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Debit Cards from BC Credit Unions

I know this topic has been beaten to death, but I would like to ask a specific questions. Do debit cards from British Columbia Credit Unions work in Great Britain and Europe. I have checked with my branches and they say they do, but since this will be my main source of funds, I would like to hear from someone who has actually travelled in Europe. Sorry again for bringing this up.

Posted by
32273 posts

Warren,

I always travel with my Credit Union debit cards, and those are my primary cards for ATM withdrawals. However, it's important to note that while these work well to obtain cash from ATM's, they CAN'T be used for "point-of-sale" purchases as they are here. Also, your travel funds must be in a chequing account with a four-number PIN.

I've found that it's a good idea to always travel with a backup card as well. For some reason, my primary Credit Union card wouldn't work for about 10-days during my trip last year (although it has worked well on past trips). The problem was apparently some kind of "coding issue" between the financial institutions, and it was eventually resolved. Having a backup card really paid off on that occasion!

The Credit Union had noticed the pattern of unsuccessful ATM use with the one card, and phoned me in France to find out what the situation was. I always travel with a Cell phone, and it was fortunate they were able to reach me as they probably would have "frozen" BOTH CARDS.

Having at least one credit card is also a good idea. If the situation is desperate, it's usually possible to get a "cash advance" (although the interest rates are steep). If you're planning to purchase tickets from automatic ticket machines (especially in France), those will ONLY accept the newer "chip & PIN" credit cards (as well as Euro cash in most cases).

The Credit Unions are only now starting to roll-out their "chip & PIN" credit cards, but most of the Banks have been issuing them for some time. I also deal with one of the Banks, and they were really good about issuing me a new "chip" card before my trip last year, even though it wasn't renewal time yet.

Hope this helps.

Happy travels!

Posted by
32273 posts

Michael & Brad,

The ATM/Debit cards issued by the Credit Unions here in B.C. are somewhat of an "in house" product. They have Interac, Cirrus, Maestro and Exchange logos on the back, but don't have any Visa or MasterCard logos.

I've found that they work well for ATM withdrawals just about anywhere, however they don't seem to work for POS purchases outside of Canada. In the last month or so, I tried making purchases in the Palm Springs area as well as Seattle (just to see if there was any change from my last visit), but no success. Therefore, they won't work for POS purchases in Europe (but will allow ATM withdrawals).

I do have one Credit Union product that appears to be a normal MasterCard. Transactions are processed in the usual way, with a signature required on the charge slip, but the money is actually withdrawn from a chequing account rather than being added to a charge account. That card would likely also work for purchases.

I've just received a "chip & PIN debit card from one of the Banks I deal with, and it also doesn't have any Visa or MasterCard logos on the back. I suspect it also wouldn't work for POS transactions in Europe, but would work for ATM withdrawals.

It's important to note that the financial products available in Canada are somewhat different than in the U.S. A lot depends on which financial institution one deals with, and the type of products they offer.

Cheers!

Posted by
9109 posts

I do have one Credit Union product that appears to be a normal MasterCard. Transactions are processed in the usual way, with a signature required on the charge slip, but the money is actually withdrawn from a chequing account rather than being added to a charge account. That card would likely also work for purchases.

This is exactly what I'm talking about, and the same type of debit card I have. Thus it sounds like the same types of debit cards are available in both the US and Canada.....including some other kinds.

Posted by
12197 posts

It really depends on what syndicates your Credit Union subscribes to.

If your card has a Visa or Mastercard logo on it, you're good. You will be able to use virtually any ATM in Europe.

If not, what logos are on it? Usually your card will have more than one syndicate logo. Some syndicates are widely available in Europe and others aren't at all. You can find available ATM's online or ask your bank for a list.

Posted by
9109 posts

Ken wrote:
However, it's important to note that while these work well to obtain cash from ATM's, they CAN'T be used for "point-of-sale" purchases as they are here. Also, your travel funds must be in a chequing account with a four-number PIN.

If the debit card has either a MC or Visa logo, you should be able to use it for POS purchases. In theory you can use these types of debit cards at any merchant that accepts credit card payment. I have a debit card with a MC logo on it, and routinely use it to make purchases overseas, never had a problem.

Posted by
32273 posts

Michael,

The product I'm using sounds like the same type of card you described. However, one important point to note is that this particular card is no longer being routinely issued by most Credit Unions here (there may be a few exceptions). I was "grandfathered" so they continue to provide me with the card.

Cheers!

Posted by
12197 posts

Ken,

It may be true that Canadian (or BC) Credit Unions all offer the same services/products.

US Credit Unions can be anything from a very tiny, single office institution to a very large, multi-branch system that is essentially the same as a bank (which bugs the banks because they are subject to taxes CUs don't have to pay). Here, what is true of one credit union isn't necessarily true of other credit unions, including the ATM/debit cards they offer.

Posted by
32273 posts

Brad,

Just to clarify, not all Credit Unions here offer the same products. The MasterCard product I mentioned is no longer offered at the Credit Union I deal with, however IT IS available at the Credit Union that the OP deals with.

We also have Credit Unions of various sizes. There have been some amalgamations in recent years here in B.C., so the "one office" types are pretty much extinct.

Cheers!