Banks are declining Chip and Signature requestsNew Which? investigation into payment methods

18 January 2012

Chip and signature

Some banks failed to offer disabled customers an alternative to Chip and Pin cards

New research from Which? Money suggests that leading banks, as well as Nationwide BS, are not always offering Chip and Signature debit cards to those who are eligible. 

Undercover Chip & Signature research

Our undercover researchers called the banks posing as a disabled person unable to key the required digits into a Pin terminal. In the scenario we used, the potential customer had previously suffered from a mild stroke.

We made it clear that the callers required an alternative option to the Chip and Pin debit card authorisation method. Our fieldworkers said that they were still able to write their signature and asked if there was another card option that the provider could offer.

Chip and Signature cards, also sometimes called 'Pin suppressed' or 'swipe and sign' cards, allow you to sign for a transaction as people used to do before the introduction of Chip and Pin in 2006.

Some banks need to improve

The financial providers often failed to correctly offer our researchers a viable alternative to Chip and Pin. Bank of Scotland, RBS, NatWest and Santander each passed our test in only two or less of the 10 calls we made. 

Common responses from call handlers were that they didn't seem to know that Chip and Signature cards were still available, that it was the fault of retailers for not accepting Chip and Signature cards or that contactless cards were a viable alternative. Some call handlers even suggested taking out cash to pay for goods instead.

The Co-operative Bank, on the other hand, scored a perfect 10, while First Direct, Smile and HSBC all did well, scoring eight out of ten.

Which? calls for action

With an estimated 12 million disabled people in the UK, many customers are potentially being denied the use of a debit card if they can’t use a Pin terminal. 

Paul Davies, Which? analyst, said of the research: 'Our mystery shop highlights that some banks aren't giving clear advice on options to customers who are eligible for Chip and Signature cards. People with a physical impairment should be given a viable alternative to Chip and Pin.

'We have shared our findings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and will also talk to the poor-performing banks directly.'

More on this...

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  • Which? Money Helpline - need help on Chip & Signature? Call our expert advisers.