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Pin chip Cards-update

OK just trying to warn everyone and help you out. I am in Switzerland now and have found that most merchants do not accept either my credit or debit cards unless they are some major corporate outfit (exmple: Coop or Migros). I am devastated as I do not want to use "cash" from my bank accounts for everything. I wanted to charge most of the trip meals on some lower interest credit cards (Master Cards). Guess what? I have been embarassed twice now in restaurants and in twice now in stores where I had to excuse myself and dig into my money belt for cash that I really did NOT want to spend.

Traveling to Italy also...will let you know how it goes there. In the meantime, i have been told by my hotel and another tourist attraction that if you ask a merchant if they will only take a pin/chip then that is all they will tell you they take. What I think you may need to do is ask a more proactive question such as "Do you have the capability to swipe this card with the magnetic strip...no pin chip needed?"

If anyone has a suggestion for hoe to word this question I would appreciate it. I plan to start asking from now on but due to the language barrier, not sure how to ask.

Posted by
3319 posts

I wish you would have asked this question before you left...I could have let you know that swipe cards can be difficult in Switzerland. We used cash almost exclusively when we were there for an extended period last year. Sorry you're having trouble...I think you're lucky that Coop and Migros are taking your swipe card where you are. The ones we went to last summer didn't take it. We found that the big gas stations will take it if you go to the attendant inside. So many people on this forum continue to insist that swipe cards are still widely accepted in Europe but that just isn't the case - it differs from region to region and in some places you just can't rely on it. The US really needs to get on this and change with the rest of the planet!
The phrase you should use to ask is "Acceptez vous cette carte?" and show your magnetic strip. If you are in the German speaking part of Switzerland say "Kann ich diese Karte verwenden??

Posted by
252 posts

Sorry about your experience.
I do believe Anita has some good points. Asking nicely in French or German probably cannot hurt ;o)

Acceptez-vous cette carte is fine. Or be more specific... Acceptez-vous les cartes sans puce ou NIP?
I think Anita's German is better than mine but it looks good!

I have to say I am somewhat surprised....so thank you for sharing!
I have a chip+PIN card but I have never used it in Europe and I have to Western and Eastern Europe and all over Scandinavia...maybe I have been lucky. Some small places do only accept cash...but that's another story.

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks everyone! I sure hope this does not happen to me in Italy also. Thank you for your phrase tip as I am sure they will also help others. I had not idea about pin/chip cards untl about 2-4 days before I left on my trip. Not much I could do then. i just do not want to be using ATMS a lot in Italy. Felt totally safe here in Switzerland but Italy? Not so much! So I will have the added stress of clearing the method of payment before I sit down to eat and sorry...but I am NOT paying CASH. I hate worrying about what the bill might be or adding it up as I sit there. Talk about a buzzkill! And by buzzkill I mean everything....being captivated by the view, enjoying some wine and food you never drink at home. I do all that I can to avoid buzzkills on vacations.

Posted by
26448 posts

Don't you add up how much will be going onto the credit card? Or is it sort of "funny money" while on holiday?

I've never felt uncomfortable at an Italian ATM.

Posted by
31325 posts

lisa,

I'm not surprised to hear of your experiences with the older magnetic stripe cards in Switzerland. This is another example that the inexorable march towards C&P technology is continuing, and this type of situation will probably become more frequent in future. It would seem that using "swipe" cards at an "attended location" is no longer a guarantee that older cards will be accepted.

Hopefully you don't have any problems in Italy. I found when I was there last year that the rail Kiosks would accept both magnetic stripe cards as well as C&P. I know that, as my transactions were processed using C&P, but when I helped some travellers from the U.S. purchase tickets, their card was processed using the magnetic stripe. Hopefully that's still the same?

It will sure be nice when U.S. financial institutions "get with the program"!

Hope you're having a wonderful time.

Posted by
46 posts

Are the Chip and Signature cards widely accepted in Switzerland?

Jay

Posted by
270 posts

It is true. They have gone almost completely CHIP & PIN. When we got home after our last trip we switched several of our cards (a MC and two AMEXs) to chip & pin.

We landed expecting to put most stuff on our AMEX. As it turned out, my wife put a chunk of money in an account for us to access while on our trip. Unfortunately she put it in an account that we didn't have access to while overseas--oh well. We were stuck for 2-3 weeks with $700 cash and hardly anyone would take a non-chip & pin card.

Get it done before you go. It will save a HUGE hassle.

Posted by
2799 posts

Lisa, you posted both here and in the Italy forum about your plans to use Discover Card (or Diners Club) and Amex for lodging, and a prepaid AAA VISA for shops and restaurants. "I am indeed using currency and AAA prepaid Visa for other restaurants and shopping." People tried to discourage you from these plans but you were determined. Now it seems you took another card as well, or was it the prepaid VISA that was rejected?

I am sorry you are having this trouble but using cash is not so bad. With the right debit card (like one from a credit union) you should incur no FTF's and no extra ATM charges. We use cash as much as possible in Europe for that reason.

And you do not need to stress about using ATM's in Italy. Just use common sense----use one attached to a bank,during daylight hours. Have someone accompany you and "cover" your back if you are concerned. Some banks have secure lobbies where the ATM's are and those might make you feel less stressed.

Posted by
4524 posts

There is no reason to worry about using ATM machines in Italy. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having to pay cash if the merchant can't accept your card. There is no reason to allow such things to "buzzkill" your visits. Traveling in a foreign country often throws up little quirks and challenges. It is best to take them in stride and enjoy the positive experiences you are having.

Posted by
238 posts

I found out about all these things only a few days before I left so I could not have the cards converted in time. I am carrying several mastercards with magnetic strips that I thought would be accepted. Then my friend, who is a former bank manager, tells me she found VISA worked better (??) when she was over here. But, she never had the chip/pin problem. So, I started to get my cards converted to VISA but they did not arrive in time for my trip. As for the AAA travel card, people who travel a lot (that I work with) recommended it because if one gets stolen I can use the back up immediately and the stolen gets cancelled. However, they did not tell me that they had problems using this card. I am guessing they used it at ATMs because none of them traveled alone and always had someone watch their back at an ATM.

As for Italy, I am going to Cinque Terre, Levanto, Camogli so I hope there are ATMs there that will accept the AAA Visa Debit card.

And maybe I am just not like any of you but I do not like to figure out how much I am going to spend on meals when I go out to eat. I like to feel the moment and if I feel like having an extra glass of wine, a special coffee or dessert I do not always plan it. And yes, I charge (for future pay off) a lot of my vacation expenses. It's like taking out a loan. But I also put a lot of them on AMEX which is paid off at the end of the month. So I had no idea this pin/chip thing would be an issue until it was too late.

BTW...I am having a good time I just have to write down some German and Italian phrases to ask about payment and things like English menus before I sit down to eat anywhere. I will try that and see if it works.

Also...a big relief to find an awesome store here in Appenzell that accepts Diners Club/Discover. Guess where I spent most of my money for gifts to take home? :-)

Posted by
46 posts

Lisa,
What store are you enjoying in Appenzell?
We will be there next week.

Posted by
4524 posts

Lisa - I don't know who this bank manager friend of yours is, but as others have pointed out, she is simply wrong about MasterCard. Maybe this was true decades ago, but not now. And while I can't explain why her MasterCard wasn't accepted in Europe, it likely has more to do with factors other than it being a MasterCard.

It was pointed out repeatedly in your other threads that Discover and Amex are not widely accepted in Europe. And credit cards in general are not often accepted for small purchases and sometimes not at all by small businesses. I understand your reasons for wanting to use certain cards, but the advice you've been getting is solid.

Posted by
4524 posts

Also, it has been my understanding that US debit cards are not always compatible with European credit card systems. Sometimes they can work and sometimes they don't. If you are trying to use a debit card, this may be the issue you are having.

The AAA debit card should work in any ATM with a VISA logo. It will not likely work in a machine without that logo. And sometimes I've found a card simply won't work in a particular ATM, so I just move on to another one with a different bank.

Posted by
8889 posts

Switzerland is still a very cash orientated country. It is not unusual to see little old ladies in the post office at the end of the month paying bills with CHF 500 and CHF 1000 notes!
It is always worth checking if an establishment takes credit cards. Some smaller shops and restaurants, especially outside tourist areas, do not take any cards.

Posted by
756 posts

Sorry to hear that things have gotten so tight but I am not surprised. There are only areas in the whole world that still use mag stripe cards ... the United States and a couple third world countries in deepest darkest Africa. By the way some US banks are offering chip and signature cards and they are just about as useful as mag stripe cards.

Posted by
31325 posts

lisa,

I just wanted to "second" the comments from Douglas regarding using debit cards for purchases in Europe. I've found that my debit / ATM card works fine just about anywhere for obtaining cash from ATM's, but it does NOT work for POS transactions (debit), even in the U.S. That could be one of the issues you've been experiencing. I suspect (but don't know for sure) that the reason for that is the POS systems don't have a data link to verify that funds are available, or to transfer funds at the time of purchase (especially as currency exchange would be involved). I'm sure that will be possible at some time in the future.

Posted by
2037 posts

Be aware that just because your card has a chip does NOT mean it's a chip and PIN card. More likely, it's a chip and SIGNATURE card which is not the same thing. Citibank did that to me with my AA Advantage card.

For a genuine chip and PIN card do some google. They come mainly from credit unions, which are not that hard to join with a little effort. I ended up with Andrews FCU as in the military base, you have to join another organization first for $5 and then you're in.

Visa and MC swear that all you have to do with a mag stripe card is ask the attendant pretty please to swipe it the old-fashioned way.

Posted by
187 posts

I use my ATM card for cash in Europe and it works well. The only time that I had some trouble was when the ATM would not give me the amount that I requested. For some reason it would not give me the amount that I should have been able to request, and I did take the conversion into account. When I lowered the amount it worked. I will be going to Europe in Sept., so I looked into changing my credit cards into chip/pin. Visa is sending me a chip/pin, but Amex is changing it into a chip/signature. I am hoping to use the AMEX most of the time as it does not have a foreign transaction fee.

Posted by
114 posts

I just called Capital One and at this time they do not offer a chip and pin card. Does anyone know a card that does offer chip and pin and no foreign transaction fee?

Posted by
238 posts

Iceracer...I think the name of the store is Eidelweiss. Have fun in Appenzell but be warned...that cheese REALLY SMELLS and trust me when I say you will smell it "on you" for a few days after you leave. LOL! It is one of the charming things about Appenzell but also one to be forwarned about. Go to Hotel Adler and have some pastries. Tell them I sent you! They are AMAZING!

Posted by
238 posts

UPDATE...most stores in Zurich and Lugano have accepted my Discover Card! I used the Discover Card almost everywhere I went. NO PROBLEMO! But I asked ahead of time and explained to the clerk that it may not work and that I have others. The clerks were so happy when it wen through.

They also accepted the AAA Debit Visa. Seems like larger cities will accept these forms of payment. Small shops in these bigger cities? No problem so far. However, I am preparing for issues as I head to Cinque Terre tomorrow. Glad I got plenty of Euro Cash before I left. I am traveling solo and have no one to watch my back at an ATM.

Posted by
46 posts

Lisa,
Thanks for the update.
We have had zero problems with magnetic strip cards is Appenzell.
We are currently hiking near Santis, the last berg hutte even asked if we wanted to pay with cash or credit. We chose cash to save 3%.
The cheese is amazing!
Four different appenzeller region cheeses at breakfast. All of them quite tasty.
Maybe we already smell Swiss.

The weather stinks though. It is far too overcast to go high. Likely snow on Lisengrat so, we came down to spend a night on an alpen lake.
Hopefully, the weather will be better next week in Murren.

Posted by
238 posts

ice racer..I know the weather has not been great at all. Glad you enjoyed Appenzell and had no problems with your cards. I am sure there are several places in Appenzell that take those cards but maybe I just picked the places that did not. Your trip and plan sounds wonderful! Yes, the cheese will SMELL on your clothes...LOL...I had to wash the pieces I wore in the sink. Part of the charm but something people should be aware of. That is whart I like about these forums. we can help others. Enjoy Switzerland! I am a proud Swiss-American myself!

Posted by
258 posts

We have used our chip-and-signature Visa card from British Airways/Chase for several years and never had a problem. Last year we were only in England, but in 2011 we were mostly in France. The same machine that allows patrons to put in their PINs also printed a receipt that could be signed. It also has no foreign transaction fees.

But for most purchases, we used Euros. Bank of America has an arrangement with BNP Paribus to use their ATMs in France with no additional ATM charges.

We are hoping that the British Airways/Chase card will be upgraded to chip-and-pin in time for next year's trip. (Fingers crossed.)

Posted by
189 posts

My bank is USAA and I have received a chip and pin CC from them. It also has a magnetic strip on it for use in this country. I will be spending a month in Paris in October but will be traveling to Switzerland also. I generally use my debit card in ATMs and that was no problem the last time I was recently in France and Switzerland.

Posted by
238 posts

Good advice about finding out if your banks have partnerships. I also have Bank of America and was told about the partnership in Italy similar to the one in Paris. However, good news is that I did not have to use hardly any credit cards.

I ended up using my AAA travel/debit card at ATMs and paying with cash most of the time since my original post. However, I did use the Discover a few times when I was able to as well as AMEX.

Posted by
252 posts

Of course it depends where you go...But just came back from Switzerland and had no issues.
Even the machines near bus/tram stops would take my card without a chip. Yay.

Posted by
620 posts

Just returned from Switzerland and had absolutely no issues with the pin cards. No problem at all.....we had one card with a pin but merchants were glad to take our Mastercard with no pin.