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Contactless credit card vs. Chip-and-signature (with a PIN)

We have PIN numbers for a couple of our US 'chip' cards for use in Europe. (We've not frequently been asked for the PIN, but we do have the numbers, 'just in case'). Back when the 'chip' cards were issued, we read up on the 'chip and signature' vs. 'chip and pin' differences

This year we noticed that our Costco Visa is a "contactless" card. Will that need a PIN?

I'm asking because, after a lengthy dive into Citi's phone menu to get to a human, I was told (by an agent who insisted this was the case) that a PIN is only assigned/used for a cash advance. That got me to wondering if they're just not in tune with usage outside the U.S., or is this now the case because the contactless card doesn't need a PIN.

Posted by
3313 posts

Contactless cards do not require anything other than you wave or tap it at the terminal. But this is only up to a preset amount of around $100 equivalent. There is no PIN required for contactless cards when used in the contactless mode. If you are trying to use it as a chip card in Europe (not every chip reader terminal accepts contactless) you may still need a PIN.

The only time using a PIN makes a transaction a cash advance is if you are getting cash. Regular purchases, even with a PIN, are never cash advances. It is impossible for them to be due to the structure of the transaction that is sent to your bank for authorization. Get the PIN, it won't hurt. Just don't use the card with the PIN at ATMs or Currency Exchanges.

Posted by
4468 posts

The contactless limit is much lower than that in Europe, typically within the €20-€40 kind of range, or even less

Posted by
408 posts

Thanks for these answers. I did go ahead and request the PIN but it likely won't get to us for this trip (takes 5-7 days for them to mail it). It was interesting that the agent didn't believe that I needed a PIN for other than cash advance purposes. I stopped trying to explain and agreed it was for a cash advance use so they would get the PINs mailed to me.

I was mainly interested in the 'contactless' use as described as being an alternative to the Oyster Card in London. We do have Oyster Cards but saw that this could be an alternative to adding value onto the Oyster.

Posted by
1136 posts

I was never asked for a pin, and I was able to use it on purchases more than 40 pounds (In England). (And it was my Costco Visa)

Posted by
337 posts

I have a chip and signature credit card. With my card the pin is only for a cash advance. I’ve had no problem using the card in restaurants, hotels and stores because many have adapted to the US chip and signature. The problem may be at kiosks for train or metro tickets.

Posted by
195 posts

Just adding that even in chip-and-PIN European countries, vendors are usually not completely unfamiliar with chip-and-signature. One cashier told me that his mother with dementia cannot remember her PIN, so she needs to use a chip-and-signature card; and thus he was unfazed by my chip-and-signature card.

Posted by
3313 posts

Most contactless cards work just fine for the London Tube and you get the same price cap that an Oyster would. You must have a separate contactless card with a separate account number on it for each person.

Just be aware that Some contactless cards will not work on the Tube and unfortunately you won't know until you try it if yours will work.

Posted by
8627 posts

Most "chip and pin" cards issued in the U.S. will only work as "chip and signature" when paying for things. The pin is for cash advance. (This has been my experience even though my card issuer insisted I could use the pin for everything. Nope.)

With contactless, all you do is hold your card against the machine, it will beep, and tell you if the purchase is authorized. I'm in the UK now and just about everywhere I have been has a 30 pound limit on contactless purchases.

Chip and signature is just about everywhere except some supermarkets won't let you use the automatic tills. (Waitrose is one.) The only place I ever had a problem with chip and signature was in a taxi in Inverness. The driver didn't know what to do. So I used contactless instead.

Posted by
4468 posts

I was never asked for a pin, and I was able to use it on purchases more than 40 pounds (In England). (And it was my Costco Visa)

The normal limit for contactless in the UK is £30, however if you have a good history with a particular issuer they may permit it to go through above that not wanting to embarrass you. Also being a non UK card may mean the authentication is set up slightly differently.

Posted by
82 posts

keri, I was given the same speech by Chase Bank. I too wonder whether they "get" how it works outside the U.S. I didn't bother setting up the PIN, will just use it with a signature, contactless, or not at all.

Posted by
1513 posts

We’ve successfully used our chase contactless card for metro tickets in Milan, restaurants and other purchases in Europe and South Africa. In the case of restaurants or purchases, the machine knows it’s a chip and signature, prints a receipt to sign and receipt to keepwhether used as chip or contactless) The Milan metro kiosk tickets and other small purchases, no signature. We haven’t needed nor been asked for a PIn on this card.

Posted by
408 posts

Thanks for the variety of replies. (And I'm glad to hear I'm 'not alone' in finding the Chase Bank experience odd -- thanks, mountainmana!)

JVB's reply jogged my memory on this: "The problem may be at kiosks for train or metro tickets." Indeed, it was rail kiosks in France that were the problem last trip. It was nice to be able to use the kiosk there (working through my rudimentary French) -- the lines at the ticket windows were LONG.

Our first experience with kiosks and chip cards was when we visited the Alhambra, long long ago (before chips on credit cards), without the requisite advance prep -- we were novices way back then, didn't realize that one doesn't just get up at 4:30am and drive to the Alhambra 'the day of', expecting to buy tickets. Actually, tho', it worked out because there was a lonely kiosk (NO line) that said we could buy an entrance ticket 'now'. We were mystified that the kiosk was refusing all our credit cards and then realized that our debit card (which we had only used to withdraw cash from an ATM in the US up until then) had a PIN that we actually knew. We got the tickets and got entry at opening, skipping all the lines. It was a travel miracle! After that we started to pay more attention to PINs and chips (and to the need to do bookings a bit farther in advance).

Posted by
1094 posts

"drive to the Alhambra 'the day of', expecting to buy tickets. Actually, tho', it worked out because there was a lonely kiosk (NO line) that said we could buy an entrance ticket 'now'. "

When we first started traveling to Europe there were no advance tickets (except maybe for a theatre) for any attraction. You just walked up, purchased a ticket and went in. Times have changed and not always for he better. Oh, and that included hotel rooms.

Posted by
11738 posts

I was in Ireland (and UK) in May. I used my contactless card on occasion. The rule is no more than 30 euro transactions and no more than three transactions a day. At first I thought the rule related to a particular merchant but it's everywhere and applies to local cards as well as foreign.

It's intended to protect you if your card is lost or stolen.

Since Ireland is part of EU. You may run into it anywhere in Europe.

Posted by
23578 posts

In the UK it isn't Euro but Pounds Sterling. Yes, it is £30 limit per transaction but I have never heard of three per day. I use mine, or the Apple Pay app all day and have never run into a number of transactions limit.

Apple Pay (not sure about Android Pay although my wife uses it, she doesn't ever remember those limits, but never paid attention) certainly has no daily transaction limit and many stores have a high or very high £ limit. I was in Skechers today and they said their limit is £50. I've used the app in department stores for many high purchases.

Posted by
4822 posts

Probably some clarification is needed here. First, will not address the contact-less use that seems to be answered.

Regarding the PIN on the Costco card...They are saying that their card is a Chip and Signature with a PIN for Cash Advance, that is accurate. In Europe however, if you use the card for purchases at a manned sale, a slip will be printed out for you to sign. For small sales at unmanned kiosks or ticket machines, you may be prompted for a PIN, since systems expect a PIN for use. People have reported that entering your PIN for Cash Advance will work in these cases, sometimes any combination of numbers, sometimes nothing. I would not assume that your assigned PIN is acting like a Chip and PIN card, it is more likely that your card has a Cardholder Verification Method (CVM) for low dollar transactions (under $50 or $100) so if the European System gets a PIN, it passes the transaction onto your Cardholder, who ignores the PIN and just authorizes the transaction based on Dollar amount. If you tried to use the PIN for a $200 hotel bill, it would likely bounce. Bottom line: While a Credit Card Cash Advance PIN may be useful for some low dollar transactions, it is not a Chip and PIN.

Regarding if you do have an American Chip and PIN Credit Card, due to ranking of your cards CVM's; signature is still likely first in order, so many places in Europe you sign a slip. If that is not an option where you are making the transaction, then it will prompt you for a PIN. There are maybe only a half dozen cards issued in the US that are PIN priority that will always prompt for a PIN if available,

Regarding using your Cash Advance PIN for a sale and being concerned about being charged for a cash advance, I agree, this is not an issue. You should however read the fine print of your agreement, some transactions will be charged as a Cash Advance, regardless of whether a PIN was used or not...for example, buying Chips at a Casino...it can be an odd list of items, but worth being aware of.