HSBC is investigating a systems failure that brought much of its ATM and online banking network in the UK to a standstill yesterday, the height of the festive sales season.
Bank holiday shoppers across the UK were unable to withdraw money from cash machines, use credit and debit cards or even access online accounts due to the computer failure.
According to press reports, a spokeswoman for HSBC said the glitch was the most serious the bank had experienced in its history, although not all ATMs and card payment systems were affected. She also confirmed that the glitch was nothing to do with the chip and PIN system.
The bank says there would not be a security risk to accounts as a result of the systems failure. The glitch has now been fixed.
News of the failure comes just days after the UK's Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs) announced that spending on debit and credit cards overtook cash for the first time.
There are more than 160 million plastic cards in use in the UK, with 64.9% of spending accounted for by debit cards and the remainder by credit cards. Apacs estimates that spending on debit and credit cards will reach £269 billion in 2004, against £268 billion of cash payments.