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Visa Electron is a debit card introduced by Visa in the 1980s. Unlike the Visa Debit card, Visa Electron claims to only allow payments if the funds are available at the time. Visa Electron is also linked to the PLUS interbank network which means you can withdraw funds from your bank account using any ATM that displays the PLUS logo.
I first had a Visa Electron card with my Barclays bank account about 15 years ago. The thought of being able to sign for my purchases was all very grown-up and bohemian. In reality, I struggled to find anywhere that accepted Visa Electron. A friend who also had a Visa Electron would often tip me off if she saw a sign in a shop that accepted Electron. Unfortunately, the choice was limited and the novelty of owning a debit card quickly wore off as we found ourselves using cash for 99% of our purchases.
As I grew older, I progressed through the Visa ranks from Electron to Visa Debit to a Visa credit card. More recently though, my credit rating has regressed and when I opened a basic bank account with The Co-operative, I was presented with a rather tasteful green Visa Electron card. Fortunately for me, though perhaps unfortunately for my bank balance, many retailers now accept Visa Electron.
In comparison to when I first owned one, the increase in the number of shops that accept payment by Electron has been significant. Even in the time I have been with The Co-operative, new stores have begun to accept Electron. Believe it or not, Aldi have only added Electron to their list of accepted payment methods in the last year or so. It wasn't that long ago that I had the embarrassment of unloading and packing a large trolley full of shopping only to be told that Aldi didn't take Electron.
Nowadays, I don't even think to check whether somewhere accepts Visa Electron. Admittedly, I prefer to keep close tabs on my spending by sticking to cash where possible, but I've found Electron is accepted whenever I've tried to use it in a shop or restaurant. I was quite disappointed when I tried to pick up some bargains in the M&S online sale only to be told they didn't accept Visa Electron. Instead, I saved my money and haven't even looked at M&S online since. As I see it, if they don't want my hard earned cash, I'll simply take my custom elsewhere.
So for the negatives, there are certain places where Visa Electron can't be accepted due to the nature of the Electron system. Offline locations such as trains or planes are unable to check the availability of funds in your account so you won't be able to pay by Electron there. There are also some retailers who still don't accept payment by Electron, despite the fact that Visa Electron was introduced in the 1980s. Also, despite the claim that using Visa Electron prevents you from going overdrawn, this simply isn't the case. It has only happened to me once when I made some purchases on a Saturday and a cash withdrawal. On Monday I still had available funds but a couple of days later, I found myself overdrawn. Fortunately, The Co-operative refunded the £20 they had charged me for becoming overdrawn but I have now learnt not to trust the ATM balance and to keep an even closer eye on my money.
On the plus side, I can use my Visa Electron to withdraw cash anywhere. I can use it in virtually any high street store to make purchases and it does what it says on the tin. I have quick and easy access to my money. My card still has chip and pin and is as secure than any other form of debit or credit card, perhaps even more so since it can only be used to spend what little funds I have in my current account! I can also use it online and when paying for some penny flights with Ryan Air recently, I didn't have to pay any processing fees as I was using a debit card. This means I've treated my friend and myself to a trip to Dublin for just 4p return for the two of us, saving all the unnecessary fees that credit card users would have to pay. Because I'm trying to clear my debts, my Electron keeps me in control of my money. I'm only spending money that is mine so my debts can only decrease now. As long as the popularity of Electron continues to grow, I will continue to be happy with it.