Why your credit card might not work for in-flight purchases in Europe

Oct 13, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

If you’re a frequent TPG reader, you probably have some great credit cards for foreign travel. Almost certainly, you know how to get around without paying pesky foreign transaction fees, so your travels abroad should be pretty seamless from a payment perspective.

But, if you’re headed to Europe, beware: not all chip cards are created equal, and your card may be declined in some places, including while trying to make in-flight purchases on certain airlines, as TPG himself experienced on Ryanair.

The issue comes down to how your transaction gets verified. For a long time, Europe has been using a chip-and-pin standard for its credit card transactions. Chip cards have only become common in the U.S, in the last five to 10 years, and even so the system used in the U.S. is different from the one in Europe.

American credit cards work on a chip and signature system. While shoppers in Europe enter a personal identification number during a chip transaction at checkout, American buyers are supposed to sign their receipts to verify that they are the person whose name is on the card.

The top chip and PIN credit cards

Some European payment terminals require a pin for every transaction, and will decline cards that do not have the feature enabled.

For those times when you’re cashless and out of luck abroad, travel guru Rick Steeves has some great tips for what you can do if you’re having trouble getting your card accepted at a chip-and-pin terminal.

Featured photo by Jean Arnas / The Points Guy UK

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.