My friend just returned from Italy and he said he had some significant problems of places not accepting his credit cards because they did not have a pin-in-chip. Has this been a problem for others? I know my credit card company does not offer them.
Did he say what kinds of places?
Restaurants and a hotel
I've never heard of a hotel or restaurant only accepting chip & pin cards. I suspect your friend didn't inform his/her bank of their travel plans and their card was simply being blocked because it appeared to be fraudulent activity.
A lot of hotels and restaurants don't want to accept ANY kind of credit card. Most will grudgingly, but the lack of chip & PIN is an easy excuse for them to demand cash. This is more of an issue in Italy, even though chip & PIN is less widely adopted there compared to northern Europe. In general, expect to pay cash most places. For very expensive bills, like hotels, verify that they accept CC's first and let them know that you have a swipe type card. All tourist-oriented businesses have the ability to accept the swipe style since almost no other US citizen has a chip & PIN.
"....A lot of hotels and restaurants don't want to accept ANY kind of credit card...." Did you mean to say small inns/B&Bs?? I've never come across a full-service hotel, budget or posh, that didn't happily accept credit cards. A lot of them actually prefer credit cards since they can put a hold on your card to recover items from the mini-bar, room service, pay-per-view, or damage to the room.
Some smaller places like B&Bs, small hotels and lots of restaurants will come up with very creative excuses to avoid taking credit cards even though they advertise that they accept them. Example: We had one small hotel in Varenna (Hotel Bar Beretta) that told us upon checkout that we would have to pay cash because their credit card machine wasn't working. We had to scramble and hit two different ATMS to get enough cash. About a year later we met a couple who had stayed at the same place. They were fed the same line about the CC machine not working, so they had to pay cash. There's a review on TripAdvisor from June of last year relaying a similar story, so they're still running this same scam.
I think it's well for American tourists to be aware of the "our credit card machine isn't working scam" which is more prevalent in Italy than any other country we've visited. There are many small hotels and B&B's which don't take cc's. Fine. They usually state that on their website and when you register. If a restaurant doesn't have cc logos in the window one can always check when entering and be prepared to pay cash. It's the petty chiselers who display the logos but won't accept the cc's that get my goat. They are saving the commission they'd have to pay the cc companies; and, probably, cheating on their taxes. Though there is much I love about Italy - - -we've been 13 or 14 times and are planning another trip in 2014 - - - I really dislike this aspect of some members of the Italian tourism industry. And, yes, it did happen to us once at a full-service, but independently owned hotel.
A few years back we stayed at a hotel in Rome that we found thru the RS book. Nice enough place. We paid cash on check-out, although they had a sign that said they took cash. We heard them tell another couple their machine was "not working", and there were some complaints about this in the RS guidebook feedback so apparently it was a regular practice. A year later they were not listed in the guidebook. I hope it was not a coincidence.
My husband and I were traveling In France last week. The SNCF trains would not take our credit cards. We tried online and also at the train station and one of their boutique stores. I had called my bank before we left for Europe to let them know we were traveling abroad. After we were unable to use our visa credit card I called my bank again, they suggested I ask the ticket agent to enter the three digit CRV code on the back of the card. I again tried to use my credit card at the next train station with no luck.... the agent had no idea what a CRV code was. What a headache. I ended up paying cash for all our train tickets.... That meant calling my bank and having my ATM credit increased and going to several ATMs to get enough cash. I heard that American Express cards may work we only had two Visa cards with us. I did not have any trouble at restaurants or hotels. I did have trouble at a retail store in Paris. Just a heads up....
I just got back from 5 days / 6 nites in Rome.. had no problem at all with my credit and debit cards... The restaurants, shops we went to accepted either type of credit card (swipe or chip). Jim
We are currently kicking around Tuscany in some pretty small places. The only credit card failure was a high end winery lunch > 240E. They claimed it was there fault because two cards failed. Had another bottle of wine and paid cash.