Any tips on the best strategies for dealing with the possible non-acceptance in Belgium of American credit/debit cards with chips? Especially with respect to buying tickets for domestic (non-international) Belgian trains using un-manned train ticket machines?
No. Things change over time. I would comment that I've spent at least six weeks in Belgium, and my wife has spent more. It is not that hard a place to get along in. (By that, I mean, the Netherlands has more credit card acceptance issues, and Germany has more places that don't take any cards at all. Also, the food is better in Belgium than in the Netherlands!)
I would also imagine that there are regional differences. I've mainly spent time between Brugge and Turnhout. It was a while before I discovered that the same bus and tram multi-trip tickets work in many cities, as long as they are not Brussels! I have been corrected on this newsboard, but I though that my Brussels transit card did work in Leuven, which is very close to Brussels.
Belgium is one of my favorites in Europe it is underrated.
Most of the main train stations have ticket booths manned by people if your credit card does not work.
My Visa card did not work in the train ticket automated machines there so I had to do it the slow way go to the office take a number at the train station; in one case from Brussels Airport to Brussels Central I had cash and fed the machin as they take all the Euro coins except the centimes or pennies. All the machines to buy train tickets work that way in Belgium.
Do not neglect spending your coins as I see inexperienced travelers (family members and friends) not paying attention to spend those. coming back home with 20 euros in coins ; the American bank does not take euro coins.
Only use ATMS attached to banks that are open. To find a banks use Google maps search "banks near me"while you are there at your hotel or ask the hotel people where is the nearest bank. Carry cash small bills and credit cards. Pay with everything using credit cards to preserve your cash except for really small purchases like a water or a bottle of beer and especially at the Fritten stands ( Belgian fries) so you limit the amount of times you need to go to an ATM.
Pay with everything using credit cards to preserve your cash except for really small purchases...
Yes, but: be sure your credit cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Some do, many don't.
As a general rule anywhere in Europe: I try to bring 2 different debit cards (each linked to a different credit union account at home) for cash from ATMs. My spouse also brings two. That way, if one has issues (if it's blocked, or even if it gets sucked into an ATM) we have backups. Likewise, we each bring multiple credit cards (all with no foreign transaction fees). We use credit cards pretty much everywhere we can (just like at home).
In travels all across Europe in recent years in small towns or big cities, I've never had any trouble finding a working ATM.
Thanks to each of you for the informative replies!
I'm particularly interested in the acceptance, or lack thereof, of the American credit/debit card with chip, especially for buying train tickets, which Rick describes in his Belgium book as possibly being an issue there.
I posted in a separate thread, my US bank debit card worked in the ticket machine.
2 credit cards did not.
These machines should accept bills.
Why all that trouble when there is a ticket window where you can pay cash? I've never found long queues in Belgium.
That is true most of the time. Tuesday I would have missed my train for sure, standing in line. Some people need help with route planning, this can take some time. I did not allow enough time for waiting, so it was nice to buy a ticket from the machine.
That's why I mostly buy them the day before.
I find the unmanned train ticket machines to be a bit spotty when I am in Belgium. By that, I mean, sometimes my chip and signature card works in the machines, sometimes it doesn’t. Not sure if it is user error or subtle differences/inconsistencies across the machines with what they accept. I will say, though, that my debit card (with a chip) has always worked in a machine although I use that as last resort as my debit card has foreign transaction fees. Rarely have I witnessed long lines to purchase a ticket from a live human. If you are using a train for a day trip, get day return tickets. You won’t have to stress about the humans not being there to sell you your return ticket that evening (they will be out with their friends and loved ones most likely drinking a wonderful beer) nor will you need to stress about getting the stupid machines to work for you. Good luck.
If you have trouble using it at a self-service kiosk (as I did at the airport station), go the the desk with a person. It will work. It was probably something I did wrong not being used to that kiosk than the kiosk itself.