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Respectful Request from more seasoned travelers than I

My family and I have been to Scotland before as tourists and enjoyed it very much. That was before Covid and a time when a flight and a hotel reservation meant relaxation and fun, however that is not the case at present. I now have a situation to deal with and must make some decisions with a safe and careful as possible approach. Before I mention anything further some background to fill in any of you who are willing to help with info and advice: US passport holders, from the northeast of the US, will be flying out of and back into an east coast airport, aware and educated about the quarantine requirements there and here, we will not be traveling as tourists and just to be absolutely clear not traveling as tourists and have no interest in seeing sights or any of the fun stuff Scotland has to offer during this trip, plan to travel in the near(ish) future or as soon as plans can be confirmed. Will have to stay near Edinburgh, but it’s not necessary to book lodging in the popular tourist destination areas as we will not be seeing anything, just need access to public transportation after the quarantine time is completed. As of right now looking to stay in one or possibly two apartments for a duration of a couple of months with the option to extend if needed, staying put in one accommodation would be ideal if allowed.

Please understand that this possible trip does not come lightly and I do not feel the need to justify it or violate anyone’s privacy by explaining anything that is immaterial to the inquiry. I have been reading on this site for a few years now and have gained a lot of knowledge, thank you! Lately I cannot help but notice that some have been less than kind when responding to questions about travel prior to vaccine availability or an end to covid. I am painfully aware of the current travel situation and am really simply asking for some advice and insight to help carefully plan in a way I’ve never had to before. Feedback regarding my stupidity or recklessness is not helpful and not what I believe this forum is about.

If anyone has traveled to the UK or knows someone who has (or who lives there) since this most trying time appeared, my questions are as follows: (1) how did you get groceries or other essentials during quarantine; (2) are Americans treated okay or should we expect harsh treatment; (3) with only a US bank issued card are there options to get a visa type gift card with £ loaded on it as I have read here that grocery delivery options are sparse with a US card (love food and would really like to have access to nourishment, haha); and (4) would really appreciate any advice for things that I have not thought of.

Thanks in advance for any information or advice provided, I truly appreciate it. Hopefully someday I will be able to answer some travel related questions for someone else, until then I will rely on the wisdom and experience of forum posters here. I hope you all have a wonderful day, stay safe out there!

Posted by
19519 posts

In this earlier thread, a poster reported ordering groceries online from Waitrose and paying with a US credit card:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/quarantine-after-land-at-heathrow

It's not clear whether that poster was in London or elsewhere in the UK. Another poster was unsuccesful in Manchester, but I don't know which experience was more recent, or whether the discepancy was due to policy differences in the two areas. I'd suggest PMing Laurel to ask exactly when she was successful in ordering from Waitrose.

I don't recall reading anything so specific about other supermarket chains, but that doesn't mean Waitrose is necessarily your only viable option (if, indeed, it is viable in Scotland). I believe Waitrose is a bit above average in cost, but that may mean it has more attractive prepared-food options, which might be a plus for you.

This map shows the Waitrose locations in Scotland: https://www.bing.com/maps?FORM=BDT3DF&PC=BDT3&q=waitrose+scotland

Posted by
21356 posts

You may not want to provide information but that does affect the quality of the answers. Traveling in the near future may be difficult since conditions/requirements are constantly changing and that makes specific answers more difficult to provide.

  1. What do you mean by harsh treatment? You are expect to follow the rules/requirements the same as any citizen.

  2. Generally the pre-loaded, gift card is a bad idea since you have almost no recourse if it doesn't work. The probability of non-acceptance is higher than debit and credit cards. Standard Visa or Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted and, of course, a debit card at a bank own ATM should always work. Some credit cards require advance of your travel plans. So check with your card issuer. Our pattern is three credit cards and two debit cards. Always found one that works. Would not recommend going with a single credit or debit card. Backup is always useful.

Posted by
34 posts

Hi OP,
I’m resident in London and have used various grocery delivery services during lockdown. If you are usually able to use your US debit card in the UK, then you should be fine. Good advice to have more than one with you just in case. Waitrose and Ocado are both excellent in range and service, at the top end of the price range but not wildly so. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are more mid-range but I have no personal experience of their delivery service. All of them should be fine. I would suggest setting up your account with your chosen service before you travel using your Edinburgh address, and placing an order and booking your delivery slot before you leave home. That way you wont have a hungry hiatus after you arrive. Edinburgh is a big city and you should have no problems getting deliveries, and Deliveroo and Uber Eats are available too! If we’re in lockdown again, slots may be scarce, so book well in advance if that’s the case.
I don’t think you will find any unpleasantness- after all, you’ll be complying with the quarantine rules. It’s the usual thing - be considerate and you’ll get consideration back.

Posted by
6949 posts

I thought it was really curious about the grocery stores not taking American cards, because of course you can pay with American cards anywhere. I think it must have more to do with setting up an account as one has to do if one is going to get delivery. I,e. you have to put in the billing address for your card, and the site is not equipped to take American postal addresses.

With that said, if you have an idea of the general area you will probably be staying in, I would ask the apartment owner or look on a map to get an idea of the bigger grocery stores in the vicinity, and then simply try to set up accounts (with your American card) at the various ones and see how it goes. Make a test order and see how far you get (or do a real order and have some treats delivered to a friend or family member!).

That would be what I would give a try as a first step.

Posted by
1507 posts

Make sure you have informed your credit card company that you will be ordering groceries in Scotland. I have a travel credit card that allows me to order things online (train tickets is my experience) in Europe but my other cards won’t go through unless I have called before hand.

Posted by
2473 posts

I thought it was really curious about the grocery stores not taking
American cards, because of course you can pay with American cards
anywhere.

Some European online stores require 3D secure if you want to pay by card. And grocery stores that only deliver to their local area might not be able to handle cards without 3D secure.

Posted by
6949 posts

Ah yes, ok. Again it's the difference between paying in person at a terminal in a store, and paying over the internet.

Posted by
1322 posts

I wish I could help and am sorry you have received some of the type of comments you asked to be spared. Your post was thoughtful and clear - very unlike most first posters who clearly are not staying up with news. I am glad you have also received some helpful information. Were you looking for suggestions on where to base yourself, as well?

I have no trouble imagining real situations which could easily happen in my life that would have me in your shoes asap (although not in Scotland). Best wishes for a safe and successful journey.

Posted by
204 posts

I don’t think you need to fear harsh treatment. I know there have been articles or postings suggesting you’d be unwelcome, but as an American myself living in London, I haven’t really experienced anything like that. I’ve gotten a few more questions along the lines of “where are you from” when I’ve been outside London - I think essentially trying to probe if I came over from America - but the tone was more curious than hostile. And in London no one cares because it’s such an international city. Nowhere have I experienced any sort of widespread hostility toward Americans. Just follow the rules and you’ll be okay.

Posted by
10304 posts

Let's talk about food delivery. One person here has been successful in using Waitrose but it's the only one I didn't try last year as there was no Waitrose near where I was staying. Other supermarkets--Sainsbury's, Tescos, ASDA--will not accept U.S. credit cards for ONLINE purchases. (I contacted the corporate headquarters of each one and they said no as there is no way to input a U.S. billing address.) No problem in the stores themselves. I even went into the stores to see if I could set up an account in person but the managers couldn't do it. (This was before the virus.)

The restaurant delivery services--Deliveroo and Uber Eats--will accept U.S. cards with no problem.

Amazon.co.uk has some food available and you can get them to deliver.

Will you be treated badly? Who knows. The Scots are friendly but you could meet up with some who arent' thrilled with you being there. Being an American would have nothing to do with it.

I tried to get a Visa type gift card to give someone in London last year as a baby present but they didn't even exist. (You could, on arrival in Scotland, stop at your local supermarket and buy one of their cards if you can use it online. Technically this would be breaking the quarantine rules.) You can also go online to each of the major supermarkets and see what they are offering through online ordering.

Remember, rules pertaining to lockdowns, mask, going to restaurants, stores, etc are different in Scotland than in England.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for the informative replies, it will really make a difference in planning. I have abandoned the visa gift card idea and appreciate the time savings from the knowledge provided in the posts that it won’t do what I need it to do, I could have really chased my tail for hours with that one. Waitrose will be investigated ASAP, it would be such a relief if that works out. Last year I had a terrible time using US based cards to purchase anything online that originated in the UK or EU both at home and once there. To buy train tickets I was successful while still in the US after using the chat function with a rep and the next day received the go ahead by a manager via email to book, the other train had to be booked while I was physically standing in the station. An accommodation booking I had made at home was canceled last minute and I tried unsuccessfully to rebook there as none of the websites overseas would take my card(s). The bank(s) told me they did not decline the charge, it didn’t even show up, the card system in the EU and UK simply rejects most US cards these days unless it is a specific type of card. Luckily after a few anxious hours on a train a new booking was accepted by a different place while standing in their lobby and handing the card to them directly. Sleeping on a park bench never materialized as an option. Lesson learned. The grocery stores saying okay to in person purchases and no to online purchases after that experience makes sense, but quarantine makes register purchases a non-option. Uber Eats will be the go to backup plan. Probably a silly question I should already know the answer to, but does Uber eats mean Uber is also an option? I only ask because it would be easier to schedule an Uber from the airport ahead of time. We always just bought tickets once boarding the bus shuttle to Waverly, but in the interest of safety an Uber with masks makes the most sense.

The reason I asked about any potential treatment of Americans is because the only person I know who has traveled abroad in the past several months from the states had been quite candid about the open hostility she and her son received while in Western Ireland for a long planned extended family event. However, if Americans are showing up in Ireland and being total jerks about not following the rules I completely understand where the go home response is coming from. As an American I would probably say something not too terribly nice to them as well. Rules are there to protect everyone and apply to everyone. Where I live the virus hit quick and it hit hard early on, we all endured months of confinement in our homes and strict rules to get some control in place, many of those rules are still being followed by most of the residents. Things are better now, but when visitors from states that must abide by the quarantine rules of our state act like they’re too special to comply it does not go over well. It would never occur to us to not quarantine or test or or both, whatever is in place upon landing, especially as guests in another country.

I really do appreciate the input and welcome any further information or advice. Thank you again.

Posted by
935 posts

My understanding is that Capital One has a no European charge card. My experience with B of A debit cards was very good but I didn't try to buy food for delivery. For my next trip, I intend to front load a Capital One debit card and then hit the ATMs. I paid for hotels with a Chase Credit card and had no problems, and the B of A debit was universally accepted at the ATMs.

Good luck with your finances.

Posted by
1322 posts

Agreed that your credit card woes are most like a result of which one you have. I also have never had trouble with my Capitol One. In addition, I have a Capitol One 360 online checking account for which I have an ATM card - it’s my go-to for getting cash when I arrive. I got both of those as a result of forum recommendations. Cap One is the only one I have actually used in England and Scotland - but my Chase Sapphire worked well in Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland recently. Knowing that you are staying for an extended time and will need to rely on a credit card, it would probably be worth your while to get one with a proven track record.

Posted by
6949 posts

I think what Frank II has said is most key to your potential issue. He's obviously had experience with exactly this problem and has researched accordingly.

My advice of trying to set up accounts now still holds but unfortunately I fear you may not have much success on that front, given his experience. I wish we had a better answer for you.

Posted by
1984 posts

Perhaps you could direct your questions to the landlord of the apartment you plan to rent?

Posted by
3477 posts

Glad to hear you have given up on the gift card option. First, any Visa or MasterCard (or American Express) gift card purchased in the US will work only in the US. This is to reduce money laundering. There are travel cards which are available from AAA and other sources, but the fees charged by them when you use the card make them way too expensive as well as having a very unfriendly exchange rate they charge to add funds to the card. People I know who have attempted to use the travel cards also have had limited success at purchases and even ATM withdrawals.

The address issue when setting up online grocery delivery is something I never really thought about. I guess there is no compelling business reason to have international billing addresses allowed since the deliveries are local.

Posted by
2473 posts

The bank(s) told me they did not decline the charge, it didn’t even
show up, the card system in the EU and UK simply rejects most US cards
these days unless it is a specific type of card.

It is a known issue, but ask your bank why you can't get a card with 3D secure. It might not help at the moment, but if enough people do it some US banks might decide to join the 21st century.

Posted by
10304 posts

Waitrose will be investigated ASAP, it would be such a relief if that works out.

You will be able to set up an account from home but won't know if your credit card will work until you place an order. And before you rent a flat, make sure Waitrose will deliver to it. They don't deliver everywhere.

Last year I had a terrible time using US based cards to purchase anything online that originated in the UK or EU both at home and once there

Did you alert your bank and credit card issuer that you were traveling overseas? If not, they may see it as a fake charge and not approve it. It's best to have more than one type of credit card. Sometimes when one card doesn't work, another one does. I have cards with two different banks and American Express. Occassionally, I've used Paypal as an alternative online without problems. I buy things online from numberous British businesses and rarely have a problem. (In one insance, for some shaving supplies I like, it was actually cheaper to have the stuff delivered to the U.S. than have it delivered to me in the UK.)

does Uber eats mean Uber is also an option?

Not necessarily. There are some places that allow Uber Eats but not Uber. Don't just neglect Deliveroo. Download the app. I believe, although our UK friends can correct me if I am wrong, it is larger than Uber Eats. There are others as well such as Just Eat and Hungryhouse. Get on the Uber app and see if it is available for your needs.

Posted by
1496 posts

It sounds as if you have been in Edinburgh a few times in the past.
In the event of having trouble with deliveries, do you know anyone there who could shop for you, and drop the goods at your door as needed?

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, HBWT,

I see a Richard Boone reference there! :)

None of your problems are insurmountable. How many people are in your travelling party? Is there anyone in your party who would be able to do the grocery shopping?

Quarantine restrictions are changing from week to week, just as they are here. The best thing to do is to keep checking the Scottish government websites to see what restrictions could be in place when you are due to travel. You may have to quarantine for 14 days upon your arrival, but it sounds as though you were going to do that anyway. When you do go out, a mask is required in the shops, and social distancing is just as much in effect in Scotland as it is here.

As far as grocery shopping, if no one in your party is willing to do that, perhaps the person who is coordinating your lodging in Scotland could help you out. Perhaps by bringing groceries to your lodging prior to your arrival. The Scots are a very friendly people, as you've discovered on your previous visits. Until your quarantine ends (if there is one), you may be able to have a neighbour pick up and pay for your groceries, which you could reimburse them for in cash.

Once the quarantine has lifted, you can avoid conflict by going through the self-service aisle at checkout. However, you should not encounter any problems. There are hundreds of U.S. and Canadian citizens living in the Edinburgh area. Your accent should not raise any hackles as long as you speak in a normal tone of voice and smile. Just don't dress in any Celtic or Rangers colours!

The tourism industry in Scotland has taken a serious hit due to the pandemic. You will be welcomed, but if anyone gives you a problem, you can explain why you are there, without giving any personal details. Your welcome in Scotland should be the least of your concerns.

As far as obtaining cash, you can obtain pounds at any of the bank ATMs. If your home bank in the U.S. charges you a set fee for foreign ATM transactions, then you need to take out as much as you can at each transaction. Some U.S. banks allow you to make foreign ATM withdrawals at no charge if you have a certain type of checking account, or maintain a specific balance. If you're going to be in Scotland for two months, you are certainly going to need to maintain a healthy checking account balance. Don't forget that if you use your credit card to obtain cash from an ATM, you're paying high interest from day one.

Have you considered obtaining a credit card from a bank in Scotland? It may not be as easy as it used to be, but a friend obtained a card years ago from a bank in Wales. He still has it. I had a checking account and savings account in Scotland (Clydesdale Bank) for many years for frequent visits, and to pay B&Bs that didn't accept credit cards. I still use my U.S. based credit card for purchases from Amazon.uk, and have never encountered any problems, even when I was having items sent to friends in Scotland, for pickup upon my arrival. Supermarkets may be another kettle of fish, however. That's why I think that having someone pick up groceries for you may be your best bet for your time in quarantine (again, if there is one when you're over), and then reimbursing them in cash. With a small tip, of course! That would also work out for having meals delivered. I don't think that any Chinese, Indian, or fish and chip shop would turn down cash for delivery. There also may be a local family run shop which is willing to make grocery deliveries for cash, although you will no doubt pay a little more.

As i said at the beginning, no problem is insurmountable. It sounds as though your time in Scotland will be for reasons of a stressful nature. Do not let these problems of obtaining food or the possibility of being ostracized detract from your time there. As they say in Scotland, "Dinna fash yersel!"

Best wishes, and stay safe!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
941 posts

Hi again, HBWT,

"Wire Paladin, San Francisco"

Just thought of one more thing - keep checking the Scottish newspapers' (Glasgow Herald, The Scotsman, Press and Journal, etc.) websites to keep abreast of the current situation re COVID-19. Most of them allow you to see a limited number of articles before they disappear behind a paywall. You can often get a one month free limited subscription by agreeing to pay after a month. It's worth looking into, as the newspapers are more up to date than the government websites.

Once again, best wishes, and stay safe.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
21356 posts

OK -- going out on a limb and violating my standard of only posting what I know from experience and not guessing from what I have read or think I know. So double check all of this ---

It is my understanding that 3D secure was similar or maybe the same as Verified by VISA program. And it was a variation or perhaps similar to the 2 step verification often used by financial institutions and other sites wanting a higher level of security. If you have VISA credit and/or debit card, go to the VISA web site and see if you can find a section on Verified by VISA. Should be a place where you register your credit cards. We did that several years ago so that is a little fuzzy at the moment. We have PINs for our VISA card but don't remember if the pins are tied to the verified program.

Hopefully someone who is more knowledgeable about the Verified by VISA program will come along.

Posted by
530 posts

Just on grocery delivery. If Waitrose won't deliver to the area in which you plan to rent a flat, then consider Tesco, Sainsbury's or Asda for deliveries.

Deliveroo is certainly operating in Edinburgh, and probably has a wider reach than Uber Eats. You could also simply search online for good take away food places offering delivery near where you are staying and phone them up to place an order and pay by card over the phone.

In terms of getting to Waverley station from the airport you might consider the tram. More space than on a bus. Everyone will be wearing masks on any form of public transport unless they are exempt for medical reasons. Compliance with the mask rules is very high in Scotland.

Best wishes, Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
8 posts

I am so grateful for all of this wonderful information. We like to stay in New Town due to its location, but that was as tourists so if anyone has a different suggestion for a location with public transportation access where there might be a bit more space, please let me know, I am open to any ideas. Before any overseas trip I do inform financial institutions of the where and when of any travel. In person purchases or cash at ATM transactions were fine, once the internet is involved my cards were useless. I spoke to a rep at the bank who had little information as to solving the card issue, however she did put in a request for someone else to call me on Monday or Tuesday, I’ll ask about the 3D. The verified by Visa is something I will research, I had never thought of that, thank you. I have heard from a couple friends who moved to the EU they had a really tough time opening bank accounts due to the US reporting regulations. I’m still going to check into Clydesdale Bank because that would be an amazing option. If all else fails I will open an account with capital one if I have enough time and can do it online before I go. I have asked a trusted friend here to make purchases for us if need be and we’re really in a bind.

Contacting the local landlord is a great idea! I had not thought to do that and as soon as plans are final I’ll book accommodation and ask about deliveries. I’ve paid a small fee to hold flights and hope to get everything done by tomorrow. 2-3 weeks is not a big deal for pets and plants mail pick up and all of the small stuff. A couple months is a whole different ball of wax indeed.

Once quarantine is done I will for sure use the self service lanes at the grocery stores, thanks for the info. Tesco and Sainsbury are well known to us, I am getting the app for Waitrose and Deliveroo downloaded today. If restaurants will accept cash for a delivery I am happy to go that route, if we can do that and maybe find someone who will pick up a few items while they’re at the store that would solve the food issue. A nice tip in exchange for nourishment however it happens sounds like a win-win to me, fish and chips...I can almost taste it.

Looking into Amazon later today and if I can place an order that would be so easy not just for food, but for other essentials. The newspapers in Edinburgh is brilliant and yet another thing I would have never thought of. Keeping up on what’s going on there locally will be very useful not just for virus updates, but also for general information. Bookmarking those websites immediately.

I’ve seen the tram, but oddly enough have never taken it instead relying on the buses, trains and my feet. I’ll make it a point to give it a go this time. It was such a relief to hear the Scots are just as wonderful now as they have always been, our family is very respectful and hopefully as long as we are kind we’ll receive it back. All rules will be followed, spending will be as abundant as possible in the Edinburgh economy and while it’s not a vacation maybe there may be some joy to be had, it is beautiful Scotland after all.

The people in our party is the two of us, our elementary aged child and eventually our college aged child. Fortunately remote learning is available so no one will miss any lessons. We have had covid tests and they been negative. While it won’t matter for travel, it is good to know and we may even be able to get another test before we go, just for our own piece of mind.

Thank you again everyone for being so insightful and helpful. I’ve learned a lot in a very short time. This website is a great resource filled with people who are willing to share their knowledge. I hope to return the kindness someday.

Posted by
1496 posts

As far as areas to stay in if you want a change from the New Town: try Bruntsfield, Morningside, Leith (but nearer the top of Leith Walk than the bottom...it's a very long street.), streets around Warrender Park area, Polwarth, and Marchmont.
I lived in Edinburgh years ago, and visit often.
The public transport is great, and you can easily get everywhere by bus once you are settled.
Lothian Buses has a great app that tells you when buses are due at your stop, and you can plan your journey.
I hope your planning is going smoothly.

Posted by
10304 posts

An interesting point......I am planning a trip to the UK next month so I've been doing my research on self-isolation. The following rule is true for both England and Scotland.

While they prefer you to make arrangements to have food delivered but if you have problems with this you are allowed to go out and get food.

This from the Scotland self isolation website:

You can only leave your accommodation in limited circumstances. These include where

you need access to basic necessities like food and medicines (including for any pets or animals in the household), but please try to first arrange for these to be delivered to you instead to reduce the number of times you need to leave your accommodation

So, try to arrange to get food delivered but if you must go food shopping on your own, limit the time you are out. You won't be breaking any rules. (This does not mean you can go out to restaurants every day.)

Posted by
11275 posts

"It is my understanding that 3D secure was similar or maybe the same as Verified by VISA program."

Unfortunately, they are different. I can get Verified by Visa for my US card; I don't have 3D Secure.

If a website requires 3D Secure, the problem is not that your transaction is rejected by the credit card company. It never gets to the credit card company, so they can't do anything to get it to work.

Earlier posts indicated the Amex can work on these websites where Visa and Mastercard do not. As I do not have Amex, I have no experience with this myself.

Posted by
8 posts

The information that all of you have provided has been very helpful. I thought I would post what I’ve found out in case anyone else finds themselves in my shoes. Many of you already provided this info, thank you so much! 3D secure is something US cards can’t comply with (yet) according to my bank it is just a no go. Many airlines have done away with change fees for now, the flights I booked allow for one change free of fees to both the date of travel and the origin/destination city. I would have to pay the difference in the fare if I change anything, but other than that cost it is good to know there is some flexibility. Amazon will work, wish I had known that on previous trips. Next up is finding accommodation, that should be pretty straightforward and I’ve received several great recommendations for new areas around Edinburgh to look into. I half joked that we would need to check an extra bag for all of the masks and other ppe we’re taking until I saw it really does take up a lot of space. Ah yes, how travel has changed, happy to wear whatever works to help keep myself and others safe. Fortunately we are already so used to wearing masks everywhere, I don’t think it will be too much of an adjustment to add some extra hours of wear time.

Have a great day, thanks again!

Posted by
2520 posts

I live and work in Edinburgh (well I retire at the end of this month).
I know you are not going into your reasons for travelling but please check that you will be allowed to enter the country. Please note that some of the regulations for the UK are different in Scotland and whatever the Scottish government decides are the ones that will apply regardless of what the UK (westminster) government may say.
https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/
check out the Sectorial Exemptions.
At the moment there are areas of Scotland on lockdown and the general feeling is that Edinburgh may well have a local lockdown soon though that is not certain ,but things are changing by the day and I am sure you are aware that things may change at very short notice.

As someone who has been working his rear end off these last 6 months in a Covid19 research support role ( I am a senior support technician in a medical research facility) personally I would prefer you to stay at home unless this trip is for essential purposes.

Posted by
2473 posts

It is my understanding that 3D secure was similar or maybe the same as
Verified by VISA program. And it was a variation or perhaps similar to
the 2 step verification often used by financial institutions and other
sites wanting a higher level of security. If you have VISA credit
and/or debit card, go to the VISA web site and see if you can find a
section on Verified by VISA. Should be a place where you register your
credit cards. We did that several years ago so that is a little fuzzy
at the moment. We have PINs for our VISA card but don't remember if
the pins are tied to the verified program.

Pretty much spot on as far as I can tell. 3D secure is an extra layer of protection used for online purchases, different card companies have different brands for it such as Verified by Visa or Mastercard Securecode. The way it works with my bank is that once I've paid for something online with my card I then have to verify the purchase by entering a code on my phone. That way if my card gets stolen the thiefs can't buy anything with it if they don't have my phone and the code. (In theory at least, and while no system is 100% secure it makes it a bit safer.)