GWR Prepaid Warning

I just bought something on a GWR train. My monzo debit card was accepted, but the steward said that a pre-paid card wouldn’t have been.
I’m not sure whether all the prepaid cards have been upgraded? But thought it was worth mentioning as a warning :slight_smile:

In a lot of cases the staff have no clue what they’re talking about. Only the terminal and the people who configured it actually know whether a prepaid would be accepted, but on a train internet access is quite common so there shouldn’t be any issues with prepaid online-only cards. I know for sure Virgin Trains didn’t have any issues with my prepaid and I got notifications straight away.

GWR buffet cars (the last time I visited at least) was the only place I knew of that still requires a signature rather than a PIN… I once got told off by the person working there because the back of my card wasn’t signed…

“All your cards should be signed. Nowhere should accept a card if its not a signed card.”

Which might be true, but its has not exactly been an issue anywhere else since Chip and PIN was introduced a mere decade ago…

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The terminals don’t have internet access and the transactions come through once the train reaches the end of the line. I’ve noticed this before with my legacy bank when a random GWR transaction came through several days after I took a train. :smile:

It’s true, even if signature isn’t used as the CVM, technically they’re not valid unless signed. I don’t know how many places are a stickler for that, tho, outside of the US (where you get it sometimes at shops that use magnetic stripe or have PIN disabled - both most common in restaurants).

Do they use magnetic stripe or chip (since I’ve never seen a chip terminal in the UK with PIN support disabled or non-existent, except for vending machines)? If they use the magnetic stripe and are offline as @BenWinchester reports, then technically the terminal should have rejected the Monzo card since its service code is 221.

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Back when I last used it and used to use trains a lot, it was Magnetic stripe. Which was an issue in itself as 90% of the time the scanner didn’t swipe and they had to manually type in your card details. I didn’t use Monzo there myself, this was pre-Monzo… not by a long way though, probably last used it there in 2015?

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Sounds like they need to run a cleaning card through to clean up the read heads. Manually typed won’t have the service code limitation, obviously.

I wonder how they’re preventing fraud, with only a magstripe read or keyed details and no online authorisation, they have nothing… not even the ability to check if the card has been blocked that you can do with online magstripe. And they’re liable for any fraud. They must be very trusting, or simply so overpriced they don’t care.

Oh yeah, I got a train to Cardiff a few months back and this completely took me by surprise. Never had I had to use swipe and sign in the UK before (unless I deliberately made it happen)…

This was before I was with Monzo, but thankfully my Nationwide card worked fine…

(I then went to the US a few months later, and most of the time it was swiped there as well).

Probably so overpriced. I think I paid £2 for a bottle of water…

It shocks me that issuers approve magstripe fallback transactions (e.g. deliberately making it happen). I mean, I get that it’s a risk-reward calculation, but still. The view on fallback varies so much, with some issuers happily approving even magstripe fallback and others not even approving CVM fallback (when offline PIN is blocked so signature gets used instead, or enter is pressed to bypass the PIN prompt - semi-common in the US and a cause of acceptance issues, you need to know if they claim the card was declined to ask if there was a PIN prompt).

As for the US, magstripe is on its way out thankfully, over half of merchants are now chip (EMV) in the US.

Definitely, but still, there’s no protection (other than blacklisting) for deferred authorisation with magstripe (of course, the same is true with the chip if the card doesn’t support offline data authentication, but all* British cards do)

*all - I think all British cards are required to support offline data authentication, and it’s needed for the Tube.

I think that happened to me in the US - I definitely saw them pressing enter, but then they just gave me the machine the next time. Interestingly, in a few cases the machine had a card slot for chip cards, but it had been blocked with a piece of card and writing requesting you to swipe…

(Granted, this was May, so hopefully they’re better now)

May was the last time I was in the US, too. I know progress is being made, albeit slowly enough. The first chip-enabled pay-at-the-pump transactions happened very recently (just a few independently-owned stations, but still), for example.

Yes, some shops have learned that if a card declines when they bypass PIN to just give it to you, others still need told off (nicely… point out how PIN helps them for security) for their stupidity. Some will go to great lengths to avoid PIN entry, I’ve never seen it but I’ve heard reports online of shops manually keying card numbers (at great cost and risk to themselves) to avoid letting the customer enter their PIN.

This really would be better for the US thread, though, so to keep it on track - basically, almost nothing old really gets banned with Mastercard, instead, it becomes riskier to the merchant (and sometimes more expensive) to continue bad practice. GWR can run deferred-authorisation magstripe if they want, but it’s incredibly risky.

The US practice of online-authorised magstripe is risky enough… but I find it shocking anyone is still (or recently was) doing deferred authorisation on magstripe.


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