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Nov. 2019 - couldn’t use credit cards at unmanned gas stations

Just returned from France and could not use our chip and pin credit cards (from two different banks) at two unmanned gas stations in Bayeux. Cash hasn’t an option, so we just found other stations.

These cards were with two different banks, both are chip and pin, and both banks were notified of our travels. We had no problems using the cards anywhere else.

I share this in case anyone needs to fill up - find a manned station. Gas stations are not on every corner as they seem to be in the US, and hours are more limited.

Posted by
5697 posts

We were able to use a Barclays Bank (Lufthansa Miles and More program) card at toll booths, parking garages and unmanned gas stations where my Chase Sapphire Reserve card was unrecognized.

Agree that it's wise to fill up at manned stations before a long drive -- or a weekend !

Posted by
2916 posts

I got an Andrews FCU card for that reason several years ago, and it's always worked at unmanned gas stations. And on one trip when I lost the card, my BOA card worked at unmanned stations. I assume you'll probably never find out why yours didn't work. Asking at your bank would do no good.

Posted by
5561 posts

If you want to find out why this issue occurs, do a search on the forum for "3-D Secure". Then be prepared to filter out 98% of the responses from well-meaning but uninformed posters. I've given up trying to explain it.

Posted by
6604 posts

We have driven a lot in Europe and never found gas stations that would take our cards although in recent years most train machines do.

Posted by
843 posts

Robert, Interesting, because one of the cards that didn’t work was a BOA card.

Oh well. Thankfully we didn’t waited until our tank was empty and it wasn’t late at night!

Posted by
3336 posts

Acceptance of cards at unmanned stations, kiosks, and toll booths varies widely so you really can't draw generalizations based on a short trip to France. True - we are used to 24/7 service in the US and this is not the case in most other parts of the world.

Posted by
2285 posts

You get used to credit card quirks in all countries. As a Canadian, I can't pay at the pump at most American gas stations because when I insert my credit card I'm asked for my zip code.

Posted by
6604 posts

There was one gas station that actually did take my card at the pump; it was a station not far from ORY where we were returning the car. Something went awry and we were billed for 890 Euros for the fill up because apparently the pump didn't close between us and the next few cars or trucks that gassed up and it put all of their purchases on our card. Luckily I had saved the receipt because I have had in the past to show the receipt when disputing a rental car's claim that we didn't gas up the car; we always gas it up and we have had this claim 3 times over the years. I was able to get it reversed on my credit card because I had the receipt but it was a nervous making moment.

Posted by
1990 posts

Just because you have a credit card with a chip, and it may have a PIN, you are not necessarily carrying a chip & PIN card. You probably have a chip & signature card. Some chip & signature cards have PINs but their use can be severely restricted by the card issuing bank. If you are ever asked by any vendor in France for a signature, you are not likely carrying a chip & PIN card.

Another possible explanation why your card will not allow you to purchase gas at unmanned locations is that many pay-at-the-pump locations in France do not have/need internet access for their pumps. French bank cards have the PIN burned into the chip (called off-line PINs). If your card uses on line authentication, it would be impossible to use it at a pump which has no on-line capability. If your card issuing bank can change the PIN code without changing your card, you have an on line PIN and on line PINs do not have wide acceptance in France at unmanned points of sale.

There are very few US banks issuing chip & PIN cards with off-line PINs. If you are sufficiently lucky to have one of these cards, you should be able to use it anywhere in France.

Posted by
843 posts

Yep, we had to sign after every transaction, so it looks like our BOA and US Bank cards are not truly chip and pin, despite having a chip and pin number! Good to know.

Posted by
7573 posts

Janet, oh my goodness thank goodness that you kept that receipt!!! 890€!!!

Posted by
2916 posts

If you want to find out why this issue occurs, do a search on the forum for "3-D Secure".

I believe 3-D Secure is strictly for ecommerce, so it would have nothing to do with gas station verification.

as to the Andrews card, I believe that it's one of the few American cards that has off-line PIN verification. So although it might be called a chip and signature card (since it defaults to a signature whenever a person is present), it basically functions like a chip and PIN in unmanned situations (now if we could only come up with a good gender-neutral term for "unmanned").

Posted by
242 posts

We got an Andrew's FCU card a few years back, it's one of the few that is truly chip and PIN

Posted by
11805 posts

Most US cards come with a chip and also have a pin - but they aren't true chip and pin cards. There are a couple banks that offer a true chip and pin in the US (even though I've seen other ads that make you think it's a chip and pin). I have a card from Andrews FCU. They're such an awful financial institution, however, I literally only use it for those automatic transactions that require chip and pin. I used it a few times each on my most recent France trips and it worked as advertised.

When getting gas in France (assuming you aren't carrying a true chip and pin card) the best option is to ask your lodging where, and when, to buy gas. Generally I've been directed to the big grocery stores and told when they are attended. If the station is attended, you can use cash or any credit card.

Failing that, you can always use the gas stations on the toll roads. They are always attended but charge around ten cents more per liter than I'm used to paying.

A similar issue happens with toll booths as well as buying tickets for RER or the Metro in Paris. I've been able to use any card but it often takes more than one attempt (sometimes with more than one card) before I have success. Patience and persistence often work when the first effort doesn't. I've only had two toll booths (out of dozens) where I ended up paying cash because nothing I carried seemed to work.

Posted by
2916 posts

We got an Andrew's FCU card a few years back, it's one of the few that is truly chip and PIN

When I said that a couple of years ago, I got chastised by someone saying it isn't a true chip and PIN. I guess it depends on how you define a chip and PIN card. As I mentioned above, my Andrews card has off-line verification, which makes it work like a chip and PIN even though it is chip and signature in most situations.
And I agree with Brad that Andrews FCU is a pretty awful bank to deal with. Getting the card several years ago was a PITA, but now I have it and it's very useful. Hopefully when it expires next year I'll get an updated one with no hassle.

Posted by
8385 posts

Our Andrews card has never failed in the metro, train, gas pumps, museum ticket machines. AFCU has served me well; surprised to hear some dislike.

Posted by
949 posts

I always have my debit card for situation just like this .. gas stations and tolls... when my credit card gets rejected and we have never had the debit card rejected.

Posted by
91 posts

Allan, try this trick: when prompted for a US ZIP Code, enter the three numeric digits from your Canadian Postal Code, followed by two zeros.

Donna, for your information, using a credit card is safer than using a debit card for retail transactions (like getting gas).

With a debit card, a person's live, available bank balance is reduced in case of a hold, an error, a malfunction, or unauthorized use of the card. This can leave insufficient funds for checks and scheduled transfers, producing a cascade of fees. It can take weeks for the bank to reverse inappropriate debit card transactions. Even if the bank also reverses its own fees (overdraft, NSF, etc.), payees have no reason to reverse their fees (late payment, returned item, etc.).

When something goes wrong with a credit card, bank balances are not affected.

Moreover, for Americans, the "special rule for credit card purchases" applies only to credit cards. The special rule is the basis of the right not to pay for goods and services that are unsatisfactory or were not provided. Although some debit card issuers extend similar protections to debit cards, they do so on a voluntary basis.

Posted by
5450 posts

Bets, the problem with AFCU and SDFCU isn’t, say, competence, it’s adult business practices that we have grown used to from Too-Big-To-Fail commercial banks. AFCU wouldn’t let me close my account (because they wanted an annual fee for most cards) with a signed letter or a live phone call. They made me send in a copy of my US passport page. They are stuck in some kind of 1940’s America of the Credit Union.

SDFCU keeps sending me marketing material for auto loans. But they never announced that they would exchange Chip and Signature cards for (a different colored) true Chip and PIN. I had to learn about it online, maybe here. The first one they sent me expired a year after I got it, as if I had called to replace a lost card! So THEY had to pay for the four-year one I got after a year. Go figure. The SDFCU card works great.

For the first six years I had the SDFCU chip and signature card, Bank of America Billpay service had to send them paper check (like my home heating company and my lawn guy) because their credit card processing office would not accept ACH transfers! Do you suppose they wear green eyeshades and sit on high stools at SDFCU? Now, they do take ACH payments.

Posted by
2916 posts

AFCU wouldn’t let me close my account (because they wanted an annual fee for most cards) with a signed letter or a live phone call. They made me send in a copy of my US passport page.

That sounds like the kind of thing I had to deal with when I first applied for my AFCU card. At first I thought of just giving up on the process, but then I followed through and have had to card for 4 or 5 years, and it's been very useful.