credit cards in europe

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 08, 2014 5:53 PM GMT
    I discovered belatedly that in Europe you invariably need a PIN to use your credit card. My friend that I was traveling with told me that all you need to do to get the PIN is call your credit card company.

    Even better is the newer cards that have a chip in them. They have a little square on the front with metal (gold?) contacts. I'm guessing that you also need a PIN for it if the merchant doesn't have the newer reader that handles the chipped cards.

    You use the PIN just like you would an ATM card; swipe the card and then enter your PIN. It's obviously more secure if you think about it since stealing the credit card isn't very useful if you don't have the PIN.

    Someone told me that the chipped cards are more secure and I thought they'd said that you don't need a PIN with them but it seems to me that they wouldn't be as secure without a PIN.

    Anyhow, live and learn. I wish they'd use PINs in the US.
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    Jul 08, 2014 8:25 PM GMT
    Good to know, Lumpy. I'm going to Budapest in a few months. It will be my first trip to Europe.
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    Jul 08, 2014 10:50 PM GMT
    I was reading a forum topic on CruiseCritic and you need a PIN with the chipped cards, which makes sense.

    Apparently most, if not all, places can take a credit card without a PIN but the employees haven't been trained in how to do that, so the net effect is that you'd better get a PIN.
  • KepaArg

    Posts: 1721

    Jul 08, 2014 11:56 PM GMT
    I'd recommend getting a card with a chip in it when Europe. Definitely a lot more convenient as a lot, but not all places won't accept just the magnetic stripe that most USA users have.

    Definitely set up a pin for your credit card at your bank even if it's with the magnetic strip.

    Even here in Australia the chip is common place.
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    Jul 09, 2014 12:14 AM GMT
    Also keep in mind that many US credit card companies will charge you foreign conversion fees on top of charges made in Europe.

    https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/budget-tips/latest-advice-on-best-credit-cards-for-europe
  • Kwokpot

    Posts: 329

    Jul 09, 2014 3:26 AM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidI discovered belatedly that in Europe you invariably need a PIN to use your credit card. My friend that I was traveling with told me that all you need to do to get the PIN is call your credit card company.

    Even better is the newer cards that have a chip in them. They have a little square on the front with metal (gold?) contacts. I'm guessing that you also need a PIN for it if the merchant doesn't have the newer reader that handles the chipped cards.

    You use the PIN just like you would an ATM card; swipe the card and then enter your PIN. It's obviously more secure if you think about it since stealing the credit card isn't very useful if you don't have the PIN.

    Someone told me that the chipped cards are more secure and I thought they'd said that you don't need a PIN with them but it seems to me that they wouldn't be as secure without a PIN.

    Anyhow, live and learn. I wish they'd use PINs in the US.

    You got some of your information correct. Unfortunately, there are ALMOST NO US credit card issuers that offer a TRUE Chip & PIN Credit Card. The cards that major issuers like Chase give out are called CHIP & SIGN, which means that they are MORE SECURE because of the chip, but you still must sign your signature on the receipt; you CANNOT get a PIN to substitute for the signature. The PIN that is issued on those cards are SOLEY for ATM withdrawals, NOT purchases, and those would incur immediate fees and interest charges.

    The ONLY issuers in the U.S. that give out TRUE Chip & Sign Credit Cards are The Andrews Federal Credit Union

    https://www.andrewsfcu.org/

    AND

    The Barclaycard Arrival Card Plus
    http://www.barclaycardarrival.com/arrival-plus/default-promo/?campaignId=1983&cellNumber=1&REFERRERID=GGLPS0214NAT&adgroup=Barclays_Arrival_Card&pkw=barclays+arrival&pmt=b
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    Jul 09, 2014 4:19 AM GMT
    It's not only in Europe. In Asia too.
    I was shocked the first time I saw an American paying without a code. I would be so scared to get my card stolen.
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    Jul 13, 2014 6:48 PM GMT
    That might explain why the US has some of the highest debit and credit card fraud in the world. I'm sure chip & pin proper will be coming to America soon. Banks can ill afford to write off that sort of cash anymore. That said, even with chip & pin, we still have a lot of card fraud here in the UK.
    card1.png
  • Bunjamon

    Posts: 3161

    Jul 15, 2014 7:18 PM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidI discovered belatedly that in Europe you invariably need a PIN to use your credit card. My friend that I was traveling with told me that all you need to do to get the PIN is call your credit card company.


    1. You can still pay with "old-fashioned" swiping cards in Europe, but a lot of places might not take them. I just got back from a month in France for work and the business card I was using did not have a chip, and I was never turned down.

    2. The personal cards I have are from Capital One and Chase Sapphire. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the Chase Sapphire card has a chip but no PIN. You still need to sign for purchases.

    3. American credit card companies (at least the ones I've dealt with) do not use PIN technology at all and therefore you can't call them up to get a PIN. It sucks big time, but is it really so surprising that the US insists on doing things a different way than everyone else?
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    Jul 16, 2014 1:37 AM GMT
    Don't forget to notify your credit card company of your travel plans -- if they see your card being used in an unusual way (ie. in another country or continent) they may deem it a suspicious purchase. Just call them and give your travel location(s) and arrival & departure dates to the CSR on the phone, and the will remove the possibility of your card possibly be marked as "suspicious".
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    Jul 20, 2014 9:48 PM GMT
    Bunjamon said3. American credit card companies (at least the ones I've dealt with) do not use PIN technology at all and therefore you can't call them up to get a PIN. It sucks big time, but is it really so surprising that the US insists on doing things a different way than everyone else?

    In addition to my Amazon Visa card I have an AT&T Universal card. I got the latter way back when almost all credit cards charged an annual fee, but the Universal card did not so I signed up for it. But I rarely use the Universal card any more and prefer the Amazon card. I finally went to their web site and checked and they're sending me a PIN. Hopefully it's the correct PIN; with my Amazon Visa card they'll give you a PIN but it's for ATM money withdrawal, which has a big fee when you use it that way.
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    Jul 20, 2014 11:22 PM GMT
    Also for the Americans, Canada uses chip & pin as well, but I'm not sure if the equipment is backwards compatible with just the mag stripe. I think it is but you'd have to look in to it.

    At most restaurants you could pay with just the swipe and sign method. In addition, many of them have an old non-digital imprint device for those times the power goes out, so you may be able to use that.
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    Jul 21, 2014 12:02 AM GMT
    Canada is way ahead of the US on smart cards (debit cards and chip cards). I don't think you can get a credit card without a chip here anymore. Anyway, if you go to Europe with a chip card I understand your pin can only be 4 digits. That's needful to know since people here usually select their own pin.
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    Jul 21, 2014 2:08 AM GMT
    SeismicMuscle saidAlso for the Americans, Canada uses chip & pin as well, but I'm not sure if the equipment is backwards compatible with just the mag stripe. I think it is but you'd have to look in to it.

    My impression is that the credit card readers that accept a PIN also will work with just the mag stripe. But the problem (in Europe at least) is that the person behind the counter has to know how to do some special song and dance for that, and often they haven't been trained for it since the vast majority of Europeans all have a PIN. I don't know if this is also true for Canada.

    So getting a PIN for your existing card, or getting another card that you can get a PIN for, is the prudent thing to do before traveling outside of the US.

    In the US getting a card with the chip seems to be much more difficult.
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    Jul 21, 2014 2:09 AM GMT
    I forgot to say in my previous post about the AT&T Universal card that the card is really from Citi, so if your card is ultimately from Citi you may be able to get a PIN for it.
  • Kwokpot

    Posts: 329

    Jul 24, 2014 2:28 AM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal said
    SeismicMuscle saidAlso for the Americans, Canada uses chip & pin as well, but I'm not sure if the equipment is backwards compatible with just the mag stripe. I think it is but you'd have to look in to it.

    My impression is that the credit card readers that accept a PIN also will work with just the mag stripe. But the problem (in Europe at least) is that the person behind the counter has to know how to do some special song and dance for that, and often they haven't been trained for it since the vast majority of Europeans all have a PIN. I don't know if this is also true for Canada.

    So getting a PIN for your existing card, or getting another card that you can get a PIN for, is the prudent thing to do before traveling outside of the US.

    In the US getting a card with the chip seems to be much more difficult.
    I travel to Europe regularly every year and generally have no problems with my magnetic stripe Credit Card WHEN giving it to someone to swipe (usually swiping it on a handheld CC terminal) It's when you are using a mag stripe card at public transit ticket terminals that you may have issues (Paris seems to be a particular problem on the Metro ticket kiosks)

    As I stated on a previous reply, there currently only two(2) U.S. Credit card issuers that give out TRUE Chip & PIN
    technology: Andrews Federal Credit Union AND BarclayCard Arrival Plus. Any other Credit card issued by Chase, Citi, BOA, Cap One, Etc., are CHIP & SIGN. DO NOT GET A PIN for these cards thinking that you can use it for credit card charges; they are ONLY used to get Cash advances from ATMs. You will be IMMEDIATELY charged fees AND you will accumulate Interest charges regardless if you pay you bill in full. I don't know how to explain this any clearer.

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    Jul 30, 2014 10:33 PM GMT
    There are problems with Andrews Federal Credit Union and BarclayCard Arrival Plus. For the first, you need to be a federal employee, for the second, it has an $90 annual fee ($89 to be exact), which to me is exorbitant.

    Chase also has a chip and sign card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. But it has a $95 annual fee. The chip and sign cards also are reasonably well accepted in Europe. But I think you'd want a PIN for it in case the merchant only has the old style mag strip reader.

    Followup to my previous message about requesting a PIN for my Citibank Universal card. The pin finally arrived after 2 weeks but it's an ATM cash advance PIN. I sent them email asking for a PIN that I could use in Europe for credit card transactions, stressing that I didn't want an ATM PIN but that's what they sent me. Their email response made it sound like they understood and were sending what I requested. Nope.

    I have this idea that perhaps the ATM PIN will work for credit card transactions when it's needed. Eventually this summer I'm going to drive up to Canada and try my theory. I'm not hopeful though.
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    Jul 30, 2014 10:51 PM GMT
    Sometimes it takes me a while to remember to simply use google. So I searched for "pin and chip card" and got a several results. This is one example. Undoubtedly these are chip and sign, not pin and chip. But since chip and sign do work in Europe it seems like having one of these would be a good idea. Hopefully they'll eventually provide PINs as well.

    http://www.creditcards.com/smart-emv-chip.php
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    Jul 31, 2014 4:01 AM GMT
    Sigh. With a sudden trip to Munich coming up, I don't have time to get new credit cards. I'm going the old fashioned way and bought Euros today in advance of the trip.
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    Jul 31, 2014 4:28 AM GMT
    GAMRican saidSigh. With a sudden trip to Munich coming up, I don't have time to get new credit cards. I'm going the old fashioned way and bought Euros today in advance of the trip.

    Yes, that's a good alternative. I just hate having to carry cash and like having a credit card for when I don't have enough cash.
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    Jul 31, 2014 8:20 AM GMT
    GAMRican saidSigh. With a sudden trip to Munich coming up, I don't have time to get new credit cards. I'm going the old fashioned way and bought Euros today in advance of the trip.

    Ouch! That was unnecessarily costly. American ATM cards work at just about all european banks these days. In some cases (requires prior investigation) there is no fee charged by the european bank. With the right ATM card, the only cost is the 1% Visa conversion fee (and maybe a european bank fee of $3 - $4.)
  • kew1

    Posts: 1595

    Jul 31, 2014 11:39 AM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidThere are problems with Andrews Federal Credit Union and BarclayCard Arrival Plus. For the first, you need to be a federal employee, for the second, it has an $90 annual fee ($89 to be exact), which to me is exorbitant.

    Chase also has a chip and sign card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. But it has a $95 annual fee. The chip and sign cards also are reasonably well accepted in Europe. But I think you'd want a PIN for it in case the merchant only has the old style mag strip reader.

    Followup to my previous message about requesting a PIN for my Citibank Universal card. The pin finally arrived after 2 weeks but it's an ATM cash advance PIN. I sent them email asking for a PIN that I could use in Europe for credit card transactions, stressing that I didn't want an ATM PIN but that's what they sent me. Their email response made it sound like they understood and were sending what I requested. Nope.

    I have this idea that perhaps the ATM PIN will work for credit card transactions when it's needed. Eventually this summer I'm going to drive up to Canada and try my theory. I'm not hopeful though.

    Hi, not sure, but European cards (both debit & credit) only have one PIN, for both ATMs and transactions in shops.
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    Jul 31, 2014 9:40 PM GMT
    I think I got some sort of notice from my merchant bank that the US is supposed to switch over by late 2015, so most stores have about a year to get new card readers in place. I'd guess they'll start sending new cards to people around then?

    The big deal is that once the switch is done, liability for fraudulent cards switches from the banks to the merchants. So there may be a strong incentive to refuse old-style cards. But... that's already in place I think. I've lost (as a merchant) about $2K so far this year to fraudulent card charges.
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    Aug 01, 2014 1:01 AM GMT
    kew1 said
    Lumpyoatmeal saidThere are problems with Andrews Federal Credit Union and BarclayCard Arrival Plus. For the first, you need to be a federal employee, for the second, it has an $90 annual fee ($89 to be exact), which to me is exorbitant.

    Chase also has a chip and sign card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. But it has a $95 annual fee. The chip and sign cards also are reasonably well accepted in Europe. But I think you'd want a PIN for it in case the merchant only has the old style mag strip reader.

    Followup to my previous message about requesting a PIN for my Citibank Universal card. The pin finally arrived after 2 weeks but it's an ATM cash advance PIN. I sent them email asking for a PIN that I could use in Europe for credit card transactions, stressing that I didn't want an ATM PIN but that's what they sent me. Their email response made it sound like they understood and were sending what I requested. Nope.

    I have this idea that perhaps the ATM PIN will work for credit card transactions when it's needed. Eventually this summer I'm going to drive up to Canada and try my theory. I'm not hopeful though.

    Hi, not sure, but European cards (both debit & credit) only have one PIN, for both ATMs and transactions in shops.

    That's what I was guessing for the PINs in Europe, just one. But being a programmer I can imagine that on the back end, the bank's, that the US credit card companies don't know what to do with a PIN for a credit card transaction so that's why I'm not hopeful.

    In any event I've applied for a chip credit card.
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    Aug 01, 2014 1:13 AM GMT
    HikerSkier said
    GAMRican saidSigh. With a sudden trip to Munich coming up, I don't have time to get new credit cards. I'm going the old fashioned way and bought Euros today in advance of the trip.

    Ouch! That was unnecessarily costly. American ATM cards work at just about all european banks these days. In some cases (requires prior investigation) there is no fee charged by the european bank. With the right ATM card, the only cost is the 1% Visa conversion fee (and maybe a european bank fee of $3 - $4.)


    Yes, it was. It cost me about US$90 to buy €1000 over and above the market exchange rate. But, I have Euros in pocket and those should last me the 19 days I'm in Munich. If not, then I can pull out the debit or credit cards.

    I wonder if they'll take my leftover Argentinian Pesos? jaja!