THOUSANDS of consumers were unable to get access to their bank accounts yesterday following a computer crash that disabled debit-card transactions.
Bank customers of AIB and Permanent TSB were unable to withdraw cash from ATMs and could not use point-of-sale devices in shops.
The problems occurred with Visa Debit cards, which have replaced most Laser cards, and the older Laser/Maestro debit cards.
A number of AIB credit cards were also impacted.
AIB, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank admitted customers experienced problems with transactions over lunchtime yesterday – one of the busiest times for cash withdrawals and sales.
State-owned AIB has around 1.2 million current-account holders who have had their Laser cards replaced with Visa Debit cards.
Customers from other banks also said their cards had been declined, and a wider external Visa Debit outage is being blamed for the crash.
One AIB customer recounted how the ATM crash meant he ended up having to withdraw cash on a credit card – one of the most expensive ways of getting funds.
A spokeswoman for AIB said: "AIB will ensure that any accounts affected will be corrected as soon as possible."
The bank said its cards were back working after a few hours.
Permanent TSB said the issue was caused by a wider, external outage. It offered its apologies for the inconvenience.
The problem stemmed from a third-party provider, Tsys UK, that processes transactions.
Tsys UK said a systems slowdown at a data centre impacted its ability to process payments for banks here.
Permanent TSB is trying to attract new current-account customers by slashing charges and fees for customers who lodge at least €1,500 a month into their account.
Just last month, both AIB and Permanent TSB left their customers without access to their money when they were hit by separate IT system collapses.
Branch staff in AIB and Permanent TSB were unable to access customer accounts, and customers could not use telephone and internet banking.
Some consumers could not use debit cards in shops.
The two bailed-out banks insisted they are not skimping on computer-systems spending.
Ulster Bank was forced to pay compensation and refund out-of-pocket expenses for customers after it suffered an IT collapse last summer.
Bank of Ireland said it did not have any issues with its bank cards yesterday.