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is a pin required to use embedded chip credit cards

My wife and I fly to France in September. All our credit cards have an embedded chip and we use these cards for our regular purchases at home in the US. Depending on the merchant, we either tap the card or insert the chip. My question ... will we need a pin to use these cards in France? Will most merchants and restaurants also have the ability to swipe the card if we don't have a pin? Thanks! Also, we have Apple Pay on our phones ... is that form of payment very widely accepted? Again, thanks.

Posted by
8167 posts

no you don't need a pin. Many machines will take US chip/sig cards for small purchases. The metro takes it up to 75 because I recharged my Navigos on the machines. I could not do that a year ago as the limit was lower then.

Anywhere a person takes the payment, it is fine. They will have you sign the slip. Some machines will not work with them -- We could never get ours to work on the gas pumps but that was 5 years ago and I don't know if that has changed. We just gassed up where there was a person -- all rest stops on the highways have personnel and smaller stations you need to go during open hours whereas those with chip/pin cards in the European system can gas up off hours at the pumps.

Posted by
427 posts

Apple Pay is widely accepted. I'm not sure I've experienced an occasion where it hasn't been, and I live in France and use it for payment almost everywhere cash doesn't make sense.

Posted by
5928 posts

Sammy, have you used applepay at gas stations in France?

Posted by
219 posts

Thanks to everyone for your quick replies. Our 1st return to europe since pre-covid in 2019. Based on what I've followed on this site and others, it doesn't seem like we'll need many euros ... we'll be able to use credit cards for almost all purchases and services. True?

Posted by
4171 posts

I tapped my way all over the Republic of Ireland (€), Northern Ireland and Wales (both £) from 21 July to 23 August.

I only ran into one taxi driver who wanted cash. Virtually every other thing I paid for, even public busses, preferred tapping to cash. I suspect France will be the same.

Have a great time!

Posted by
14580 posts

In France....the answer is no. Your trip is only there...no problem. In Germany, yes on the use of a credit card when buying a ticket from the DB machine.

Posted by
2574 posts

Everyone from the US should now have credit cards with chips. If you are sufficiently lucky to bank somewhere that issues chip & PIN credit cards, Charles Swab or one of the credit unions issuing these, your card should be accepted everywhere without question.

If you only have a chip & signature card, as do most Americans, your card’s being accepted will be a function of the transaction verification rules as established by your card issuing bank. Face to face transactions with a vendor will generally always be accepted. The problems can arise at unmanned sales points such as ticket kiosks, tollgates, online transactions (other than at Amazon), or pay-at-the-pump points of sale.

At unmanned points of sale, you really will not know definitively if your card will be accepted until you try to use it.

Posted by
100 posts

I was able to add a pin to my chip & signature card - which is a Chase Sapphire. I called to set it up several years ago before a trip to Italy. SO check with your card and see if you can add a PIN.

In July in France, the chip & signature tap to pay or insert worked perfectly, everywhere except the automatic machines in the Metro stations. There I was able to use the PIN i had set up, and it worked great. I don't believe those terminals took Applepay, otherwise I would have tried that first probably.

-Beth

Posted by
2574 posts

I was able to add a pin to my chip & signature card - which is a Chase Sapphire.

I also have a Chase Sapphire card, and the Sapphire card is not a chip & PIN card. Adding a PIN to this card only allows you to make cash withdrawals at an ATM, something you probably do not want to do. To my knowledge, the Sapphire card will not authenticate a transaction with at PIN in lieu of signature.

bethb - Please confirm you have used a PIN with this card for purchase authorization, because if you have, I am on the phone to Chase today.

Posted by
85 posts

We have a true chip and PIN credit card from USAA that we have for travel. We rarely have needed to use the PIN. Only at unmanned gas stations and once at a toll booth.

Posted by
79 posts

"will we need a pin to use these cards in France?" Maybe. If there is contactless pay, then you will not need a PIN. If there is a person available, you can swipe and sign. Even with an automated machine, you may be able to use your card even if it prompts you for a PIN by hitting enter or just waiting it out. I only had one machine that would not let me complete a transaction (Concorde metro station). My card worked everywhere else in the metro, tolls, gas stations, etc.

"Will most merchants and restaurants also have the ability to swipe the card if we don't have a pin?" Yes, if the establishment accepts your brand of card. VISA is accepted everywhere. AMEX is widely accepted but not as widely as VISA. To avoid having to worry about it, I would just use a VISA if you have one without foreign fees.

"Also, we have Apple Pay on our phones ... is that form of payment very widely accepted?" Most people on here say yes, but early on in my trip I had a salesperson in Paris make fun of Americans for trying to use Apple Pay. This was odd because I was not trying to use Apple Pay at the time and the consensus on this board is that it is widely accepted. Still, that encounter would make me a little nervous about relying on Apple Pay.

Posted by
7493 posts

Many POS terminals will demand that a card with a chip be inserted, not swiped. Busy tourist places are used to their machine spitting out a signature slip for foreign cards. In rural places, it may be less familiar to the merchant. You noted France, where credit card acceptance is high. There are some places, particularly in Germany, where card acceptance (local or foreign) is lower.

When chip cards were new, we had some trouble in the Netherlands. Things are much better today. I would be ready to try your bank debit card at an unattended gasoline station, in case your credit card doesn't work.

Pre-pandemic, the last time we traveled pre-Pandemic (England 2019) the merchants were absolutely used to signature slips for American customers. They didn't even blink when the slip came out of the POS terminal, just handed it to us with a pen. If the terminal has a "tap" symbol, that's a good way to reduce the chance of a signature slip.

Posted by
8167 posts

good point. I have been able to use my ATM card with pin when the credit card chip/sig has not worked in a machine.

Posted by
1391 posts

“…. early on in my trip I had a salesperson in Paris make fun of Americans for try to use Apple Pay. This was odd because I was not trying to use Apple Pay at the time and the consensus on this board is that it is widely accepted. Still, that encounter would make me a little nervous about relying on Apple Pay.”

Well, the joke is on that salesperson because it seems they had no idea about how Apple Pay works. Apple Pay works like an invisible extension cord to your debit or credit card. Instead of reading the chip embedded in your debit or credit card, the payment terminal reads the chip in your IPhone or Apple Watch. If a payment terminal accepts contactless payments, it accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay and Whatelseisthere Pay.
Of course the vendor does have to accept the card you linked to your Apple Pay account. If you’ve linked an Amex card to your Apple Pay account and the store doesn’t accept Amex, you can’t pay with Apple Pay. Not because Apple Pay isn’t accepted, but because your Amex credit card isn’t accepted.

Posted by
100 posts

Tocard - you should check with Chase then! I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred that is chip & signature normally. I did have to sign at most restaurants. But at the Metro stations in Paris when a PIN was required, I was able to put in the PIN I had set on my card back in 2019 (thankfully I guessed correctly). I think you would also use this same PIN to do a cash withdrawal, but it worked for the automatic kiosks for me as well.

https://www.chase.com/personal/credit-cards/card-resource-center/passwordpin
How do I request a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for my credit card?
To request a PIN, please call us at 1-800-297-4970 and follow the instructions provided by the automated system. We accept operator relay calls. If you’re deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, call 711 for assistance.

Posted by
4538 posts

I Googled chip and PIN recently and ... it's complicated. Apparently it IS possible to add it to some cards like Chase. Just don't worry about it, if someone wants your money, trust me they'll figure out how to charge you. In December I tapped my card all over Paris and Strasbourg and all was well.

Posted by
2574 posts

I did have to sign at most restaurants.

bethb - if you had a PIN & chip credit card, you would NEVER sign anywhere. Your purchase would either be authorized without authentication, for amounts up to a predetermined value, somewhere under 75€ but varies by bank, or with authentication using a PIN. Having a PIN & chip card means wide acceptance, and you never sign anything.

Let’s not confuse Chase Sapphire’s CVM (card verification method) which authorizes, without verification, all purchases up to a predetermined limit but beyond that limit a signature is required, with a CVM (used by French bank cards for example) which may also authorize, without verification, purchases up to a predetermined limit, but beyond that limit a PIN is required.

All purchases made at a ticket kiosk, using the Chase Sapphire card, are instantly approved if the amount is below the no verification threshold. The fact that the kiosk displays the standard sequence of events, asking for a PIN, has nothing to do with your successfully completing the transaction. Whatever you enter into the keypad is ignored, all input is ignored. You don’t have to even touch the keypad, your transaction is already approved and you’ll still get your tickets.

Two wandering nurses - Around 2013, USAA did issue chip & PIN cards for several years, but they have all been replaced by chip & signature cards. I used only my USAA Visa for a number of years, authenticating all purchases with a PIN, but moved on to Chase cards (with better rewards), when USAA issued new cards which were/are chip & signature.

phred - Adding a PIN to a chip & signature card does not change the card's purchase verification sequence. Adding a PIN to a chip & signature card does not necessarily make it a chip & PIN card. It only means that you can use the card to withdraw money at an ATM.

Posted by
89 posts

We are here now and driving a car using the pay tolls. I read on here that Costco visa works well so that’s what we are using and it’s working like a charm. We did get our PIN numbers but have not had to use the PIN numbers at all. Two and go. We were very worried about this as well. But all is great

Posted by
214 posts

BUT unless you turn off the bank debit card tap function at the bank, it may be used instead of your Visa Card or Apple Pay, when you put your phone case up to the terminal. I put my cards in aluminum cases when using Google Pay, and turned off the debit function on my bank card.

Posted by
621 posts

In 2019 we were in France and were pleasantly surprised to find that the auto routes all seemed to accept our chip embedded credit cards without the need for pin (Chase Sapphire). This card also worked at the very local but unmanned gas station near where we stayed. This same gas station absolutely refused our credit cards even the one with pin and chip in 2017. This (Andrews) pin and chip card was refused in most gas stations. This was the Andrews federal credit union card recommended years ago by RS. I have no idea why it did not work in 2019 as it did in fact work previously. I've called trying to get information about this to no avail. All that said, my saintly Sapphire card worked most of the time but was not accepted at several other gas stations. Again, this is chip card with no pin. Turned out to be a fairly big problem trying to fill up on gas just before returning our rental to CDG. Although we could obtain a pin for our Sapphire and other credit cards I double checked with Chase and found out that we would be charged a cash advance fee if we used the pin. All very confusing.