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Is 'Chip & Pin' Debit Card Necessary in Europe?

While planning our trip to France/Belgium, I noticed that many ATMs in Paris are chip & pin capable.
Our debit cards are the US mag strip & pin type.

Is there any need to obtain a debit card that is chip & pin capable for our trip? Or will our mag strip cards function OK?


Posted by
16165 posts

ATM's are all magstrip capable. The only reason to have a PIN & chip card is so you can use it in unattended vending machines like toll booths, gas pumps, train ticket vending machines. Anything with a human will be fine. I did notice that once at a smaller train station, the register at one ticket window had a broken magstrip reader and the ticket agent had no clue because all Europeans use PIN & chip cards. Fortunately the next window had a functioning magstrip reader.

Posted by
6355 posts

My US mag strip debit card worked in all the ATM's I used on my trips, most recently to France (2012), Belgium and several central European countries (2014). Mainly what requires the true chip & pin cards are unmanned gas stations, some ticket machines, etc.. Most ATM's and manned places will accept mag strip cards.

Posted by
40 posts

Nancy & Sam:

Thanks for the information.

My only remaining concern now is finding a debit card with a low foreign transaction fee for ATM withdrawals. Will have to talk to my credit union.

Posted by
269 posts

Juan, re: Debit Card for Euro ATMs... as my family and I are going to Europe this summer we looked into several options which would allow us to withdraw monies in local currencies (EUR & CHF) without incurring foreign transaction fees. We settled on opening a Charles Schwab checking account, which comes with debit card/s containing Chip & Pin attribute. Before we leave, we'll move (trip) funds into this account, and withdraw spending money as necessary [once every day or two]. Not only are withdraws absent FX fees, but Schwab also reimburses any bank-related charge/s for using a non-affiliated ATM. We found it to be the cheapest means to keep 'whole' while we're over there, both in terms of having ample cash and being able to use it's Visa affiliation for debiting goods and services. Enjoy your trip, make sure you get to Bruges! : )

Posted by
5657 posts

This topic should have a FAQ response. And it does:

By Rick Steves
Europe — and the rest of the world — is adopting a new system for credit and debit cards. While handy for locals, these chip-and-PIN cards are causing a few headaches for American visitors: Some machines that are designed to accept chip-and-PIN cards simply don’t accept US credit cards. This news is causing some anxiety among American travelers, but really: Don’t worry.

Read Rick's FAQ tip for details.

Posted by
16869 posts

I understand that all ATMs have the necessary internet access built in that allows them to get bank approval with magnetic-strip debit cards. That's the "missing link" in some other, freestanding, automated purchase locations.

Posted by
507 posts

During my 10 days in France & the Iberian Peninsula last month I had no problems with my debit card at ATMs. The magnetic strip was used over the chip in the {Edit: ATM}.

As far as banks go, a credit union may give you the best rate on conversion fees.

Posted by
10344 posts

Question: Is 'Chip & Pin' Debit Card Necessary in Europe?
Answer: No.
This should be in a FAQ. Maybe it is, who here reads FAQ's, anyway.

Posted by
2 posts

A few ATM's in Ireland, and some in Italy, didn't seem to care for mag-stripe Visa debit cards. I was also surprised at some of the credit card foreign exchange fees. This year we are using: AMEX Propel 365 credit card - chip-and-pin - with no transaction fees, but not as widely accepted as Visa. CapitalOne Quicksilver VISA credit card , no fees, but magstripe only. Bank of America VISA debit card, chip-and-pin, but has foreign exchange fee. We will see how it goes.
Any better suggestions?