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ATM card or Amex card with a chip; what's a chip?

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I'm serious. I don't know!

I use my local bank's ATM card mostly to take money out of my local ATM here in the US. I use my Amex card at the usual spots that take it, but never to take money out of an ATM.

I have read recently something about a chip on a card, but frankly I'm clueless what you're all talking about. I'm sure none of my cards has one. What do they do for me, in general?

Do I NEED one when I try using either kind of card in Europe next spring? I'll want to use the ATM card to get Euros out of an ATM (the bank version; it's a credit, not a debit card; I won't use the Amex at an ATM unless I have to). I'll use either of them to charge the usual things as I travel.

I'll check with my bank, of course, and with Amex, but I'd bet you experience travelers would also know what I'd need to know with respect to the travel aspects of the subject.

Thx.

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