Chip and pin credit cards

Jun 8th, 2012, 11:04 PM
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Chip and pin credit cards

Greetings all. I've been reading about changing dollars/banking/ATMs, etc., and see that a lot of advice is to use credit cards. I've always done so with ease in the past, but haven't done a lot of traveling since the chip and pin issue with credit cards. My questions: are the US cards (without chip and pin) still readily usable in Europe? Do European businesses (esp hotels and restaurants) still disdain American Express cards (my choice)? Thanks!
Shanna is offline  
Jun 8th, 2012, 11:49 PM
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Where there is human operator, such as shop staff, waiter/waitress etc, using your cards shouldn't be a problem, as their terminal have a facility to swipe as well as read the chip. In some isolated situations, staff may not be familiar with the procedure but getting a manager/supervisor usually solves the issue. Where you may encounter problems is in automatic, unmanned vending machines such as ticket machines, fuel pumps etc. So far, all ATMs accept both types of cards so you should get your cash no problem.

As for preference for Visa/Master over Amex/Diners (Discover isn't accepted, except at some US consulates for their services, US military bases etc), yes it's still generally true, but you shouldn't have an issue in higher-end hotels, restaurants and stores. I too like using my Amex card here in UK (because it gives higher cashback), and I can use in all mainstream supermarkets, car rental desks and large national chains, but at more modest establishments, bargain stores and B&Bs, it's often Visa/Master only or they are preferred, because of higher handling fees charged by Amex/Diners to retailers and service establishments. Of the countries you cite, France shows distinct preference for Visa/Master (because it's handled by Carte Blue, national debit card network). In other three, Amex should be nearly as well as accepted as Visa/Master, but in Germany, credit card acceptance is generally lower (it's still a largely cash society) and some smaller/rural establishments don't take any plastic at all or only the local debit card (EC Karte, affiliated with Maestro).
Alec is offline  
Jun 8th, 2012, 11:51 PM
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American Express is more widely accepted now, but definitely not as accepted as visa or MasterCard. You will have no problem using it at large chain or higher end hotels and restaurants but may have trouble at locally owned, smaller places.
jamikins is offline  
Jun 9th, 2012, 10:00 AM
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Merchants are paying 0.60-0.75% commission in France for accepting Visa and MasterCard but they are paying 3-4% to accept American Express. That should adequately explain why a lot of shops do not accept Amex.
kerouac is offline  
Jun 9th, 2012, 08:14 PM
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Because we had problems last year in Spain and France when trying to use our credit cards at machines selling train tickets, etc, I contacted Citibank and we were just issued a new card with the chip. Now we should be trouble-free in France in July. There was no extra charge, and the new card has the same number as the old one.
Aleta is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 03:48 AM
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Anyone familiar with "cashpassport"? It's supposed to have the chip/pin thing and works basically like a debit card?
Kathie21 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 06:51 AM
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The cash passport is a Travelex product. If you google, you will find lots of opinions about it - mostly about the costs involved and difficulties with using it.
MaineGG is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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Out of curiosity, I looked up the cash passport to see what the fees are. They are different depending on what your home currency is, but for Americans, here is the summary:

$7-12 to get the card
$5 each time you load it
$2-3 per ATM withdrawal
$2.50/month fee

THEN, as if these fees weren't steep enough, the exchange rate for merchant transactions and ATM withdrawals is the interbank exchange rate plus 5.5%.

Can you say "highway robbery"? LOL.

Even before I got to the section about fees though, it was pretty obvious from the wording of the information on the site that this was not going to be a good deal for the consumer. Lots of talk about security, convenience, peace of mind, avoiding hassles, etc. The term "peace of mind" is always a red flag because it basically means "open your wallet".
november_moon is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 12:05 PM
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Recently returned from trip to England and France. For atm used Schwab debit. For credit card used Chase chip and signature card. No fees and easily used.
wjm457 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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I talked with Citibank yesterday about chip and pin cards, and was told that they only have chip and signature. Do chip and signature cards work in machines? I would have thought not.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Do chip and signature cards work in machines?

wjm457 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 06:46 PM
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We just returned from two weeks in France, and immediately before that my husband spent two weeks in Germany. Our last trip to Europe was four years ago. We encountered more problems with the chip/swipe issue this time than on any previous trip. My husband was staying near Dresden and said there were a very limited number of places that would take a card that had to be swiped.

In France I knew there would be problems with certain machines (ticket machines, automated gas stations) and so we used ticket windows and gas stations with attendants. Even so, at one Carrefour gas station we were informed by the attendant that she could not "swipe" our card, that she only had a machine that read cards with chips. The important thing is the chip. We also ran into several restaurants where the staff informed us that they could not "swipe" a card. That may or not be absolutely true, but we did not think it worth fighting over; we just asked before we sat down.

As far as getting cash goes, we used our regular ATM debit card (which has a VISA logo) and easily withdrew cash from a regular bank machine.
Barbara_in_FL is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 10:24 AM
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Chip and signature cards do not work in ALL machines by any means.

In my experience, ours worked in ticket machines (Metro, SNCF) with neither PIN nor signature required.

It was accepted in grocery stores and other shops that would not accept a card that has to be swiped. In these cases, a signature was required.

It worked in one autoroute but not on another. (Autoroutes have different management companies.)

It never worked in a fuel pump anywhere we tried.

We have a PIN for our card and I had to use it in the machine in two parking garages. The PIN was never requested in any other case that I remember.

Our card is a US Bank Flexperks card. Recently some Fodorites have acquired a card that may turn out to be more reliably accepted. It will be interesting to hear how it works out for them.
MaineGG is offline  
Jun 16th, 2012, 11:22 AM
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We did not have any problems at all with no chip card but did not try to use machines where I knew it would not work. Upon our return to US I received a new card from US Bank Flexperks with the chip. They are now rolling them out...not sure on what priority level but eventually all will be replaced.
turaj is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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The basic problem, as some of you have noted, is that Europe has migrated its cards away from "magnetic stripe" to "chip and pin" using the EMV standard. What you need nowadays in Europe, particularly with smaller vendors and automatic kiosks, like in train stations, is EMV-compatible chip-and-pin cards. Right now, these are only offered by two U.S. issuers: U.S. Bancorp (Travel Flex Rewards) and Wells Fargo. Since Wells Fargo is providing these cards, for now, ony to its most affluent accounts, the best bet is to get a Travel Flex card from U.S. Bank. I used one in Italy in May and found it a big help. One caveat: when you order the Travel Flex card, be sure you also get the company to send you the PIN number by mail (they won't do that unless you specifically request it). Chip and pin doesn't usually work without the PIN. One other alternative is the Travelex prepaid chip and pin which can be purchased at any U.S. international airport and loaded with a set amount of euros. You can also top up the card via an online account while in Europe. But that's a bit of a hassle so I think the best best is to get a Travel Flex card that can function as a true credit card in Europe.
ken27 is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 07:58 AM
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Ken...I'm afraid your information is very much dated. Chase and Citi issue some of their cards with emv chips. Almost all of those cards have annual fees and many, but not all, charge a 3% foreign transaction fee. Within this past month, Bank of America began issuing many of its line of credit cards with emv chips. Perhaps the best is their new Travel Rewards card. No annual fee. No foreign transaction fee. Wells Fargo has apparently moved up its timeline in response to Bank of America and has said it will be issuing emv chipped cards n the near future if not already.

Andrews FCU has been issuing emv cards for a while. Again no annual fee but a 1% foreign transaction fee.

However, note that with the exception of the Andrews FCU, all these emv cards (don't know about Wells Fargo) are chip and signature cards, not chip and pin. The Andrews card defaults as a chip and signature card but claims and it has been verified that wherfe necessary it will be chip and pin.

The chip and signature cards do seem to work fine in manned and womanned locations. There have been mixed reports about unmanned and unwomanned kosks. Note that many of the American cards that are chip and signature do issue pins but those pins are only used if you make cash advances through atm's. They are not required for transactions. Some have reported using a chip and signature card and being asked for a pin and entering that pin to complete the transaction. Others have indicated that in those cases, any 4 digit number will do.

This is the latest information as of today. Who knows what's gong to happen tomorrow. I think Cap One is gong to have to look into its policies as much of its credit card portfolio was built up on its claim to be the only major US bank to issue credit cards without a foreign transaction fee. More and more cards are being issued sans foreign transaction fees and I suspect within the near future, we will have an annoucement by Capital One they will be issueing emv chipped cards but that is simply a guess.

I'm xyz123 and I approved this message.
xyz123 is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 09:13 AM
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Where did you get the information that "much" of Capital One's "credit card portfolio" was based on its claim to be the only major US bank .... etc. I have never even noticed any advertising from Capital One talking about the fact that they don't have a foreign transcation fee, nor ever saw them make any statement that they are the only major bank to have that. I'll bet most of the people having a Cap One card never go outside the US and don't even know about it. If you go onto the Cap One website in the CC section, you don't even see that mentioned (you have to pull up and read the fine print on any card you are considering). Even in the main blurb on their reward Venture card which gives miles, they don't mention that in the main description.

Folks on Fodors may talk about this, but I don't think that's a good representation of most of the US, and I've never seen any information claiming the bulk of their credit card business is based upon that one fact, nor that they have ever tried to get business by making such claims.
Christina is online now  
Aug 5th, 2012, 10:34 AM
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I said I had no proof of this of course but not only here but on almost all travel boards over the years when discussing the use of credit cards overseas, the name Capital One came up. I agree recently they have not particlarly advertised about it but they haven't really pushed their credit card either. Most of their advertising that I have seen deals with banking issues but let's put it this way. Until the latest round of dropping ftf's began, and it is a fairly recernt development, once MBNA was merged into FIA which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America and the usual 3% ftf added to most of their cards, they were the only one. Why didn't they drop the no foreign transaction fee at that point? I mean it was costing them money. One would have to think, and you're welcome to disagree, that their bean counters did some sort of survey to find how many people kept Capital One cards and used them because of the no ftf policy.

Also people who travel tend to be somewhat more affluent. Logically we would have to see that part of their portfolio is due to the no ftf. Wouldn't that make sense?

But I admit, I have no inside info on this. This is my logical conclusion rightly or wrongly.

OAside from the no ftf, Capital One does not have a stellar reputatin for customer service). If I'm wrong, I'm wrong but I athink it's a reasonable deduction.

I'm xyz123 and I approved this message.
xyz123 is offline  
Aug 5th, 2012, 10:44 AM
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In Germany, you don't need chip and pin.
Most sales points or restaurants have chip and pin readers, but if you don't have a chip and pin credit card they can also swipe it thru those card readers.
Ticket machines that take cc like for long distance trains don't require a pin.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2012, 02:52 PM
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I just returned from a trip to Germany and can say that we didn't have any trouble using our debit/credit cards except for the last day when we tried to pay for a cab to the airport. The taxi operator's machine wouldn't accept our swipe card so we had to go to an ATM and get cash.

Regardless of the type of card, our experience was that using cards usually incurred some type of fee with our bank so my recommendation is to obtain enough cash for a few days (whatever amount you feel comfortable with) and minimize the use of cards to avoid fees from foreign institutions as well as your own bank.
Traveler_A is offline  

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