Chip and Pin Cards

Can someone explain under which circumstances a maganetic card is sufficient and which requires a Chip? I'm planning on using my ATM card ONLY for ATM withdrawals and purchases with my credit card (only has magnetic strip). Will this be sufficient? When is the chip needed? I'm unclear. Thanks.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6835 posts

A chip card can be useful at automatic gas pumps, and some train ticket machines. For most everything else magnetic strip will work fine; any merchant that deals with tourists will have the hardware to handle our "old-fashioned" cards.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2275 posts

You're 95% OK. Pin & Chip cards must be used at ticket machines in France, but mag strip is OK at the ticket window. Most unattended machines including toll booths require P&C. Hotels, restaurants, and merchants still support mag strip. ATM's still support mag strip. Netherlands is going more and more to Pin and Chip. Mag strip only used at manned ticket windows at Amsterdam Centraal and Schipol airport train stations. All other stations, even manned must use P&C (and some even more stringent requirements). Transit tickets for Amsterdam at the tourist bureau across the street from Centraal station must use P&C. Hotels, restaurants, and merchants still support mag strip. ATM's still support mag strip. And Cash is still OK except ticket machines.
Other country's don't know. Germany, Switzerland, Italy use P&C but not required.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6835 posts

Mag strip only used at manned ticket windows at Amsterdam Centraal and Schipol airport train stations. The ticket windows these two stations no longer accept magnetic strip cards; chip&pin or cash only. All other stations in Holland only accept Chip& Pin debit only, which don't exist in the US. You can only get chip credit cards on this side of the pond.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Kirk, You shouldn't have any problems with the older magnetic stripe cards at "attended" locations such as hotels and restaurants, however there are exceptions. The ticket desks at Amsterdam Central will ONLY accept C&P cards, and it was that way when I was there in 2011. The ticket Kiosks at CDG will ONLY accept C&P cards and Euro coins. Automated fuel pumps and similar usually only accept C&P cards. One interesting anomaly though. When I was in Italy a few months ago, I found that the Kiosks were processing transactions with my cards using the C&P system (I was required to enter a PIN). However, I helped some travellers from the U.S. buy their tickets, and the machine processed just using the magnetic stripe. This is probably a transitional arrangement, and I suspect that within a short time the Kiosks may be C&P only. ATM's should work fine with just the magnetic stripe. I'd highly recommend packing along a "backup" ATM card in case there are any problems with your primary card (I've had that happen!). Funds must usually be in a chequing account with a four number PIN. Finally, don't forget to notify each of your financial institutions and credit card firms that you'll be travelling so they don't "freeze" your cards when they notice transaction activity in Europe. Happy travels!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

In some countries it provides more convenience than others, but almost never mandatory for travelers, unless you want to buy a large amount of furniture at Ikea or you need to pay a plumber, electrician or notary. What countries do you plan to visit? I haven't used a magnetic swipe card over here since 2010, but nobody who has visited me from the US in that time period has experienced any trouble obtaining cash from ATMs. Even from the Volksbank ATM kiosk in my little village.

Posted by Jeff
Vancouver, WA, USA
70 posts

Last week I happened upon a Trenitalia kiosk at Assisi that did not accept cash. My US debit/ATM card with 4-digit PIN (no chip) worked fine.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
154 posts

I would only recommend getting one if you are driving in France. Many of the gas stations have automated pumps that only accept chip-and-PIN cards. It's possible to use your mag stripe card at stations on the autoroute with cashiers. There are also stations in most towns with cashiers (if you can find them). But unlike the US, there are many gas stations without any attendants, so they are full automated. Especially on Sundays, you may find it difficult to find a gas station that is open with an attendant.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

On the other hand you can get three hundred miles plus on a tank - - which is hard to do except on the freeways.

Posted by Jonna
Orange, CA, USA
10 posts

I agree with the other two responses. I was recently in Amsterdam. All merchants took our regular credit card, but any transportation require P and C. It is a very confusing situation.......JonnaRob

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

I think that Bank of America card Roberto mentioned is chip and signature, not chip and PIN.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2693 posts

Hi, "...under which circumstances a magnetic card is sufficient...? I'll mention one cicumstance. If you're going to Germany and planning on using a DB Automat to buy tickets, go ahead and use your magnetic stripe US credit card, I do, ...no problems. The transaction will go through. This is not the case in France or Holland. Also that card is acceptad at a staffed ticket counter in Germany. Even at the ATM for cash withdrawals using that credit card (not advisable),... no problems.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
248 posts

I used a mag strip only credit card (Cap One Visa) at the Oslo S station's automatic ticket machine two years ago. I just had to enter my 4 digit PIN as part of the transaction. While the machine was fully automated the train company was kind enough to have a human who helped with explanations. The explanation offered is that a PIN is required with mag strip cards but no required with chip cards. So it seems that the proper terminology should be "chip OR pin".

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7680 posts

Perhaps in that one instance, you had to have a chip or use a PIN, but that is not ordinarily the case. My Spanish friends used their chip and PIN cards all over, and they did, indeed, have to input a PIN after putting their cards in the machine. The term "chip and PIN" is accurate, and is used to distinguish that type of card from "chip and signature" cards that are available in the US. They have the chip, but will not usually work in fully automated systems because there is no PIN to input.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2386 posts

Perhaps to clarify a bit more. Whether a machine in Europe will accept a US chip & PIN/Signature card seems to depend on the technology used by that machine to process the transaction. Some people have reported using their US cards without problems, other times it won't work. Not too long ago an article link was posted that explained the technological differences used by various machines. And all US cards, whether chip or magnetic strip, have a PIN. Not everyone knows their PIN or has set up a PIN, but everyone should (it is especially useful if you ever need to use it in an emergency to get cash from an ATM).

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

In what country(ies) are you planning to travel. I am currently in Germany, and I have had no problem using a magnetic strip debit card for ATMs (4 withdrawals). I have also had no problem with using a magnetic strip card in places that take cards. Although I always pay cash for accommodations, I know that only 2 out of 7 places for 3 (of 17) nights that I have stayed in would have taken cards. On the other hand, we went shopping today in Munich. The large department store took credit cards and the strip card worked. On the other hand, a small jewelry store several blocks away only took cash.