Did not accept my Visa

Jul 13th, 1999, 02:37 PM
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Did not accept my Visa

I recently experienced a couple of embarassing situations while travelling in Europe. My credit cards were accepted in both London and Paris with no problems. However, in smaller cities and towns my U.S. issued credit cards were consistently rejected by restaurant and gasoline/petrol filling stations forcing me to borrow money from friends. Upon returning to the U.S. I was told that the U.S. Visa and Mastercards lack certain features of their European counterparts and although accepted in larger metro areas, smaller cities will take only European issued cards.

Has anyone experienced this? Are their any U.S. credit cards that are universally accepted in both the U.S. and Europe?

Thank you for your responses.
Jul 13th, 1999, 02:52 PM
Mary Ann
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We were in Europe in 1997 with a Northwest Visa issued here in the States and we drove 2,800 from small places like Bayeaux, through out Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium and never had a problem at a restaurant or gas station.
Jul 13th, 1999, 03:12 PM
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I have never had trouble with any country taking my Visa card, but I have had places not accept it for less than a certain amount of money. This happened to me last month in a leather store in Rome. Another shop had an old imprinter that would not pick up my number, so although I was buying a lot, I had to put it back, because the owner would not take the card unless the imprinter would scan it. She would not write the numbers down! Be sure to always have cash with you if you plan to purchase small items or items in very small shops.
Jul 13th, 1999, 04:24 PM
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Sorry, but the explanation you were given (was it by a credit card issuer?) doesn't make sense to me. I don't see why there would be one kind of credit card scanner/validator always used in big cities just because they're big cities and another one requiring
specialized features always used everywhere else.

I've used my credit card successfully in some really tiny places in both the US and Europe. I've also occasionally had it rejected for no apparent reason and with no apparent pattern as to geography , metropolitan status, or type of shop. Usually the only explanation from the merchant is a shrug : "There seems to be some kind of problem." Last time this happened to me was in my local branch of a nationwide chain -- later that same day I used it at another register in the same store with no problem.

So while there seems to be some variation in how well the technology works, and possibly in major metro areas the merchants are more on top of making sure theirs does work, I've never heard of a deliberate distinction between major cities and the rest of the world. Maybe somebody else has....
Jul 13th, 1999, 04:49 PM
Cheryl Z.
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Guy, generally both our Visa and MC have always been accepted in both large and small places and we also use AX and Diners, all over Europe. Occasionally though, we have run into a place where in spite of the logo being on the door, the store or whatever has refused to take the card we want to use, and generally, it's because they want to use another card that has lower fees for them to process - usually Visa and MC are cheaper for merchants than AX or Diners. Or sometimes they'll make a big deal about the amount - they want you to spend more. Technically they aren't supposed to do this according to their merchant agreement but it does happen. It's happened more to us in Mexico than Europe. Also, being issed in the US as opposed to another country has nothing to do with it as far as those major cards are concerned. We just have learned to carry extra cash and travelers checks. You can complain to your issueing company (we did when it first happened), but don't expect much.
Jul 13th, 1999, 05:44 PM
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My June Visa statement warned travellers that cards may be declined and suggested that I take the North American authorization phone number and have the merchant call it instead of the phone number they would normally call - right - no worry about a language barrier or long distance charges!

Jul 14th, 1999, 04:24 AM
Maria Alvarez
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Here's a different but related scenario I have experienced regarding credit card purchases: When I was in Italy, I encountered multiple situations where the credit card decals were proudly displayed on the establishment's door or window, then I was greeted with the "oh the machine she's-a-broken" excuse when I went to pay by credit card. The very first time this happened at a shop, I knew right away that this was B.S.! It was an obvious attempt to circumvent the credit card surcharges. This happened at restaurants too, although they relented easier than shopkeepers (it's amazing how convincing you can be after you've eaten a meal as opposed to haggling over a retail purchase!). One time, a maitre d' all but begged me to pay with my Mastercard JUST AFTER telling me that the "machine was broken" when I attempted to pay with AMEX!! I used to work in a retail store and I know darn well that the cashier uses the same machine no matter what credit card is being processed!! Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that credit card surcharges are excessive. But, if a restaurateur or merchant advertises acceptance of a credit card, then I feel they are obligated to accept it for a purchase, or else they are being deceptive and dishonest. The only exceptions to this for me is when I am spending a small amount, or when I can negotiate a hefty discount for paying cash (which I was more than willing to do in a pottery shop). The bottom line is caveat emptor, everybody!
Jul 14th, 1999, 05:39 AM
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Elizabeth, I guess very few merchants in western Europe still have the means for filling a CC receipt manually. In this case, the authorization code would be useless.

Maria, you're right to a certain extent. The machine is the same, but the number dialed and the network used to get to the server that has your data are different. When you're in a town in the middle of nowhere, in principle there are 3 possible cause for failure:
a) the machine is not 100% adjusted and is not able to read the less than perfect magnetic stripe of you card.
b) the phone line may be busy; and
c) the network to "your" server is interrupted somewhere ...

Anyway, specially in Italy, when this happens, I always ask and get a discount for paying cash (on the grounds that for paying cash I'll have to get the money from an ATM and that this operation is going to cost me some). Actually, I ask from the onset if they give me a discount for paying cash. I usually get a 3 to 5% discount. This is almost the "rule" with small family run hotels. After inquiring for rates, I ask what discount they would give me for paying cash. In 90% of the cases I get 5% (I figure that on payment they actually issue a phony receipt to avoid paying IVA, which they can't do if the payment is registered via cc; in other words, on top of avoiding the credi card surcharge, they also avoid paying IVA and income tax!).
Jul 14th, 1999, 06:49 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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It is my understanding that French-issued Visas have a very small computer chip in them, much as the ill-fated cash cards in the US have. Thus they can be read on a different type of machine than we are all used to (the magnetic strip reader).

I remember reading an article about the problems travelers were having using a non-French Visa card in France because many merchants did not know how to (or refused to) properly handle non-French cards. Visa requires all merchants who use the Visa network to accept all Visa card (for any amount) and was reportedly in the process of educating the French vendors on how to process the non-French Visas.

I'm sure there was a good amount of "I don't want to pay the fee" going on too, though.
Jul 14th, 1999, 07:02 AM
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The problems I've encountered have been overseas and here in the U.S., and they've been the same: credit/debit card declined (when I know my balance is fine); an ATM refusing my card, but the one on the next corner takes it.
I work for a company that issues debit cards; when a client called because his card had been declined (when it was clear he had beaucoup bucks in his account), I asked our debit card dept. why it happened. Here's the answer: I don't know. When the same thing happened to me, and I called my bank, the answer was the computer was not working. I called the bank the next day and asked if there had been a computer problem the day before "NO".
Draw your own conclusions; I have mine.
Bottom line: take 2 sources of cash (debit card & tc's, for example) and at least two credit cards (from two different companies and two different banks!). As soon as I get a renewal card, I use it to make sure everything is working. My sister had the near misfortune of having her renewal card declined while we were in France. Fortunately, she had her EXPIRED card with her...that one worked. Go figure.
Jul 14th, 1999, 09:01 AM
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to add to above - not long ago banks in one of the eastern european countries started issueing visa to their customers . They were able to use it within many countries, but had problems in others. Finally investigation showned that date used was in different formats (some systems were "smart enough" to pick up this difference - others just declined the card. I guess it could be the same vice versa in some small town - were many europeans use ddmmyy or in some cases yymmdd.
Jul 16th, 1999, 04:10 PM
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