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AARP Article on Smart Cards with Chips in Europe - reason for concern?

AARP Article on Smart Cards with Chips in Europe - reason for concern?

Aug 9th, 2007, 08:35 AM
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AARP Article on Smart Cards with Chips in Europe - reason for concern?

The recent AARP magazine had an article about how many credit card companies in Europe are going to the Smart Cards with the embedded chips. The article stated that the "swipe and go" is quickly becoming a thing of the past and that Americans are going to have increasign problems making purchased with their credit cards in Europe. Apparently it does not impact ATM transactions but many businesses now only accept the credit cards issued in their country. Have any recent travelers to Europe had problems with this? We are leaving for Italy in a few weeks and wondering if we should be at all concerned.
BoulderCO is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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I go everyweek to Europe and don't have problems. However, you should always call your credit card people along with your bank(ATM) and let them know where you are going overseas so that your cards work properly.
dutyfree is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 08:45 AM
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No, not at all. The only problem that I encountered was an unattended gas station where you had to either put in "cash" or use a smart card with a pin.

In Zurich I ran into an attended gas station that only took credit cards. Since I didn't have one with a chip, the attendant asked me if I had an Amex card. She said that that was the only card that would work in the gas machine without using a pin -- Yes, it did work.

I noticed that just about every vendor I encountered always matched signatures with the card -- that made me feel much better in case for some chance I lost the card.

Now, for my Amex story, I don't know if it was just for that particular station, stations in Zurich, or whatever. I am curious to know if it works at all unattended gas stations through Europe, as there were numerous unattended stations in Italy -- I used cash.
Budman is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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Well we discussed this earlier and I wonder how knowledgeable the author of the article was.....

1. Yes chip and pin as the smart cards are called is becoming more and more the standard in Europe and as a matter of fact, I believe the eu is requiring banks in Europe to make these cards mandatory for their cardholders in the near future.

2. Canadian banks are in the process of joining this parade.

3. US banks, as always things are contrary minded in the USA, have decided that they don't want to go in this direction at this point. Probably, knowing the mentality of US commerce, they have done a study and decided their losses for fraud will be less than the cost of issuing the chip and pin cards.

4. Because obviously visa and mastercard don't want to lose the American market so as long as American banks do not issue chip and pin cards, the cards with traditional magnetic stripes will remain valid.

5. However, in many rural areas, some of the clerks are not used to seeing non chip and pin cards. While, for example, US credit cards are valid in the UK, all the terminals that were devised when the UK introduced chip and pin cards all had provisions to accept the traditional magnetic striped cards. However, in many rural areas of the UK, I have run into nearly illiterate clerks who don't have a clue and some of them try to tell me my card is no good.....when they insert the card into the chip and pin terminal (I don't like when they do that as it damages the signature panel on my card), their terminal clearly tells them the card is to be swiped. On a couple of occasions, I have had to ask for the manager to get them to take the card.

6. Yes it is very true that in London, at least, the clerk always checks the signature on the card...of course what real good that does is problematic as often times a card can be cloned from the numbers and a different signature put on the signature panel. And yes, in the USA, I almost never have the signature checked as I basically swipe the card and put it in my pocket. Again not that I think the signature is much of a security aide.

8. Finally, as I have noted earlier, it is absolutely illegal for a merchant to ask for id when using a credit card. Whenever I am asked for ID when using a credit card, I take out a notice from mastercard indicating it is illegal for them to ask for id and that they are supposed to check the signature. Why should you never show any additional id..it seems a harmless enough thing to protect a cardholder? Well, if your credit card number is compromised, while it is a bit disconcerting, a phone call and letter will resolve the matter and that will be the end of it...while if an identity thief gets additional information (address, drivers license number), that could help them get further information about you and lead to identity theft which is infinitely more difficult to resolve. Tell any merchant who asks for id when using your credit card NO.
xyz123 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:19 AM
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I don't agree with you, that's just your opinion. And some places won't allow you to use the card to buy something if you refuse to show ID. I don't see the whole identify theft thing, and some retailers do ask for ID with a credit card, at least in Paris. FNAC does and some other big store did, also, when I was just there. Sure, they can check the signature, but people can forge them with a little practice (and frankly, my signature in that teensy space on the back doesn't hardly even look like my real one).

When they check ID with a card, they have never retained the information anywhere, they just look at your photo and name on your driver's license or whatever, and then say okay. That's no different than lots of other places your ID may be checked. They don't write the info down.

As for the original question, don't know about Italy, but I just got back from two weeks in Europe in Switzerland and France, and never had a problem with a merchant not accepting my American credit cards without chips.
Christina is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:34 AM
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Again Christina...

You're entitled to your opinion but I repeat according to mastercard regulatons in the USA, merchants are not permitted to ask for additional identification when using a credit card and I do understand the possibility (remote as it may be) of using the information for identity theft..most identity thefts start with the clerks who either use a portable card reader or simply have the ability to memorize the number.....
xyz123 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:34 AM
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I did not know it was "absolutely illegal" to be asked for ID when using a CC, and have lately been asked a couple times to show ID to compare sigs; I will force myself to read those little inserts they send almost every week to educate myself.

The clerk literally put the two cards next to each other and when satisfied handed them right back to me. I hadn't considered that in that exchange the Clerk/Identity Stealer was memorizing my address. Which any Professional Identity Stealer could get in about 30 seconds on the internet in the privacy of their Identity Stealing Batcave. But please do provide a cite for the assertion that *most* identity thefts are done by Clerks.

And yah, travel columns and articles are usually about a year behind this forum.
Fidel is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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I can only say that having returned from a little over 6 weeks this summer in Europe and using no chip credit cards about 200 times, the ONLY problem I had with using the card was that it won't work in ticket machines in the Amsterdam train station. Never once was there a problem with using it anywhere else in UK, Italy, France, or the Netherlands. (I did not drive and didn't use it as self serve gas stations, however, where I know it usually won't work. )
NeoPatrick is online now  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:49 AM
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I had absolutely no problem with a chipless credit card except at one toll booth where I got into the wrong lane.
Michael is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 09:51 AM
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Since many Europeans still have swipe type credit cards it is nonsense to say that they are not accepted. I will only get a chip and pin card when my card is replaced - which is not yet for quite a while, and until all major countries switch to the chip and pin system they will conitue to be useable. The clerks may be less used to dealing with them, but with patience it can be explained and you can use your card.
The ticket machines at Dutch railway stations do not accept credit cards, no matter where they are issued.
Many unmanned petrol stations only accept credit card issued in the "home" country, so a Dutch machine may not accept a British card.
I have no problem with providing a piece of photo ID for retailers who request it - they never note down the details on my drivers license - just check the name on the card an the icnese match, and that the face on me matches that on the photo.
hetismij is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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>according to mastercard regulatons in the USA, merchants are not permitted to ask for additional identification when using a credit card

Well, it might be true in the USA but in many European countries the clerks have the right to (and partly are required to) make sure that you are what the CC says you are.

As to this identity theft thing - if the US had reasonable data protection legislation, it would greatly cut down on this fraud.
(Of course if you are too stupid to give all your data somewhere on the net, no legislation is going to help.)
altamiro is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Hi B,

Your US CC will work almost everywhere except:

Gas stations on Sunday - no staff only smart cards

Automatic ticket machines at some train stations, again only smart cards.

ira is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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By the way, this is not the first article in an AARP publication that has been WAY off base.
I remember a rather recent article there about the best ways in Europe to exchange currency and much high praise for using TC's which will be "accepted everywhere" and not a mention of ATM's, except "they can be very expensive to use".
NeoPatrick is online now  
Aug 9th, 2007, 11:20 AM
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I have a related question regarding chips: I understand (sorry, second hand) that U.S. passports with chips are being phased in. There has been some speculation that information from these passports can be gathered remotely with the proper wireless devices. Is this true of the credit cards and passports with chips? I am technology-challenged and don't know if this is anything to worry about or not.
Leburta is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for all the responses. One less thing to worry about. NeoPatrick, I agree with you about AARP. I remember reading the article recommending traveler's checks and thinking how behind the times they were.
BoulderCO is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 11:55 AM
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The "chip" in the chip and pin card is a Radio Frequency Identification Device, or RFID. Although RFID has not yet reached a point of standardization, in general companies understand that important information transmitted by RFID must be encrypted. I have not heard of any RFID payment cards that are not encrypted. This does not prevent someone with a payment device from gathering unauthorized charges from the cards in wallets around him/her in, say, a crowded train. I assume this is part of the reason for requiring a PIN with chip cards. This situation is not a major danger, as the thief will have to convince Visa/MC/AmEx or whomever that he is a legitimate merchant in order to participate in the payment system. And even if he does convince them, the game will not last long, only until the first charges are disputed.

The US passport RFID chips will be encrypted. They are also to be issued (from my understanding; I work for the government in a similar area but not for DHS or State) with a sleeve that will supposedly prevent transmission or special covers that will do same, so the passport will be kept in the sleeve/closed except when being examined by passport control. They are also supposed to be very limited range transmissions of 10 cm (RFID devices have varying signal strengths with the strongest signal strengths transmitting up to about 200 feet or so, the weakest just a few cm). Even with these precautions, there is very widespread public opposition to the plan and its implementation has been delayed, from my understanding.
nicegirl512 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 12:22 PM
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<<it is absolutely illegal for a merchant to ask for id when using a credit card>>

This is untrue. Rather, for a merchant to ask for ID is in violation of their agreement with their credit card processor.

Merchants are also not to accept cards with "See ID" in the signature panel rather than a signature. But that doesn't stop folks who have read articles from insisting on doing it anyway. This was so prevalent that credit cards are now issued with "Not valid unless signed" above or next to the signature panel.
djkbooks is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 12:31 PM
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One reason people oppose it is the government's history of lying a bit about how secure the technology is. It's actually trivially easy to hack into, and is readable from much further away than they say. Especially when you realize that the "snooper" can relay it using plain old wireless - so you could have someone snooping your passport with a small device from ten feet away, and then relaying from that device to a laptop computer 200 feet away, and so on. When you consider that passports tend to cluster together in certain places -- everybody in a crowded international air terminal security line has one, for instance -- you can see the problem is serious. It's already been demonstrated under real-world conditions.

Data security systems that rely on the government being smarter about technology than hackers are not secure at all. The hackers are always ahead.

Also, for a certain kind of snooper -- a terrorist or a foreign spy, for instance -- being able to read your passport's details is less important than just being able to identify that you're an American passport holder.

The only kind of data security that works relies on two components -- something that you HAVE (a credit card, a fingerprint) and something that you KNOW (a PIN, a signature, a password). Either by itself is often worse than nothing.

I know I always get nervous when I'm around the increasing number of card swipe readers that never ask for a signature OR a pin -- at gas stations, McDonalds, etc. Ask any cop and he'll tell you the first thing crooks do when they steal your card is fill up the tank.
fnarf999 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 12:34 PM
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What if your signature is 'CID'?

Actually, I both sign the card AND write 'See ID' on the back, so they will look at both. I get asked for ID about 10% of the time in the US.
GreenDragon is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 12:40 PM
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I'm not sure that credit cards do use RFIDs as they require contact with the reader. As far as I can find out they do not use RFIDs but are "smart cards".
New Dutch passports have RFIDs fitted to them - to meet the demands of the US government.
hetismij is offline  

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