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Worldwide credit card use

We are currently traveling in China and in a pinch because it didn't occur to me to get PIN numbers for our credit cards. Our credit cards all worked fine in Europe and Japan as well as in the US with a chip plus signature procedure. No PIN.

When I called Citibank to ask that they send us PIN numbers, the customer service rep said :"Wow, I didn't know that" when I said Pin numbers were required here for in-person purchases with any credit card.

We're doing OK because I can make hotel reservations online without a PIN, and we are paying for food, gas and tolls with cash. A family member watching our mail will email us the PIN numbers when they come in the mail.

So I'm wondering, as we proceed with our world travels, if there are any other credit card wrinkles I should know about for various countries.

Posted by
1064 posts

I know nothing about China. However, chip plus PIN is the standard in most of the world. The PIN is used in lieu of a signature for high dollar purchases. Lower amounts are usually done via contactless.

A PIN for USA cards is used for cash advances just like you’d withdrawal money from an ATM with a debit card.

Again, stating that I know nothing about China, I’d think it would be similar to Europe in that American cards will require a signature over a certain amount. That’s how it’s worked in every European country I’ve been in.

Why on earth the USA didn’t go to chip and PIN when we finally got chip cards is a mystery to me. I assume it’s our antiquated banking system plus our ‘tip everyone’ system

Posted by
5485 posts

My credit card (Capital One Visa) is a chip and signature (no PIN) and worked fine in 2015 where credit cards were accepted.

ATMs also worked (Debit/ATM card with PIN) but were somewhat scarce in some of the small towns and villages on our tour route.

American cash (new and clean $100 bills) were easy to exchange at the bigger hotels or banks. The Chinese will not accept torn or worn currency.

Interesting that you are paying for gas and tolls with cash in China. Do you have a Chinese driving permit?
https://www.internations.org › moving-to-china › country-facts

For foreigners, driving in China will not come easily. Legally, you
are not allowed to drive a car in China with a foreign (the UK, the
US, European, etc.) or international driver's license. As a tourist on
a visitor's visa, you can get a temporary driving permit to join the
motorized traffic in China. Apr 22, 2019

And negotiating Chinese city traffic is a challenge. Are you a New York or Boston driver?

Posted by
2439 posts

And negotiating Chinese city traffic is a challenge

Boy, theres an understatement! I had no idea foreigners could drive themselves in China. And I've only been in a couple if places there, but I wouldn't dream of trying to drive myself! O P, yours a much braver person than I am.

Hopefully when you get home you can get yourself a real chip and pin card.

Posted by
5485 posts

Although now very dated (in fast evolving China), Peter Hessler's "Country Driving" is a good read before visiting China.
https://www.peterhessler.net/country-driving/

How do you drive in China? In 2001, when Peter Hessler applied for a
Chinese driver’s license, he entered a brave new world.... For
Hessler, it meant adventure. The questions of the written driver’s
exam suggested a world where nothing could be taken for granted:

  1. If you come to a road that has been flooded, you should a) accelerate, so the motor doesn’t flood. b) stop, examine the water to make sure it’s shallow, and drive across slowly. c) find a pedestrian and make him cross ahead of you.
Posted by
338 posts

My credit card (Capital One Visa) is a chip and signature (no PIN) and worked fine in 2015 where credit cards were accepted.

Correct. We were last in China in 2014 and our Capital One card worked perfectly then without a pin.

Do you have a Chinese driving permit?

Yes,we have a temporary license that allows us to drive a rented car. No test needed.

Are you a New York or Boston driver?

We have been Boston drivers, yes!

Posted by
4120 posts

We did a great 3 week Vantage tour of China and Hong Kong in 2012. We used our credit cards there with no problems.

I would not want to drive in China. The traffic was terrible in nearly all the cities.

Posted by
3221 posts

Why on earth the USA didn’t go to chip and PIN when we finally got chip cards is a mystery to me

It is because the people in banking who make these types of decisions believe the average US cardholder is too stupid to remember a PIN. Why do you think they added the signature option for Debit cards which should require a PIN on every transaction. And since the average US cardholder has 12 different credit cards, the remembering of PINs gets even more difficult.

Posted by
1064 posts

I still think it has to do with USA tipping culture, having to sign means you’re going to leave a tip and your signature is right there should you skip it.

Posted by
4804 posts

It is because the people in banking who make these types of decisions believe the average US cardholder is too stupid to remember a PIN.

I hear this reason often, and do not doubt someone in Banking has used that excuse, but as always, I think it comes down to Money. I suspect for the US to fully use all the functions of Chip and PIN would take some infrastructure investment, on both the Bank and retail end.

I still think it has to do with USA tipping culture, having to sign means you’re going to leave a tip and your signature is right there should you skip it.

I may be mis-remembering, but I seem to recall a tipping prompt coming up with my Chip and PIN (PIN Priority) on a couple rare occasions. Might have been in London.

Posted by
4804 posts

I guess to bring it back to topic and the experience of the OP, it may have been one or both of two things....

One, the vendor may only be familiar with PIN use, so asks for the PIN, in some locations they may not have the option to "print" a slip for signature if the OP is getting off the beaten tourist path.

Two, the Chip and PIN system increases Security greatly, but also requires the Vendor to accept greater liability for Fraud. The Vendors may not accept non-PIN use as being too risky.

As for getting the PINS for the OP, just be aware that obviously your card is not a true Chip and PIN, otherwise you would have had to set it up on issue of the card. You are being issued a PIN for Cash Advance. Now some have reported that if there is a prompt at the POS that asks for a PIN, inputting your PIN for Cash Advance worked, so you might be good. Other have punched in any four digits, and it worked, some had no luck. Size of the transaction can matter, smaller dollar ones can go through with no real validation.

Posted by
687 posts

OP, please come back and let us know if the PIN works.
As above, the PIN that you receive in the mail is for cash advance, not purchase. Just because you get a PIN, it will not turn your card into a chip and PIN card, it remains chip and signature.

I have found that I can use a debit card in kiosks in Europe (Sweden, Denmark, Italy) using my PIN, but have not been able to use a chip and signature card with my withdrawal PIN.

Please update us with your experience.

Posted by
3221 posts

I suspect for the US to fully use all the functions of Chip and PIN would take some infrastructure investment, on both the Bank and retail end.

If a merchant has a chip reader in the US, everything is there to fully support chip & PIN. They do so for Debit cards and a credit card with mandatory PIN entry is no different functionally.

I have a Target MasterCard which is only chip & PIN. They went to this option after their headline fraud situation (they no longer issue these cards to new customers and have a Target in store only card now). Not sure of their cost to implement, but mostly absorbed by MasterCard. It works perfectly everywhere I have tried it and will not allow PIN entry to be skipped, even at gas pumps. It does not work in restaurants and other places where they still use the mag stripe and have not upgraded to chip readers.

Posted by
1076 posts

I have a US chip and signature card with a PIN. It is NOT just for cash advances. At locations that are PIN only (normally unmanned locations) in both Canada and Europe it has worked for purchases. There was no charge for a cash advance. I got my normal free foreign transaction and my normal 2.5% cash reward.

Posted by
338 posts

OP, please come back and let us know if the PIN works.

Unfortunately I can't do that, because the bank sent us PIN numbers in an envelope labeled "DO NOT FORWARD," which means that the person monitoring our mail at home can't receive the info and email it to us while we are still in China.

We are managing OK because the credit card can be used to reserve hotels online, and we are paying for everything else in cash.

I can tell you, though, that overall the Chinese tech infrastructure is set up only for Chinese and not accessible for foreigners. Many top tourists sites now require you to buy a ticket online at a website that is only in Chinese and that only accepts reservations with a Chinese ID card number. and Chinese phone number. At some hotels, you can only access the wifi if you first input your Chinese phone number.

On the other hand, during 12 days of travel so far outside of Beijing, we have seen exactly two non-Chinese travelers. And anyone traveling in a group probably wouldn't encounter the challenges we have faced.

Posted by
1008 posts

I still think it has to do with USA tipping culture, having to sign
means you’re going to leave a tip and your signature is right there
should you skip it.

Canada has a tipping culture similar to the Americans but we have chip/pin and contactless which easily handles the tipping issues so it can't be that. On a recent trip to California I found it odd that in restaurants, the server's were still taking my credit card out of my sight to a terminal to process payment. In Canada a hand held terminal is brought to me and my credit card or debit card never leaves my hand.