US Credit Cards With Smart Chip Technology

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As the summer travel season kicks into high gear, I know many of you (like me) are planning some great trips abroad, and are already thinking about which credit cards you should be packing along with your swimsuits and hiking boots.

Of course you want to get a card with no foreign transaction fees (read this post for a roundup of the best current credit card offers for cards with no forex fees). But something else you might want to consider is whether your credit cards have Smart Chip technology.

Having a SmartChip makes it easier to use this card abroad.
Having a Smart Chip makes it easier to use this card abroad.

Smart Chip is a credit card technology where cards are embedded with chips and a cardholder must put in their pin or sign for each transaction to be approved. With “chip & pin” especially, this 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. The other type of chip card, “chip & signature,” function more like US swipe cards, only they can be used with portable electronic readers that require you to insert the card rather than swipe it, and then sign for it as you would with a regular old swipe card. Although chip & pins are prevalent in Europe, the cards issued in the US with chips tend to be overwhelmingly chip & signature, so you might still have some issues using them at certain merchants, but having a chip at all can be a big help when using cards at ticket machines or other vendors that require a chip of some sort.

Most US cards are just “swipe and sign” cards with a simple magnetic strip and the verification of signature standing between you and credit card fraud. From time to time, 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. While many merchants, hotels and restaurants let you use your swipe cards, many, especially in Europe, do not, including some restaurants, hotels and even public transport.

In fact, TPG reader David just wrote me to tell me that the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden will no longer be accepting any credit cards except chip and pin ones, so if he wants to eat there before or after a performance, he’ll have to carry cash with him, which is a bummer on many levels. Unfortunately, he might be out of luck unless he has one of the very few US cards with chip & pin technology, but I’d suggest he take his chip & signature card with him (and cash just in case) because sometimes vendors are still able to make those work.

Want a drink or snack at the Royal Opera House? You'll need a chip & pin card to pay for it.
Want a drink or snack at the Royal Opera House? You’ll need a chip & pin card to pay for it.

Most US cards don’t have chip technology because it is expensive and not required by US merchants, so issuers have been dragging their feet on issuing new cards with them. The good news, though, is that we’re seeing more and more issuers putting chips in more and more cards because of consumer demand, so if you’re in the market for a new credit card, chances are you can find one that suits your needs financially and has a chip in it. Just be sure that it also does not charge foreign transaction fees since some cards, even with Smart Chips, do.

With that in mind, I have put together this list of all the travel credit cards out there that currently have Smart Chips in them (although I might have missed a few, so if you see any missing, please leave a comment!). If you already have one or several of these cards but they don’t have chips in them, you can call your issuer to request a new card with a Smart Chip and they should reissue you one for free.

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 no forex fee credit card than a Travelex card in my wallet any day! If I missed any cards, please feel free to comment and I’ll add to this list.

AMERICAN EXPRESS
Platinum. 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. $450 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.

BANK OF AMERICA
Alaska Airlines Visa. 25,000 miles upon approval. $75 annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Hawaiian Airlines Visa. 35,000 HawaiianMiles when you spend $1,000 in 4 months. $79 annual fee for Visa Signature accounts, $50 for Platinum accounts. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Virgin Atlantic Amex. 45,000 miles when you spend $2,500, 15,000 miles on account anniversary, 5,000 miles when you add additional users. $90 annual fee. 1% foreign transaction fee.
Asiana Airlines Amex. 10,000 miles after first purchase. $99 annual fee. 1% foreign transaction fee.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card. 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in 90 days. No annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
BankAmericard Privileges Cash Rewards Visa Signature. $100 cash rewards when you spend $500 in 90 days. $75 annual fee waived the first year. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Norwegian Cruise Line World Mastercard. 10,000 points after first purchase. No annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Royal Caribbean Visa. 10,000 points after first purchase. No annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
AAA Member Rewards Visa. 2,500 points after first purchase. No annual fee. 2% foreign transaction fee.

CHASE
British Airways Visa Signature. 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 in 3 months. $95 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.

Chase Ink Plus. 50,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. $95 annual fee waived the first year. No foreign transaction fees.

Chase Marriott Rewards Visa. 30,000 points when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. $45 annual fee waived first year. No foreign transaction fees.

Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. 50,000 points when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. $85 annual fee waived first year. No foreign transaction fees.
Hyatt Visa Signature. 2 free nights. $75 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. 70,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months. $395 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
Sapphire Preferred Visa. 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months plus 5,000 points when you add an authorized user in the first 3 months. $95 annual fee waived first year. No foreign transaction fees.
United Mileage Plus Club Visa. (Coming soon – and will be available upon request) $100 statement credit after first purchase. $395 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
JP Morgan Palladium Visa. $595 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
JP Morgan Select Visa Signature. No longer available to new cardholders.

Citi
Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card. $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton Portfolio within the first 3 months and 2 free weekend nights when you spend $2,500 in 4 months. $95 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®. 50,000 miles for spending $1,000 in 3 months. $95 annual fee waived first year. 3% foreign transaction fee.
CitiBusiness® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature Card. 50,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. $95 annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
AAdvantage Executive World Mastercard. 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in 4 months. $450 annual fee. No foreign transaction fees.
AAdvantage Gold Mastercard. 25,000 miles when you spend $750 in 4 months. $50 annual fee waived first year. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Citi ThankYou® Card. 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. No annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
ThankYou Premier. 30,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months. $125 annual fee waived first year. No foreign transaction fees.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Rewards Card. 30,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 4 months. No annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card. 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 18 months. No annual fee. 3% foreign transaction fee.

US Bank
FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa 20,000 points when you spend $3,500 in 4 months. $49 annual fee waived first year. 2% foreign transaction fee.
Korean Air SkyPass Visa Signature 15,000 miles after first purchase. $80 annual fee for SKYPASS Visa Signature, $50 for SKYPASS Visa. No foreign transaction fee for Visa Signature, 3% foreign transaction fee for transactions in foreign currency.
Korean Air SkyPass Visa Classic 5,000 miles after first purchase. $50 annual fee. No foreign transaction fee for Visa Signature, 3% foreign transaction fee for transactions in foreign currency.

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