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Chip and PIN credit cards

I will be traveling to the Benelux countries and France in the spring. Rick's books refer to European's using chip and pin credit cards. How do I know if my credit cards will work in Europe. My cards have chips but I do not understand the PIN and when it is needed. Thank you.

Posted by
1650 posts

Make sure you know the PINs of the credit cards you take and you'll be good to go. When we spent a week in the Loire Valley last May, I can't recall ever needing to use my PIN. That includes toll booths.

More and more places are accepting ApplePay, which I prefer to use. You can attach any credit card you want to ApplePay. With ApplePay, the vendor never sees your credit card number. The system uses one time tokens, which quickly expire. This is a lot more secure.

Posted by
122 posts

If you don't know your PIN, contact the card issuer well in advance of the trip because when they reset the PIN, the number is mailed to you, and that takes time. If you know your PIN but have never used it, try it out on an ATM and make sure it works.

I have never needed my PIN in Europe. and Apple Pay is spreading and the best way to use your CC. Otherwise I like to use cash at small businesses, but anytime I see that they take Apple Pay that is how I pay. I don't like to pull my CCs out of my neck wallet, etc, over there.

Posted by
3316 posts

...try it out on an ATM and make sure it works...

If it is a credit card as opposed to a debit card, you might incur some fees and high interest as the system may consider it a "cash advance". You might want to check with your bank about that as well as getting or resetting a pin. Also, be sure to let them know when and where you'll be traveling so they don't think a scam is taking place and freeze your account.

The last few time we were in Europe there were times we needed a pin, and times when we didn't even with the same card. Go figure.

Posted by
122 posts

You can test your credit card at an ATM without going through with the transaction, so no need to actually withdraw money or incur fees, etc. Or take out $10...

Posted by
15573 posts

At least for the GVB (Amsterdam public transit authority), a true chip & PIN is required. Or cash as far as I know.

Posted by
1005 posts

This is less of a problem than it used to be, but it can still cause some hassles. You've gotten good advice from the previous posts. Call your bank and ask them to send you the PIN for your credit card (they won't tell you over the phone). You may not have to use it, but it's good to know. In France you MAY have a problem at toll booths, so always use the lanes marked with a GREEN ARROW. These machines take credit cards and cash, so you can try your card and if it doesn't work, then use cash. Gas stations in France can also be a problem if they are unattended--the pumps will only work with a credit card and sometimes US cards won't work even with a chip and a PIN. Be vigilant and don't let your tank get close to empty and you should be fine. If you're on the autoroute, the gas will cost more, but there is always an attendant who can take your card.

Posted by
30932 posts

"How do I know if my credit cards will work in Europe. My cards have chips but I do not understand the PIN and when it is needed."

The best source of information would be to contact a knowledgeable person at your financial institutions. With a true Chip & PIN (EMV) card, a PIN will be required for transactions. If your card normally works with a signature, I'm not sure if it will work as a C&P card in Europe. Many cards these days also have a proximity chip for "touch" transactions which are separate from the C&P function, and that can be used up to a set daily limit (often $100, but varies with each bank).

As someone else mentioned, I also found that rail ticket offices in the Netherlands would only accept true C&P even several years ago.

Posted by
12091 posts

I have the usual chip and signature credit card which Americans have. Where I have had to provide the PIN to complete the transaction is using the DB ticket machine in Germany to buy a train ticket.

The little key pad screen will show "PIN eingeben," at which time using the key pad, I punch my 4 digit PIN to the chip and signature Visa card already inserted in the machine.

Admittedly, the first time doing this, I hesitated; it dawned on me to cancel the transaction since I didn't want to punch in the PIN. I went ahead anyway, punched in the PIN, heard this "sound" indicating the transaction had gone through, plus the ticket area had the light flashing. What drops into the ticket area is your ticket and the receipt showing you paid by credit card.

In Paris the US chip and signature credit card will not work on the SNCF ticket machine, a little note indicates that in French , obviously, and English.

Posted by
8573 posts

The answers you have gotten are all over and are answering questions you didnt ask.

If your card has a chip, and it is a U.S. card, then chances are it is a chip and signature card. You can use it almost all places that you use a chip and pin card. Some ticket machines and gas stations will not accept it.

You will need a pin if you want to use the card to withdraw cash from an ATM. But don't do that with your credit card as it is seen as a cash advance and you will be charged interest.

Also look to see on the front of your card if there is a symbol that sort of looks like this---))). If you have it, then it is a contactless card and in most cases all you have to do is tap the card on the credit card terminal.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks to all of you for taking your valuable time to answer my credit card question. I have learned a lot. I will be lots more knowledgable now when contacting my bank. Thanks again. Monte

Posted by
4806 posts

Maybe some more info is warranted.

If you were not issued a PIN, or not aware of it, then likely your card is not a true Chip and PIN, Chip and Signature cards can be issued a PIN, but the intent for it is for use in an ATM to get a Cash Advance, not really for purchases. It is still handy, for reasons below, to have that PIN.

Being able to get a cash advance at an ATM is a valuable travel back-up, rarely will you need it if you have verified your Debit card(s), but handy in a pinch.

Many Credit Cards will allow low Dollar transactions (varies, but $50 USD is common). In these cases, your card may work fine in an unmanned kiosk or machine. Some will ask for a PIN, many have experienced that punching in the Cash Advance PIN they were assigned will help the transaction complete, some have reported any combination of numbers worked as well, but your assigned PIN is a better bet. For some machines, only a valid assigned PIN for purchases will work. It all has to do with what method of verification your card requires, as well as what types of verification the machine requires...so the experience of others is only an indicator, not a guarantee of what you will experience (too many possibilities).

In the end, try it out. If possible keep the transaction amounts low (in a pinch, try buying one ticket at a time), otherwise, keep cash on hand in case the machine takes cash (many new ones do not or only one of a group of machines does). Many stations do have manned counters as well, however if you are heading to a small town, you might consider getting your return ticket when you get your outbound ticket, rather than risking it.

Posted by
11704 posts

My experience is Similar to Fred's.

In most countries, including Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, British Isles, Spain, Italy, etc., you simply use your current American credit card, which is almost certainly not a "Chip and Pin" card (even though you can set a pin and it has a chip). More often than not, machines will spit out tickets and stores/restaurants will hand you a slip to sign - no big deal.

I have yet to visit Belgium. So far the only country I've had difficulty in is France. Their machines usually take a second attempt before tickets are spit out. Automatic gas stations won't work at all without a true Chip and Pin card. Toll booths are always an adventure (all except two, so far, I've been able to get something to work - the others I had to resort to cash). I can't say if Belgium is more like France or more like other countries?

I have a Chip and Pin that I went out of my way to get from Andrews Federal Credit Union. So far the only benefit has been using automatic gas stations (plus a little easier for ticket machines and toll booths). Andrews FCU is a horrible financial institution. Until more banks start offering a true Chip and Pin it's not worth worrying about IMO.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

I can't remember if I was issued a 4 digit PIN when I applied for the Visa chip and signature card. I chose my own PIN instead, the 4 digits I would rather have than accept one given to me. One main reason is that I remember it so much easily. Bottom line is that I had it when buying a ticket from the DB machine the very first time. Once you see the PIN asked for, punch it in otherwise the transaction , ie your purchase cannot be completed. Then you'll need cash instead.

Posted by
2799 posts

The best source of information would be to contact a knowledgeable person at your financial institutions.

Might as well try to find a needle in a haystack, at least in the US.

Posted by
4806 posts

I have a Chip and Pin that I went out of my way to get from Andrews Federal Credit Union. So far the only benefit has been using automatic gas stations (plus a little easier for ticket machines and toll booths)

Yes, I think the main problem with nearly all US based chip and PIN cards is that they are still Signature priority, so in most instances with a person there...you sign a slip. However, being able to fall back on a PIN at an unmanned ticket machine or Gas pump, to me would have value, as opposed to being stuck or having to search for an alternative.

I do have a Pin priority card, and it has never let me down, worked in all instances. I also like the security of having a PIN, the card is pretty much useless without it.

Posted by
226 posts

As some have said - if your US card has a chip in it, it is likely it is Chip and Signature. For the most part, it wont be a big deal - though you may get the odd quizzical look from a vendor at having to hand you a receipt to sign. For credit cards, if you get a cash advance, you will need a pin - which your credit card company can help you with. If you have a debit card with a 4-digit pin, those will work in ATMs.

Posted by
573 posts

Also following on from what Tom says, make sue the back of your card is signed. Or at the very least have id with your photo a d signature on. Other wise how do i know the card is yours????

Posted by
2799 posts

though you may get the odd quizzical look from a vendor at having to hand you a receipt to sign

Maybe that might happen in some countries, but it's never happened to me in France, even in small villages in rural France.