, it is simply not being read at all. But to try to explain this to the person behind you in the queue is not considered acceptable. I haven’t made a chip and pin purchase since that day in Uniqlo. I’ve only used cash.
But even that is a problem. I can’t use a busy cash machine because if it doesn’t work first time, then again it looks like the transaction has been declined due to lack of funds, and I can’t make a second attempt because if there’s someone behind you at the cash machine then there is a strict one-transaction-only rule which cannot be broken. And so, if I spot a cash machine and there’s no-one around, I pounce upon it and fill my wallet with cash, like a hungry animal feasting on a carcass.
The obvious solution would be to cancel my card and get a replacement. But then I would be faced with the inconvenience of up to a week without a card as a wait for the new one to be sent out (it may not take that long, but I don’t have much faith in the efficiency of the Co-operative Bank). I have to balance one short period of great inconvenience against a longer period of lower-level inconvenience. And it’s made more complicated by the fact my card expires in two months, so I’ll be getting a replacement fairly soon anyway.
I can’t decide. Should I commit card suicide?
Update 16th May 2014: I continued to use my faulty card, deciding not to replace it until it expired. My new card arrived this morning. I haven’t used it yet, but have started the long process of updating my Amazon, Paypal and other accounts.