Disruptions in payment services


It may sometimes happen that ordinary payment services do not work in the Internet bank or upon paying with a card.

How can I be better prepared for payment disruptions?

Four tips on how to be better prepared for payment disruptions

  • Keep some cash in your wallet. When card payments do not work, you can make your necessary purchases with cash.

  • For longer disruptions, you should have a week’s supply of cash at home. Every family’s needs are different, but you should generally have enough cash to cover one week’s urgent expenses.

  • If you have several bank cards in your wallet, try all of them. It may turn out that the disruption only involves one bank or one type of cards.

  • Do not leave your important payments to the last minute. If you cannot make a payment by due time, let the recipient of the payment know. Banks have backup plans for when interbank payment systems do not work. You should take into account that the launch of the backup plans takes time and payments will not go through as quickly as usually.

What should I do when payments do not go through?

  • When the Internet bank does not work or is inaccessible, you should contact the bank. The bank may ask you to wait a bit or to come to a bank office or inform the recipient of the payment of the problem.

  • When card payments do not work, pay with cash, if you have any. If you have another bank’s card, try that. You can also phone the bank that issued the card.

  • If there is a risk that the disruption will be long – review your cash reserves and think about what you need money for. Only incur unavoidable expenses.

Worth knowing: for payments to go through, the entire chain has to work

Payment services (card payments and Internet bank payments) work when the systems of multiple parties are functional. It is a chain of sorts: if one link breaks, it may happen that no payments can be made at all. At other times, it may mean that payments cannot be made just with the cards of one particular bank or in one particular Internet bank.

For payments to go through, the systems of the following parties have to work:

  • Electricity and communication service providers;
  • The bank that forwards or receives the payment;
  • The managers of interbank payment systems;
  • Card payment processors (in Estonia, these are Nets Estonia and Swedbank);
  • International card payment organisations via which international payments are made;
  • The merchant from whom goods or services are being purchased.

What can cause disruptions in payment systems?

When you cannot make a payment at a shop or bank, the usual causes are:

  1. Malfunction of hardware or software in the payment systems;

  2. System development works are not organised well enough – e.g. human errors slip in or the solution has not been sufficiently tested;

  3. Natural disasters, which may cause power cuts and communication service failures or damage buildings or payment devices; or

  4. Physical or cyber-attacks, which may be targeted at the systems of one or several institutions, which are necessary for payments to go through.