Rick Steves France book says to have a 4 digit pin for your credit cards. Do all places that accept credit cards require a pin?
They do not. Your card will be swiped and you sign the tab, just like in the US. We have never needed a PIN in many yearly trips to Europe.
The only place you may need a pin is at unmanned kiosks, gas pumps, ticket machines, etc. Yes, I have had to have a pin in some of these situations. Any place there is an attendant, clerk, or waiter it is very unlikely you will need a pin number.
The PIN requirement, if there is one, comes from your card issuing bank. If your bank issues chip & signature cards, transactions at staffed sales locations such as restaurants, hotels, or boutiques will require a signature.
At unmanned locations such as kiosks, pay-at-the-pump fuel locations, or toll booths, PINs may be required, particularly at sales amounts in access of your banks non verification limits (typically under $100). Many US issued bank cards are not able to be used at unmanned sales locations.
Anywhere a person takes your card, you just sign the slip -- this slightly annoys vendors but it works. For machines -- sometimes for small purchases it works -- you just ignore the request for a PIN for example on the metro machines, and they proceed. For toll booths -- sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't depending on who controls that toll booth. Always use the money lanes, just in case. Been there, done that, held up a long line of traffic.
There are a number of US chip & signature credit cards which are issued with PINs allowing transactions at unmanned sales locations such as ticket kiosks or pay-at-the-pump gas stations.
How the PIN is used and exactly where it will be accepted is a function of the transaction rules of the card issuing bank. There is a very wide range of acceptance or usability among the various chip & signature cards issued in the US.
I have at least one true chip and pin card, where you enter your pin rather than sign. It allows me to use automatic gas stations and may work slightly better in other applications.
In virtually all cases, your American card will require your signature. It's not an issue, clerks are used to it. They'll print a receipt for you to sign then hand you another receipt with your card.
Rick still talks about calling your banks before your trip. If your card has a chip, however, you don't need to call your bank ahead of time. The chip shows it's your card and not stolen information from your magnetic strip.
Thanks everyone for the advice and explanation of the differences for where the card is actually used. Makes sense that the 'unmanned' places would require a pin. I do have a pin for one of my credit cards. I'll go ahead and get a pin for the other so I'll have two to use. Many thanks...I appreciate your answers.
All credit cards, even those with only magnetic strips, have PINs. These PINs were traditionally used at ATMs for cash advances. PINs used with chip & PIN or chip & signature cards are provided to be used in lieu of signatures. These PINs have noting to do with ATM use for cash advances.
If your card issuing bank has not already issued you a PIN with your chip & signature card, your credit card probably cannot be used at unmanned locations. Asking for a PIN will not change these parameters. You will need a completley different type of card, one which can be used at unmanned sales locations.
Not many bank reps have used credit cards outside of the US to any great extent and may not be familair with PIN use in lieu of signature. Getting information from your bank can be difficult.
Hi Tocard - That is really interesting. Well, I guess we'll only fill up the gas tank at manned stations and always have enough cash on hand for tolls, kiosks, etc. or we can use a debit card at an unmanned place since obviously those are issued with a pin.
Well, I guess we'll only fill up the gas tank at manned stations and always have enough cash on hand for tolls, kiosks, etc. or we can use a debit card at an unmanned place since obviously those are issued with a pin.
It wouldn't hurt to know the PIN of your chipped card, but I can't recall using it. I bought gas at self serve service stations and paid tolls with my card without having to type in a PIN.
Well, I guess we'll only fill up the gas tank at manned stations
That can be difficult in France. The majority of gas pumps in most, if not all, parts of France are connected to large supermarkets (Intermarche, Super U, etc.), which have the lowest gas prices, and most of those have no attendants. Many of them still have the little kiosk where someone would sit and process your charge, but rarely are any of them occupied any longer. The inability to fill up my gas tank on a Sunday on the way to the airport several years ago (all open stations were unmanned) was the impetus for getting a chip card with a PIN.
we can use a debit card
Acceptance is entirely set up by the a bank´s chosen CVM or card verification method established for each of the cards it issues. A bank might offer different cards with different CVMs. There is no guarantee that a debit card can be used in unmanned situations simply because it has a PIN.
I bought gas at self serve service stations and paid tolls with my card without having to type in a PIN.
Purchasing gas at a self service station can be done with any card as long as there is an attendant available to handle the transaction. With no attenadant present, every pay-at-the-pump location in France I have ever used, and I have used them all over the country, has required a chipped card with PIN entry before even the type of fuel desired can be selected.
Of the two chip & signature cards (issued with PINs) which I use, my USAA Visa is rarely accepted at unmanned locations but my PenFed Visa is almost always accepted with PIN entry. PenFed has a much more flexible CVM than does USAA making PenFed, for me at least, a far superior credit card solution.
If your credit card requirements are basic, meaning you need one only for hotel, restaurant, or boutique use, any chipped card will suffice. If you have more demanding needs, PINs and the card you carry become much more critical.
I will echo what others have said about trying to use a credit card without a pin at many gas pumps in France. It can be difficult to find a spot where you can use a regular card. We ran into this problem consistently in Scandinavia. This was a problem in the countryside as gas stations are minimal. We found that the gas pumps at some so-called stations with a store, were not owned by the store and thus a pin was required. If the store was owned by the gas company (which is what we had to seek out), then we could go inside and pay with our credit card. The clerk would flip a switch and we could gas up. It can be a problem if you are running low on gas.
I can't speak for France, but we added a PIN to one card for our Iceland trip, so we could fill the rental car prior to return. Surprise, the pump did not require the PIN.
I returned from France about a week ago and these were my findings: we never needed our pin # for credit card purchases, only at an ATM with our debit cards as expected, we filled up the gas tank twice and avoided Sundays. The worst problem was finding a gas station since many small towns where we were HAD no gas stations or they were closed. I asked at a pharmacy in one such town and was very kindly given directions to another town and a large grocery store that had gas pumps.
I had the unpleasant surprise last month of discovering that my chip-and-pin card, which I had used without problems for the last four years in a variety of European countries, was suddenly chip-and-signature instead—at least, in France it was. A big disappointment.
I went to one gas station where my card didn’t work in the pump, but they had a machine on site where you could buy a voucher for the pump. My card still didn’t work, but it accepted cash.
Re: toll booths. France seems to have two toll companies -- one of them accepted my Chase chip-and-signature Visa, the other never did.
There is no guarantee that a debit card can be used in unmanned situations simply because it has a PIN.
I have yet to find a time where my debit card with PIN has not worked in an unmanned situation.
Are you asking whether you need a PIN, or whether it needs to be 4-digits?
If you don't have a PIN, you will not be able to use some automatic unmanned machines (train ticket machines, unmanned fuel stations). Otherwise your card will work with a signature, as long as the cashier knows what to do with a non-PIN card. They may not have encountered one before.
It is often quoted on the Internet that PINs (credit or debit card) must be 4-digit. This is an urban myth. I have cards with a 6-digit PIN issued by a European bank.
I have a Bank of America credit card that was originally issued at my request to be just a slide and sign card. However I recently called them and requested a pin because of my upcoming trip. I received that by mail in about a week so now it can be used either way.
It is my understanding that a pin can be provided for your card even if you don’t already have one.
It is my understanding that a pin can be provided for your card even if you don’t already have one.
Yes, but to work in European unmanned machines, it needs to be "chip and PIN". Europe went to Chip and PIN over 10 years ago. The magnetic strip on the back is redundant technology and is used as often as the embossed number, that is virtually never.
You may also encounter the problem that the magnetic strip reader does not work. Because everybody (apart from you) is using chip cards, nobody has noticed the magnetic stripe reader is no longer working.
I was in Paris in July 2019, when asked at the metro ticket machine to enter my PIN, I would push the red cancel button, and the transaction was processed as usual.
This is fascinating. As a Canadian I haven't signed a credit card receipt in years at home. I use my PIN regularly, and usually just tap my chip-enabled credit card. Easy peasy. Can't wait to see what happens in England and France in a few weeks.