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Capital One credit card - need a PIN?

When any of you travelled through Scotland, did you need a PIN to use your Capital One credit card with a built-in chip? The Cap One website claims that it is not needed, but I have read so many threads on this forum and in Rick Steves' own materials that say you do. I decided to ask real travellers who might know. Thanks!

Posted by
4700 posts

Haven't been to Scotland, but elsewhere in Europe, my chip and signature card (no PIN) has worked perfectly well almost everywhere, even at many machines to buy tickets. (One exception: the ticket machines to buy train tickets in the Netherlands require a chip and PIN card. There are a few others.) When you make a purchase with a person involved, the terminal will print out two copies of the receipt, one of which you will need to sign. Some clerks may find this unusual unless they are used to dealing with tourists making purchases, but I've never had much trouble with it. (Occasionally I need to remind them that I need to sign the slip - for THEIR benefit not mine!) If you see a European make a purchase at the same place, all they do is type in their PIN and not sign anything.

I also have a true chip and PIN credit card. It's nice to have but very rarely needed. If I didn't have it, I'd just use cash in the rare times my chip and signature credit card wasn't accepted. One case people find a chip and PIN card handy is at unattended fuel pumps in Europe that only accept credit cards. A US card without a PIN may not work there, and that can be a problem if you are out of fuel at an odd hour without another station nearby!

Posted by
12205 posts

Everywhere we went in Scotland, our chip card worked fine without a PIN as long as we were using a terminal handed to us by a person.

Posted by
3465 posts

Nearly every US issuing credit card company and bank will tell you you don't need a PIN unless you plan on making cash advances at ATMs. Besides the fact that is absolutely the last way you want to get cash and should only be done in an emergency, their view of the need of a PIN is always given from the US view of transactions. You will never need a PIN in the US for any type of purchase.

With that said, I have found the PIN on my Capital One credit card to be useful in Europe. I bought train tickets at an unmanned kiosk and it insisted that I had to put in a PIN. I did, the transaction went through, I got my train tickets. A few other places as well required a PIN (I think in those cases it was operator error on the part of the clerk) but I still had to sign the receipt.

So go ahead and get your PIN. You may never need it, but it won't hurt if you have it and then need it. Capital One will probably tell you you will be charged for cash advances whenever you use your PIN. That is false for purchases. The only time you will be charged for a cash advance is when you do a cash advance at n ATM or with a bank teller. My last trip to Europe I did around a dozen transactions which required me to enter a PIN. I was not charged for a cash advance for any of them.

Posted by
4524 posts

I agree with Mark - go ahead and get the PIN. It may come in handy, but you'll almost always either be asked to sign or no verification will be needed at all (increasingly banks are eliminating the need for signatures).

Posted by
5561 posts

The biggest issue is that you must have a place with a human being. I wanted to buy gas in Birnam. But the only gas station while it was associated with a garage, they had nothing to do with the pumps. I had to head up to Ballinluig to find a place to buy gas. So, be sure to top up your gas when you can.

Posted by
25 posts

In several trips throughout Europe over the last 10 years, I had an actual PIN and chip card from Andrews Credit Union. It was designed to be used with the PIN since they serve military around the world. Surprisingly, despite that built in PIN function, all but one place required a signature. Apparently, the European systems default to "signature required" if it is a U.S. credit card. It gets even worse beyond the immediate area of Paris, the toll roads accept only French credit cards. Have cash. I don't think that is the case in Scotland, but keep some Pounds on you just in case. And yes, do get a PIN for each card that you plan to use in Scotland.

Posted by
4700 posts

In several trips throughout Europe over the last 10 years, I had an actual PIN and chip card from Andrews Credit Union. It was designed to be used with the PIN since they serve military around the world. Surprisingly, despite that built in PIN function, all but one place required a signature. Apparently, the European systems default to "signature required" if it is a U.S. credit card

Nothing to do with the card being "American." It's just how the Andrews card is set up - it defaults to signature if there is a person is involved in the transaction. But at a machine, you can use your PIN - which is where you usually need it, anyway. I used to have this card but don't anymore - now my US credit union has a card that is a true chip and PIN, and I use my PIN when making a purchase in Europe even with a human involved in the transaction.

Posted by
6 posts

Just got back from my trip and wanted to update the thread, in case anyone else had questions.

I never needed a PIN for the Cap One credit card. I inserted it into the card reader. The transaction was processed the same way it would have in the States. I was occasionally asked to sign the card slip, again just as I sometimes am in the States.

One item to note - I encountered a few situations where the card reader was down. Having a little bit of cash in the pocket was a good idea. I would like to point out that this happened in large cities, not small towns in the Highlands. One incident happened at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the last place you would expect!

Posted by
4890 posts

Be careful not to use your credit card PIN to get a "Cash Advance" at an ATM or cash machine, rather than a retail purchase. The Cash Advance carries massive fees and immediate interest charges. Only get cash money with your bank account ATM/Debit card. (That may still involve fees - check with your bank.)