#Travel 140: Chip and Pin Cards in the US and Europe

#Travel140 #TravelTip: Your credit card has a chip, so you’re good to go to Europe, right? Not so fast…

Image of an EMV "Chip and Pin" Card

Over the past few years, most of Europe has transitioned to Chip-and-Pin cards: Credit cards with chips that you unlock with a unique PIN. This makes the cards almost self-sufficient; they can be used even in off-line situations as the PIN and chip interact to authorize your transaction.

October 2015 was the milestone for American credit cards to be chip-equipped as well, and many are. However, your shiny new card with a chip may be a Chip-and-Signature card, meaning that the terminal processing your transaction needs to be on-line to authorize your purchase. In the U.S., they will work just like your old magnetic-stripe cards, but they may not work in all locations across Europe.

So how do you know what type of card you have? The best way is to check with your bank. If your card does not have a PIN, ask for one that does. Proponents claim they are safer, and travelers report fewer issues overseas. Plus, if there is an unauthorized transaction with your Chip-and-Pin card, the liability now lays with the bank or merchant.

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4 comments on “#Travel 140: Chip and Pin Cards in the US and Europe

  1. We have had issues in the past with using non-chip cards in Europe; it got so frustrating that we actually changed banks when we returned and found out they had no plans to add chips. I wonder why it’s taken the US so long to add the technology … lol, it can’t be that they don’t want Americans to spend their money overseas, can it?

    • Hi Linda – I’ve wondered the same thing! I’ve also wondered if the issues went the other way – do Europeans have issues with our signature capture pads? (I do…but that’s because my writing looks like a two year old’s on those things!)

  2. I’ve had a couple of my debit cards replaced with chip cards. Thanks for the tip! I have no idea if they are signature or pin cards. I don’t normally use debit cards overseas, but I still need to know which they are. I appreciate your explanation!

    • Good timing then! I called my bank, and discovered that my shiny new chip card is a Chip & Sign in the USA, but it does have a PIN component for use overseas. And apparently if/when we start using PINs here. Bonus (questionably) is that I can use it with a PIN at an ATM at home. But since they didn’t want to waive those fees…. 😉 Thanks for stopping by the blog!

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