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US Credit Cards & Traveling By Car In Europe

US Credit Cards & Traveling By Car In Europe

May 30th, 2014, 05:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 8
US Credit Cards & Traveling By Car In Europe

I'll be taking a long road trip to France, Italy & Switzerland this summer and I heard mention that our US credit cards don't necessarily work in Europe. Something about a "chip" that not installed on our cards from the US. Also, that paying tolls on the roads in Europe can be problematic also having to do with the credit card that you use when on the road.
Can anyone give me some guidance on what I should do to prepare for these contingencies? Thanks!
parisromebycar is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 983
I've only had a problem on Sundays in France when some gas stations are unmanned - - all they have are automated pumps where you pay by credit card. I've never had a problem with my chip-less card when there is a human being on duty to run the card manually if need be (i.e., in France, Portugal, Germany, UK, Italy). (I haven't had a problem with tolls in France but maybe there are places where it's an issue.)
dfourh is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 06:35 AM
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
Andrews federal credit union has a chip and pin card but if you don't have one just get gas where there is a human on duty. The metro has people that will sell you tickets so you don't have to worry about that. Not sure of tolls on roads. I have never run into that problem.
flpab is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,911
French autoroutes are operated several different entities, each having a different policy in reference to accepting credit cards. Any given credit card may be accepted on some autoroutes and not taken at all on others. The only universally accepted form of payment is cash.

It is strongly advised to have a chipped credit card if you are traveling outside of the well worn tourist paths. Many US banks are now issuing chipped credit cards but most are only chip and signature cards. These will not work at pay-at-the-pump gas stations and at some ticket kiosks.

My PedFed pin and chip card works well everywhere I have tried it, even at unattended gas stations. PenFed absorbs all foreign transaction fees and charges no annual fee.
Sarastro is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 07:54 AM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 364
Contact your credit card provider and request a card with a chip. Almost all of my cards have chips now.
topeater is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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For what it's worth, the toll booths that are manned in France are usually to the right side as you approach the toll booths. I never have had a problem with the tolls as I found it easiest to pay cash. An attendant will make change so no worries that way. The only time I had problems with the credit card was trying to buy gas after hours or on Sundays - as noted you need the chip. But, plan ahead. This really isn't that hard to deal with and no need to scramble all over trying to get a chip credit card. If you have one anyway, well, you're set. Enjoy your trip.
JoeCal is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 08:57 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 617
We are Canadian with normal chip and pin cards which worked everywhere except in French Toll booths. (2012)
jane1144 is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 08:59 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 617
BTW, I should have said we tried both Visa and Mastercard with no success at the toll booths.
jane1144 is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 09:27 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 33,331
The "problem" on the autoroutes might be making certain you get into an attended payment lane at the barriers and they are well-marked as such IME.

WE planned ahead for gasoline/diesel and tried to use the hypermarts in France whenever possible.

If you do go into one of those so-called "off the beaten path" areas simply make sure you have cash available; ATMs are everywhere.

I still don't have a chip and pin card and I am a MEMBER of the PFCU, too...just plan carefully as you are doing by asking questions here.
Dukey1 is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 09:31 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
I can't speak to the tolls or gas pumps, as I haven't rented a car on the continent, but my US non-chip cards worked fine in London and northern Spain a couple of weeks ago. However, in Spain, we occasionally had to use our debit cards because their machines required a PIN even with swiping the cards. So I'd make sure your credit card either has a PIN or you have a debit card with one.
jent103 is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 09:56 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 9,763
We got a pentagon federal Chip and pin card a month ago. It costs nothing to get it and has no international fees. We've used it a couple times in Portugal and had no trouble. Our Chip and signature from Chase also has worked fine here.
yestravel is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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jent103, what are you talking about where you needed a PIN in Spain with credit cards? I've been their annually for several years now and have never had a problem using a regular credit card in any establishment, nor using my ATM card in bank machines. If you weren't renting a car, where were you personally putting your credit card into some machine that required a PIN?
Christina is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 10:09 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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I personally was not, but for example, when we rented our apartment with Habitat, the woman who met us had one of the chip-or-swipe machines. I tried to use my credit card and got as far as where she asked me to enter my PIN, but since I don't have a PIN attached to my credit card (just my debit card), she said she couldn't complete the transaction.

Whether it's true that the transaction really *can't* be completed, or whether the expectation for a PIN is just so high that people think it can't, I don't know, but we ran into this a few times in Barcelona. At other times we had no problems with the credit card, just signed. Since we both had debit cards with PINs, we didn't force the issue.

This was all in Barcelona - I can't remember whether it happened in San Sebastian or not.
jent103 is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 01:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2014
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Great responses. Many thanks to you all!
parisromebycar is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 01:49 PM
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 152
I have not read every reply so I do not know if anyone else has covered this but you should know that you need a vignette to use the class 1 and 2 roads in Switzerland. You don't use your credit card to pay tolls; you buy a yearly pass and drive past scanners on the roads. If you pick up the rental car in Switzerland it probably has a vignette or the rental company could get you one -- not as likely if you pick it up from a non-border city in France or Italy. I just lost my Amex card and the replacement card had a chip and that caused me to look and any replacement cards that I have received in 2014 because of expiration dates has a chip. But other than one or two cards, US credit cards even if they have a chip do not have the ability to use a pin to pay. They are still chip and signature. I would not risk using a chip and signature card at a busy toll but if I had euro coins and would not cause a delay, I would try the card at an unstaffed machine.
JAMH is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 01:56 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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The unmanned places are the problem. jent103, the person should have been able to manually enter your credit card info and expiry date. Until the U.S. converts to cards with chip technology, our major credit cards should be accepted.

I just got back from 10 days in Madrid and London and had no problems with my U.S. Visa at stores and restos.

If you have a debit card, that needs a 4-digit pin, fyi.
TDudette is online now  
May 30th, 2014, 01:56 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 21,992
ps--my experiences are with France, Italy, Madrid and England. Can't speak to Switzerland.
TDudette is online now  
May 30th, 2014, 01:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,562
I did get an Andrews Federal Credit Union chip and pin credit card. It worked beautifully at gas stations, train stations, Paris metro, etc - places where the 'regular' US credit cards do not work. However, in the toll booths in France (from Dordogne through Provence to Cote d'Azure) the card did NOT work. However, they all take cash (both euro coins and bills) and they give change (e.g. put in a 20€ bill for a 17€ toll and it will give you 3€ change) so it really wasn't a problem as long as you have enough cash (and relatively small bills). I went through at least 10 toll booths on my trip and only saw a human in one. So you do have to be prepared with cash.

Having the Andrews card made things easier when I was buying metro or train tickets - I could go to the kiosks and not wait in the long lines. I also didn't have to worry about where and when I got gas. But I wouldn't say it was mandatory, just more convenient. The year before when I didn't have the card yet I spent a lot of time in lines to buy train tickets (Italy, Netherlands, etc.) and last year with the card it was easier.
isabel is offline  

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