How To Handle A Credit Card Processing Outage?

How To Handle A Credit Card Processing Outage?
By max July 20, 2023

Merchants processing credit card payments might experience a processing outage, which although a rare occurrence, can happen at the most inconvenient times. The first thing you do when the message “system error” flashes on the screen is try to figure out the cause credit card processing outage problem. It can be a technical issue or an unstable Wi-Fi connection. Whatever the cause, the fact is that you will lose significant revenues if your card processing doesn’t work.

Think about the customers visiting your store, heading to the checkout, and entering their payment details only to discover their payments cannot be processed due to a system error. Those in a hurry will abandon the cart and buy from your competitors instead. So, what exactly causes credit card processing outages, and what can be done to prevent them? Let’s learn more about processing outages and their causes.

What is a Credit Card Processing Outage?

To process credit card transactions, merchants must install the required processing hardware or set up their online payment channels to transfer their customers’ payment details to their merchant accounts. The payment is verified by your acquiring bank and is then processed. A lot of things can go wrong during payment processing.

What is a Credit Card Processing Outage

For instance, the software might fail or the hardware can malfunction. Likewise, the entire system can fail resulting in a credit card processing outage. When that happens, the payment processor won’t be able to accept credit card transactions. As a result, your customers cannot process credit card transactions on your platform until the issue is identified and resolved.

To resolve these issues, you must identify the underlying cause of the outage.

Causes of Credit Card Processing Outage

Credit card outage has many causes ranging from a widespread issue, like poor internet connection, to problems that occur on your end. These things might lead to credit card processing outages.

Causes of Credit Card Processing Outage

Internet Connectivity

It’s obvious that you need a strong internet connection to process card payments flawlessly. To transfer data card data to your payment processor, a stable internet connection is required. You might experience a temporary network issue due to heavy rain, storms, a blackout in your area, etc. Call your internet service provider or payment processor to know when the internet connection will be stable again.

You can try to reboot your router or check the problems with your Wi-Fi connection. The poor internet connection due to the power outage can either be a local issue, i.e. within your area or a nation-based problem. Either way, contact your internet service provider to get updates about the outage.

Hardware Malfunctioning

If you are processing credit card orders in your retail store using the Point of Sale system or card readers, the processing outage can be linked to a hardware malfunction. If any of the devices responsible for transmitting card data to your merchant account fails due to any reason, your transactions won’t be processed.

There could be a technical glitch with your processing hardware or the hardware might not be compatible with the software. This might happen because of outdated software. Check your payment processing software for regular updates. Make sure your hardware will connect your customers’ cards to the merchant account. Remember thay even a minor glitch in your physical hardware will result in difficulty processing your credit card transactions.

System Outage

As mentioned previously, the problem with card processing can occur either due to an issue on the customer’s or the processor’s end. If it’s because of the latter, many businesses will be affected. If the payment processor cannot execute card transactions temporarily because of a security issue or other problems, every business connected to the processor will lose connection and hence the ability to process credit card transactions.

Sadly, there’s not much you can do about the processor-level outages. If you have another merchant account for such emergencies, you can use them. If not, you will just need to wait for the processor to resolve the issue so you can resume your payment services.

Issues with Your Payment Software

Another cause of the card processing outage is the issue with your payment software. It could be outdated or experience a technical glitch, which might temporarily block all card payments. The easiest way to resolve the issue is by checking the latest updates. You must practice keeping your payment software up-to-date with the latest versions. If the issue persists or occurs frequently, you can switch your payment processor.

How Does a Processing Outage Affect Businesses?

It depends on the nature of your business and the number of credit card transactions you process every day. When an outage occurs, the payment operations shut down temporarily. But that’s not the only issue. With payment processing down, your customers will get an error message when processing card transactions. This can result in dissatisfied customers. You never know if that customer will return to your store.

Besides, no merchant would want to guide customers through the sales funnel only to return them because of the processing outage. You can announce cash-based operations for a limited time, but that will affect your bottom line badly.

If you operate globally and receive orders from customers based outside your state, your best bet is to get the processing outage fixed as soon as possible. Preparing for such emergencies ahead of time can help you continue to process credit card payments if any unfortunate event takes place. While there’s little you can do about the power outage, poor internet connection, or processor-level technical glitches, you can install backup hardware in case your primary hardware components fail.

Steps to Take During Credit Card Processing Outage

You must find the cause of the problem to figure out the most appropriate solution. Here’s what you can do if you experience a processing outage.

Talk to Your Payment Processor

If you can’t figure out the problem, talk to your payment processor. Get in touch with their support team to know what’s stopping credit card processing on your checkout page. Usually, payment processors are available to assist their clients in such emergencies. They will investigate the system, troubleshoot the problem, and tell you how soon they can fix it. Your payment processor will help get your system up and running. In the meantime, they will give you advice on how you can manage your customers with backup software or different payment methods.

Talk to Your Customers

If it’s taking longer to fix the outage than you thought, talk to your customer. You can redirect them to your mobile application where they can choose another payment method to complete their transaction or you can request them to return to your store in a specific period.

You can also send notifications to your customers once the outage has been fixed and your card processing systems are running again. You can share the outage news on your social media or other channels where you interact with your customers. The best thing you can do to compensate for the inconvenience is to offer them a special discount on their purchases.

Identify Hardware Glitches

Sometimes, rebooting your router is all it takes to restore your hardware function. But if that doesn’t work, check your software and hardware. See if you have missed any recent software updates. A common cause of processing outages is the incompatibility between your software and hardware devices. You can replace your software to ensure it syncs well with your POS, card readers, and other machines.

Make sure you buy your hardware systems from your payment processor. If your payment processor doesn’t support a card reader you are using for mobile payments, the processing will work for some time and stop eventually or it might not work altogether.

Offer Alternative Payment Methods

The best solution in case of a credit card processing outage is to offer alternative payment methods. Let your customer pay through cash or if possible, allow them to buy the product on credit. Incentivizing cash payments, such as a hefty discount on those who buy using cash can encourage your customers to buy from your store. Other than that, you can offer Google Pay, Apply Pay, PayPal, and other digital wallets. The Buy Now Pay Later scheme is also quite trending among eCommerce stores and buyers.

Invest in a Generator

If you live in an area that’s prone to poor weather and storms, consider investing in a generator. You won’t lose the network connection due to the local outages that happen because of the power outage. Research different types of generators and invest in one that caters to your unique needs.


Credit card processing outages might not be an issue for you, but technical glitches and power outages can happen at any time and might lead to lost customers and revenues. A few things like having a backup of the software and hardware, and using other payment options can help in such cases. If processing outages are a common issue for you, consider switching your payment hardware or payment service provider.