Maximizing Smart Chip Credit Cards in Europe

by on July 9, 2012 · 56 comments

in Credit Cards

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For those of you who don’t know, in Europe, they utilize different credit technology called “chip and pin,” which is s system where cards are embedded with smart chips and a cardholder must put in their pin for each transaction to be approved. It is an ultra-secure method that makes it much harder for credit card hackers and fraudsters to steal from consumers since, rather than just stealing the information contained in a card’s magnetic strip, they’d have to know the carrier’s pin number as well.

As most of you know, however, most US cards are just your garden variety swipe cards with a simple magnetic strip and a signature between you and credit card fraud. Beyond the security implications, our US swipe cards also make it more difficult to charge things while abroad where many merchants use mobile credit card portals where you stick your card into a slot and enter your pin into a keyboard rather than swiping it through a reader. Granted, many merchants, hotels and restaurants let you use your swipe cards, but while I was on a quick trip to Europe this past week, there were several times when my old-fashioned American credit card just wasn’t accepted.  Imagine how happy I was that I carry a few cards that have chip technology in them, such as the Chase Hyatt Visa and the British Airways card. (Note: These aren’t chip and pin cards – they still require a signature, though you use them in the chip slot of a machine and you don’t have to swipe them. However, I had no issues using them even at automated machines that didn’t make me sign anything.)

Besides being more secure, Smart Chip technology can save you time and money while traveling abroad.

Smart Chip Situations
Of course, you should first be sure your credit card does not carry foreign transaction fees if you’re planning to travel abroad so you don’t get hit with 2-3% fees on all your charges. However, based on my experiences, my best advice is if you’re going to Europe anytime soon, have a chip card to cover you in the instances where a merchant won’t swipe cards. My most unique situation occurred after a late dinner in Paris one evening. By the time we left the restaurant it was nearly 1:00am, and the metro was closed. There were no taxis to be found, and the hotel was miles away. Paris has a fantastic system of public-use bicycle stations throughout the city where you can rent bikes even for short periods of time, but the automated machines will not take traditional US swipe cards. They do, however, accept chip cards, and I was able to use my BA Visa to rent one and bike back to the hotel instead, saving time (and my aching muscles).

To take another example, when you arrive at Charles de Gaulle and want to take the RER into the city, the machines selling tickets in the terminal accept only credit cards or coins, so you either have to have change on you for the 9 euro fare, or a Smart Chip credit card. The same is true of ticket machines in metro stations and French rail ticket machines. You can still pay for your tickets with either cash or getting in line at the ticket window, but having a chip card can save a ton of time, especially if you’re in a hurry to catch a train.

Chase Leads The Way
So far, the only US cards I know of with Smart Chips are the Chase British Airways Visa, the Chase Hyatt card and the US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature. I think it’s great that Chase is leading the pack and issuing these cards – and there’s a rumor that they’ll add this technology to the Sapphire Preferred soon as well, which I’m hopeful about. As for the US Bank card, though it has a Smart Chip, making things easier when you’re abroad, it also still levies 2-3% foreign transaction fee, negating pretty much all of its value when you use it abroad. Amex doesn’t have any Smart Chip cards in the US to my knowledge, however, per reader comments below, it looks like certain Citi cards including the Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard and the ThankYou Premier card are now being issued with Smart Chips as well.

The reason more US cards don’t have chips is that the technology is expensive and not required by US merchants, so issuers are dragging their feet on this evolution. However, if enough consumers ask, we should start seeing more and more of these cards over time.

Just as a quick tip: if you don’t have a chip card and don’t plan on getting one before your next trip abroad, you can still get one from the Travelex money exchange stores in airports. However, these are basically just pre-loaded charge cards, and when you put money on them in foreign currencies, Travelex takes a huge cut on foreign exchanges. Plus, I’d rather have a Chase card than a Travelex card in my wallet any day!

Here’s another tip: If you already have the British Airways Visa or the Hyatt card and it doesn’t have a chip in it, you can call Chase to request a new card with a Smart Chip and they’ll send it to you for free. These cards have both the magnetic stripe and the chip, so you get the best of both worlds…plus the peace of mind knowing that, should you be stranded in Paris late at night with no taxis in sight, you’ll still be able to rent a bike and pedal your way home.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Davidgrahammd

    Just as a FYI – The Citi Aadvantage Executive card is now chipped

  • Jon

    If you already have a Chase BA or Hyatt card, you can also easily request new cards online through your account. To request a replacement card online, log into your account at, select “Customer Center” (the tab in the upper right), and select “Card Replacement” (under the “Credit Card” section). Then, simply select which Chase account you want to receive a new card for.

    When I followed this process for my BA card, Chase automatically sent me the chip version of the card, which now appears to be the default card that’s issued. Only takes 2 minutes.

  • Guest

    The Citi Premier Card also comes with a chip. You may need to call Customer Service and request one, but I have done it for several cards now and have no issues.

  • batsumman

    I have the Chase BA but don’t know/remember my pin. When traveling throughout Europe and using the card, do you have to enter your pin number all the time ?

  • Gizmo

    All Citi AA cards are being sent with chip, the exception being American Express

  • Eggss4

    Same situation- I got a card in the mail telling me they’d send me a chip card but I don’t remember ever seeing anything about a PIN.

  • Bigr3dbears

    Chase cards are Chip & Signature, which is different technology!

  • Jhanlon

    If you read the article above carefully, you will find that there is no PIN for the Chase cards but that, when used in an automated payment machine, no PIN is requested.

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- which I explain in the post

  • thepointsguy

    There is no pin – you use your signature instead

  • thepointsguy

    Good to know- ill add that to the post

  • Marshall Jackson


    When you used your chip and signature card in the automated machine, did the machine prompt you for a PIN, or just spit out the ticket? I’ve heard of instances of folks entering 0000 in cases like this. Don’t know if that works or not. Just curious.

  • jiefu

    amex is planning to start offering cards with chips starting this year:
    looking forward to it!

  • thepointsguy

    I wasn’t prompted for a pin. I just put my chip card in the slot, it was charged, and the ticket was dispensed.

  • mrpickles

    Diners Club Mastecard is chip and pin.

  • Pensguin68

    Also the Chase JP Morgan Select Visa has a chip, though that wouldn’t be my top choice of the chipped cards

  • Oliver2002

    I used a chipless United Chase on a ticket machine at CDG without issues this April, so your report above is not entirely correct. I also have a german chip and pin LH M&M mastercard, and that one doesn’t work on most subway ticket vending machines as it asks for a PIN which I don’t have. 0000 doesn’t work, nor does #. Scandinavia moved to chip and pin on all their debit cards about 10 years ago and its a pain to travel there with a chip&sig card.

  • Scott

    Chase United Club Card is chip (probably chip and sign, since I didn’t request a PIN)

  • THD

    If you’re a state employee in NC, you can become a member at the NC State Employees Credit Union. They offer a true Chip-and-Pin debit card. It does carry a 1% forex fee, but that’s not as bad as other cards which go up to 3%.

  • Farsighted

    Same thing happened to me in the Tube in London. Sometimes the machine would work on the magnetic strip card, sometimes not. I had to buy a ticket from a booth, so I asked and he said that there is no way to know, it just depends on the machine that’s installed. So better to just get one of these cards. I’ve had countless troubles in different countries, especially Italy. So I got an BA Chase. And they sent me the plain first, I had to call and request the “chip and signature”. Got it in a few days.

  • Davidgrahammd

    Official word from Chase is that, other than the BA, Hyatt, and JP Morgan cards, they have no plans to offer chips

  • Jakecarl

    I wish this post had appeared 60 days ago. I had a very frustrating experience in Europe back in mid-May because I was unaware of the chip technology that my cards lacked. No charging taxi rides, for example without it!

  • Jakecarl

    O2002, believe it or not, my chipless cards did not work on train ticket machines at CDG in mid-May…had to go to the ticket window after about 10 attempts!

  • stc

    Just got back from France. My conclusion (using the Chase Hyatt cared) is that the Chip and Signature cards are useless. Any machine that accepts them will also accept a regular magnetic-stripe card. We encountered several situations where machines did not accept the Hyatt card (RER train ticket machines at CDG, Metro ticket machines in several stations, bike rental stations in Paris, toll highway machines, gas stations with self-serve payment stations). At the few machines that did accept the card it was because it could read the magnetic stripe on the back, we were never asked for a PIN.

  • Mcspirit Mike

    The only good side about Canadian cards are, they are all chipped and pin since a few years back, including all AMEX, and that costly C$699 platinum card

  • Ike

    The Citi AA MC and Visa Signature cards have a CHIP and Sign version but you need to request it. Mine showed up next day.

  • Vijay

    My personal experience buying a train ticket in Amsterdam – magnetic stripe credit cards don’t work but debit cards do (provided you choose the credit card option and enter your ATM PIN when prompted).

    In my view, banks are being foolish here. Most of the people who apply for the “No Foreign Transaction Fee” cards may actually use the cards outside the US (I travel a lot, and use my Sapphire Preferred extensively outside the US). In my view, banks should convert at least these cards to the Chip & PIN type. Unless of course their grand plan is to offer the “no fee” as a feature and then make it extremely difficult for the card to be used thereby avoiding the cost of the feature itself.

  • Iain

    I have BA Visa with Chip and Signature. In Barcelona last week, when paying I just said I had no pin – this was not a problem. On the Metro I used an automated machine, I was prompted for a pin and gave the pin I have for the card. It worked. I was concerned I may be charged like getting cash using a credit card, instant interest etc, but it has gone through as a regular payment. I am now in London and will try again with this pin.

  • Bat Sheva

    Problem with AMEX is that it is not widely accepted in Western Europe and hardly accepted at all in Eastern Europe.

  • Bat Sheva

    Beware of AMEX in Europe with or without a PIN and CHIP. It is not widely accepted in Western Europe and hardly accepted at all in Eastern Europe.

  • Sam

    The machines that sell RER tickets at CDG used to not accept swipe US issued cards. Then about 6 months ago, reports emerged that att least some of the machines did accept them.

    This is a pretty chaotic envirenment to be dealing with this-often lines just for the machines, really long lines to get to the manned ticket booth, everybody is on jet lag and many of your fellow ticket buyers are the under 30 backpack crowd who didn’t take the AF bus or a cab.

    I still bring Euro coins to use here and to me it would be worth a few dollars of fees at a forex booth to get them. Remember-coins.

  • Mark

    Thank you for this information. I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card (one of the best, as you know, for foreign transactions) and called today to see if they’d send me a new card with a chip. They said yes.

  • Andrew Rutherford

    I think you may be mistaken. I just called Chase about my Sapphire Preferred card, and when I asked about a “chipped” replacement, the rep had no idea what I was talking about.

  • Mark

    You are correct that I am mistaken. I just called again today for my wife and was told the same as you. They pulled up my record and said that the agent I talked with was mistaken. I apologize for any confusion caused by my original post. I guess the adage that if you don’t like the answer you get first, call and ask again, isn’t always on the mark.

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  • Kenny

    Thanks for the insight! I called Citi and they sent me the Visa with the chip which I can see by looking at it from the front. However, I received the BA card last month and I can’t see the chip on the front. I called Chase and they ensured me that the chip is embedded in the card, but when I look the offer online, the picture clearly shows the chip on the front so I’m wondering if anyone else has used the BA card without the visible chip and had it worked, or if I need to call Chase and ask them to send me a new card.

  • thepointsguy

    You should be able to see the chip, so I’d call Chase and get a new card

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  • Julie

    There are machines that take a swipe card. But those in the ‘know’ are not allowed to tell others. It’s like fight club. BUT, not a single machine at Gare Du Nord takes a swipe card, speaking from an extensive research project I just completed today.

  • JJ

    BofA also will send you a chip card if you request it

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  • st-co

    The only two true “chip and PIN” cards (that are NOT “chip and signature”) that I know of in the USA are from:

    Andrews Federal Credit Union (Globe Trekker Visa) — at the time of this writing no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You also have to be a member (which I believe any US can, if you open a checking account with a $100 deposit).

    Commerce Bank (Visa Signature Card) — at the time of this writing has a $29 annual fee and foreign transaction fees.

    Neither have great rewards programs, but if you need a true “chip and PIN” card in your wallet to cover you at un-manned train ticket kiosks, etc. where a chip and signature card won’t work, these will work. I keep my Andrews CU card as a back-up in those cases.

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