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Visa Electron is a debit card available across most of the world, with the exception of Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United States. The card was introduced by Visa in the 1985 and is a sister card to the Visa Debit card. The difference between Visa Electron and Visa Debit is that payments with Visa Electron require that all the funds be available at the time of transfer, i.e., Visa Electron card accounts may not be overdrawn. Visa Debit cards, on the other hand, allow transfers exceeding available funds up to a certain limit. Some online stores and all offline terminals (like on trains and aircraft) do not support Visa Electron because their systems cannot check for the availability of funds.
In different regions the card is issued with different specifications. For example, one bank may issue a Visa Electron debit card, while another may issue a credit card. It is most commonly issued as a debit card. Applying for a credit card requires the applicant to present some proof of regular income (such as an employment certificate) or financial assets invested elsewhere.
In addition to debit facilities, the card also allows the holder to withdraw cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) even outside the holder's country of residence unlike normal ATM cards issued in some countries. This is because Visa Electron cards are also linked to the Visa PLUS interbank network. While the card is not available in the United States, it can be used to transfer funds from other countries.
In the United Kingdom the card is not as widely accepted as the Visa Debit card, but is often issued by banks as a debit card for basic bank accounts and children's accounts. As of 2009, most UK banks have migrated away from Visa Electron - of the major banks, only HBOS still issues the card, with others (including Santander who used to issue it also) issuing some form of Visa Debit. Lloyds TSB, Barclays and the Co-operative Bank formerly issued the card - all have now instead moved to "all authorised" Visa Debit cards for basic account holders.
In countries that have stricter criteria for issuing credit cards Visa Electron has become popular with younger people and students. As each transaction requires funds to be checked accounts cannot be overdrawn. Therefore banks will issue a Visa Electron card to customers who may not qualify for credit. In some cases, especially in the UK, rather than issuing Electron to customers who should not be allowed to go overdrawn, banks will issue what is ostensibly a full Visa Debit card that authorises online for every transaction, in exactly the same manner as Electron. This can cause these cards to be declined where an actual Visa Debit card would be accepted, for example at petrol pumps or train stations.
As Visa Electron cards do not have embossed details they cannot be used with older card imprinters that imprint a paper slip with the card number and other details which are embossed in raised letters on the card, unless the card details are written on the slip.
As the card carries a low interchange fee, airlines and other businesses which surcharge credit and debit card payments do not usually surcharge Visa Electron payments. Ryanair Aer Lingus and Easyjet became notorious for this, charging disproportionately high fees for other debit cards.
Special Visa Electron logo, normally on the bottom right, and the words "Debit Card" for debit cards, normally on the top right. Most Visa Electron cards do not have the dove hologram as on Visa credit and debit cards, but a few banks do include it. The card cannot imprint a paper slip, so for card-present transactions it can only be accepted through a magnetic stripe card reader or a PIN entry device.
From mid-2006 Visa removed their trademark "flag" logo from all their cards and websites. It is the first time that this logo has been omitted since the company was founded.
The new logo for all Electron cards is a simple white background with the name Visa in blue with an orange flick on the 'V', followed by the word "Electron" on a separate line. The card number is printed, not embossed in raised letters. Retailers often allow the card number to be keyed in, although an imprint cannot be taken and it leaves them at risk.
- Directory of online shops that accept Visa Electron card
- BBC article on Halifax switch to Electron, 15 May 2004
- List of Banks that issue Visa Electron cards in the UK