Has your debit card been denied sometime in the past week?
There’s a reason, and – if you can believe it – it’s because of a single little number.
First, an exercise: take out your American 1 debit card and look at the first six digits in your card number. Those numbers are called a BIN, which stands for “bank identification number,” and they control how your purchase is processed.
American 1’s debit cards all have the same first six digits in the card number. That’s our BIN. The problem is, our BIN got confused with another financial institution’s BIN, and that’s the cause of all the denied debit transactions.
Credit unions and banks use processing companies to handle all their card transactions. When you swipe your American 1 debit or credit card, that information gets sent to a processor, who decodes all the info and then lets us know something happened with your account. The processors use the BIN number to tell which card is being used.
Farmers & Merchants Bank in Wisconsin is having trouble, too, because when they added a bunch of new BIN numbers, our BIN number was accidentally placed in their stack. One number gets switched, and the whole system goes crazy. Because of that one digit, First Farmers’ debit card processor receives our transactions by mistake, and they halt the transaction.
So, let’s say you swiped your American 1 debit card at Meijer this weekend, and your card was denied. That’s because, when the transaction was sent electronically, it went to the Wisconsin bank’s processor instead of ours. That’s why your card was denied.
Our processor, NYCE (you’ve probably seen their logo on our cards and ATMs) is working very hard to update the switched numbers at local merchants. Some, like Walmart, updated their information right away. Others are taking a bit longer – and sadly, we have no control over that.
You may have noticed that, if you signed for your debit transaction instead of entering your PIN, your purchase was approved. Also, our ATM network is not affected by this BIN switch. That’s because we use different processors for those types of transactions. If you’re using your debit card in the next week or so, opt to use it as a “credit” instead of “debit” transaction. That will let you sign for your purchase instead of using your PIN.
We are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Rest assured no data has been compromised, your debit card is not at fault, and NYCE is working to get the rest of the merchants’ information up-to-date. In fact, we’ll post updates to let you know when everything gets worked out.
In the meantime, you can use your American 1 debit card as usual. Just be sure to ask for a signature-based transaction, and you should be fine.