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

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, 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.