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Chip and Pin Frustration

I recently returned from the Baltic that included visits to cities in 7 countries. Before departing the US I contacted my CC issuer to "reconfirm" that my so-called chip and pin card would be accepted at automated kiosks in Europe and Scandinavia. I contacted the CC issuer before this trip as it was not accepted at automated kiosks on a visit in 2014 (to 11 different countries). Back to my recent inquiry; I was "assured" my card would work. . .it didn't. This trip my wife had different chip and pin cards (issued by different banks); so we tried her also. Not surprisingly, hers didn't work either.

In addition to my personal frustration on the recent visit, on three occasions there were other Americans attempting to use automated kiosks with cards issued in the US; none of their worked. Is there any American issued credit card that will be accepted by European/Scandinavian automated kiosks? I might add the CCs will work in ATMs (including the PIN number), but this is of no help when standing at an automated kiosk that doesn't accept cash.

Posted by
2464 posts

Is your card a true chip and pin? Or is it a chip and sig for which you were given a pin number? It makes a difference in their usability, especially in kiosks.

Posted by
5498 posts

Most American credit cards with chips are "chip and signature" cards. If those cards have PINs, the PIN is used for credit card cash advances.

Posted by
6172 posts

Unfortunately, no one can truly guarantee that a card will interface well with a foreign terminal, and most cards are "chip and signature", not the true chip cards used in Europe. I just got back from Canada and my CapOne chip and signature card worked differently depending on what type of card reader was used. Sometimes the chip worked, sometimes the card had to be swiped. Some readers read the card very quickly, and others took a fairly long time. Most of the time, a receipt for me to sign was spat out, but there were times when I didn't have to sign anything. Just about every possibility occurred. The lack of standardization, and US constantly being "behind the times" is the cause...there is nothing that can be done in the short term. By the time we get to Europe's current standard, they'll probably already be on another standard.

More importantly though, how did you get around the problem at a kiosk when you could not use cash and your card didn't work? What (if any) other options did you have?

Posted by
3282 posts

Did you actually have a PIN that you entered at the kiosks?

99.9% of the chip cards issued in the US are chip & SIGNATURE. You can get a PIN but you might have to argue with your bank, as I did for my Bank of American Travel Visa credit card. It worked in Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland without issue. The PIN is for cash advances in the US, but works well in Europe for purchases where a PIN is requested (and you will not get charged for a cash advance when you use your PIN to make a purchase).

Don't know about Scandinavia. My same Travel Visa worked fine for purchases there, but I did not need to use an unmanned kiosk. (This Travel Visa is a credit card, not the pre paid card with a similar name.)

Posted by
5498 posts

RE: I might add the CCs will work in ATMs....

Check your credit card transaction and/or statement to determine if the credit card transaction withdrawing cash at an ATM was a cash advance. If it's a cash advance, a transaction fee with interest charges accumulating with the cash advance.

Posted by
2729 posts

What needs to happen is for people to test the cards, like 12 top cards in each European country at common kiosk locations like turnpikes or metros, and post the results. Why doesn't one of the big travel websites do this, what a sure winner of an article that would be.

Also whether or not various tricks worked:
1. Pausing and not entering in a PIN
2. Hitting return and not entering a PIN
3. Entering some dummy numbers like 0000
4. Entering the cash advance PIN

Until this happens, we won't know the answer. Asking the bank is a surely losing proposition. Just a couple months ago my bank told me that I would need a chip ATM card to get cash in Europe-- nope.

As I posted earlier, chip and sign cards work in Provence at the turnpike kiosks and the for the tunnel under Marseille harbor, although these kiosks have no keypad to enter a PIN.

Posted by
2811 posts

My Andrews FCU chip card has a PIN, although it is technically not a true chip and PIN, and I've used it many times at gas station machines, and train and tram ticket machines, and it's always worked, and I believe always called for a PIN (as opposed to person-present transactions, where it reverts to a signature). Interestingly, on my recent trip I lost the card, and had to use a BOA Visa card with no PIN. When I used it at a gas station machine, the transaction went through w/o asking for a PIN.

Posted by
5498 posts

When I used it at a gas station machine, the transaction went through w/o asking for a PIN.

I use my chip and signature credit card at North American self-serve gas stations (outside of Oregon). The card works without a PIN but I am frequently (always?) asked for my zip code. Some grocery store credit card purchases below some magic dollar amount also execute without a signature. It probably has something to do the the card fraud prevent analysis and software.

Posted by
8609 posts

In the U.S., we have not really gone to chip and pin yet. In some cases, zip code matching is used to verify the card.

As for the signature, that is for the merchant. They are responsible for making sure the user of the card is you. Some merchants, under a certain amount, will not bother to ask for a signature because the amount is small. I've had merchants not bother asking me for a signature, ask for a signature but not look at my card, but in Europe almost all want to see my card to match the signatures.

Posted by
4499 posts

Without more details, it's hard to answer your question fully. Your CC may not have had a true transaction PIN; it may have been only intended for cash advance. Your card is most definitely NOT "chip & PIN" and almost no US credit cards are actually chip & PIN. Instead, US banks issue what are commonly known as "chip & signature" cards. Some however, do issue PINs as a secondary authorization for when a signature is not possible. It sounds like you do not have one of those cards.

In cases where you do not have a transaction PIN, the cash advance PIN might work, but not always. Some transactions can be approved without any authorization (usually under $50). Some European machines have been set to accept US cards without a PIN. Some machines will accept entering any number or just pressing "enter". It's all hit or miss.

And lastly, as you discovered the hard way, bank customer service agents really have ZERO clue as to how their cards work in Europe. It's confusing enough for veteran travelers here, no way are underpaid service agents going to know how things work in Europe.

Posted by
6172 posts

underpaid service agents going to know how things work in Europe.

Whether underpaid or not (which is debatable given their skill level), shouldn't they be trained to represent their products accurately? They are white collar "professional" staff. If they don't know, they should punt to their supervisor. Someone up the chain should tell the truth and not offer false guarantees. Using cards abroad is ubiquitous now, so this is not a circumstance that should be unfamiliar to them.

If I was the OP, I would give a bank supervisor my feedback which would be more effective than this forum. Moreover, if I got this kind of service, I would close my account and move elsewhere...there are lots of other choices out there.

Posted by
5498 posts

Some machines will accept entering any number or just pressing "enter". It's all hit or miss.

I would be hesitant to randomly enter numbers. A number of years ago I used my backup account card to attempt to withdraw cash in Canada. After three wrong attempts, my account was locked until I could get back to the States and call to unlock the account. Don't guess too many times at your PIN.

Posted by
6798 posts

Or, it could have been the machines being used in these particular countries. For example, we've been told that in Holland non-Dutch cards will not work at the Amsterdam train station. Maybe there is something similar in these Scandinavian countries.

Like other posters, my US-issued Andrews FCU card works in European machines, but it has never been tried in the Baltic countries.

Posted by
3282 posts

Most bank employees you talk to on the phone are in a call center and they answer questions based on a script and are never allowed to vary from that script. Most are rated on how quickly they move on to the next call, not how accurately they answer questions you might have. They also get negative marks when they have to escalate to a supervisor so they won't do that with many simply hanging up on the callers.

The branch employees know how to do their specific job, beyond that they know little unfortunately and answer trying to not look uninformed.

With the phone scripts, given that the vast majority of US residents are not planning on ever going to any foreign country, the customer service scripts are not inclusive of the differences between how cards work here vs everywhere else. .

Posted by
3282 posts

Edgar,

The suggestion to use random numbers for a PIN is not a suggestion when attempting to get cash from an ATM, it is only for purchases where a PIN is required.

You should never use an incorrect PIN purposely when attempting to get cash from an ATM.

Posted by
696 posts

Thanks for all the responses. In answer to the question what did we do?" There are several: On one occasion in Germany we just hung around until someone who had a card that would work agreed to purchase our tickets and we paid them in local currency (they were from Australian) . In another case, a couple from the UK was waiting to use the machine behind us and they rescued us; this was in Denmark. In yet another case we simply abandoned using the subway (again in Germany).

It is baffling to me why US banks taut their latest and greatest "chip and PIN" cards when they are not. . .on second thought, why should I expect anything else?

I saw one person posted "99.9 % of US cards won't work", what is the 0.1%? Concerning the Andrews FCU, was it used in an automated kiosk in Europe, where cash was not accepted? If the answer is "yes" how does a civilian obtain an Andrews FCU Credit Card with "chip and (real) pin"?

Posted by
4821 posts

This has been covered in other threads and there is a logic as to why cards work in one place for one person but not others or in other places. It has to do with the Cardholder Verification Methods (CVM) that both are hard coded into your card and part of the programming for the kiosk. The two most important ones are if your card allows "No Verification Required" which generally is allowed on some value of the transaction. And whether Off-line transactions are allowed. As an example, even here in the US, I have a card I use, depending on the store, I can do up to $25, up to $50, or any amount without a signature, at others I sign for even a Dollar. My card did not change, the store set the limits. So it is not unusual that in Europe, your card works some places and not others, or work for a 20 euro ticket, but not a 25 euro ticket. Even within a station, if the Kiosk is not communicating with the network, it may not allow a transaction on your card, but move over to another machine that is connected...everything is fine. Unfortunately there is no way to know what the machine allows and many times what even your own card allows. I will agree, calling customer service will likely yield no usable information, they have no idea either, and certainly know nothing about kiosks in Europe and elsewhere.

Posted by
2427 posts

I used my Capitol One CC in Sweden with little issue. The kiosks worked fine. I found the key was to wait and the machine would automatically, after some delay, skip thru the pin section. At one train station, I did get impatient and pushed cancel. I immediately received my ticket. So, as some others have said, if it doesn't work using one system, use another.

Posted by
4499 posts

It is baffling to me why US banks taut their latest and greatest "chip
and PIN" cards when they are not. . .on second thought, why should I
expect anything else?

I saw one person posted "99.9 % of US cards won't work", what is the
0.1%?

US credit card banks have not been touting their "chip & PIN" cards. They all are issuing chip & signature and advertise as such. That is the US standard. You may be confused in that the chips are all the same - it is the way they are programed to accept transaction authentication.

It is simply not true at all that .99% of US cards won't work in Europe. The rate is actually very high but some major banks don't issue PINs as secondary transaction verification. My Capital One does not. But a number of major banks do and some smaller credit unions. Perhaps someone can provide the latest link on the list.

I assume your cards worked just fine with manned transaction and just not with automated ones.

I've also had to deal with a card that won't work in a machine and gone to plans B and C to buy train tickets that way. It's a pain but it works.

Posted by
823 posts

I have used both my CITI AAdvantage Chip & Sig and my USAA (true) Chip & PIN cards in Trenitalia local bus/tram Kiosks in Italy. As for other parts of Europe, I've not had the opportunity.

BTW - The AAdvantage card is now free of foreign transaction fees which is a real plus. They will also open a fraud-prevention frozen account as needed for on the spot transactions - a royal pain but a real plus if/when bad things happen.

Posted by
574 posts

I have used both my CITI AAdvantage Chip & Sig and my USAA (true) Chip & PIN cards in Trenitalia local bus/tram Kiosks in Italy.

Unfortunately the USAA is not a chip-priority card like their old Mastercard it replaced, and members report on the forum it isn't always working in Europe depending on where they try.

One reply notes:

Using Cardpeek software and a chip reader on the old USAA World mastercard and the USAA VISA card replacement clearly shows that the CVM preference list has been changed:

OLD list: Offline PIN - Signature - Online PIN - No CVM

NEW list: Signature - Online PIN - Offline PIN - No CVM

The card and the terminal "negotiate" the verification method, starting with the first entry and going down the list until they find a method that both will accept. But not all kiosk terminals are set up the same way, so some will never get to the "offline PIN" option before they just quit.

https://communities.usaa.com/t5/Bank-Services/Are-new-cards-chip-and-pin-or-chip-and-signature/td-p/87787/page/5

Having Offline PIN first let the old card work just about everywhere. A non-internet connected machine could validate the transaction, so even obscure bus station machines would work.

Posted by
693 posts

I was recently in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Chip and signature cards work well wherever there is a human being. Even for very small purchases (one cola), a card was preferred over a large cash bill.
For unmanned kiosks, neither my Capital One or Chase cards would work. I also have a Capital One 360 account with a debit card that has a chip. I deposited money into that account from my bank checking account prior to traveling. I was able to use this card in Sweden and Denmark (didn't try in Norway) at unmanned kiosks. I believe my bank ATM card with chip would have worked as well.

Posted by
1 posts

I'll add another recommendation for the CapitalOne 360 debit card. It worked for me earlier this month in Dutch rail (NS) and Amsterdam metro (GVB) ticket machines as a chip and pin card. Keep in mind that as a debit card there may be different fraud protections, and it may result in a hold being placed on funds in your account (more than the cost of the transaction) but that didn't seem to cause a problem on our recent trip. We normally use or chip and signature cards (when a human is present and in automated systems that accept them (such as London oyster machines)).

However, these won't work as 'Maestro' or 'Electron' cards - that is (apparently) the European debit card system, and has lower fees for the merchants than regular credit card transactions. Some systems will take these but not credit cards (such as at least some German regional transit authorities). I don't know of any US cards that would work with these systems.

Posted by
4821 posts

Just an update since this thread was brought back from the dead....

Prior to my last trip, I obtained a United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) credit card. It took some doing to set up an account, join a UN organization for a small fee, apply for a credit line, etc....but what I got was a Chip and Pin card with PIN priority. We used it in the Netherlands and Belgium at manned sales, restaurants, and kiosks of all kinds. The card worked every time, always asked for a PIN. Even in the US, if I use a POS terminal, it asks for a PIN. The only time I am asked for a signature is where there is no option to enter a PIN, that occurs only in the US.

Posted by
3136 posts

It is baffling to me why US banks taut their latest and greatest "chip
and PIN" cards when they are not. . .on second thought, why should I
expect anything else?

It baffles me that you've seen US banks touting chip and pin cards; apparently, I'm not the only one on this thread who feels that way. I have NEVER seen chip and PIN cards advertised as you described above. Next, how many digits is your pin #? If it is anything other than 4 digits and/or begins with a 0, you'll have issues.

Posted by
5308 posts

Advice about PIN's starting with zero causing problems is ... challenged as "urban myth" by other posters. Mine has worked fine for over 5 years, in multiple countries. Except at some, but not all, toll roads in France.

Posted by
8889 posts

The 4-digit PIN story is also an urban myth. European banks issue new cards (including mine) with 6-digit PIN's.

Posted by
4687 posts

Note that there are some machines that look, superficially, as if they take credit cards, but turn out to be for a specialized product. Some examples I personally experienced were Belgian rail ticket machines in stations, (which only take a Belgian card product), a parking lot in Wismar, Germany (which required a payment card to enter ...), and a similar parking lot in Kronberg, Germany, near Frankfurt. I am not as certain, but I think some Netherlands public transit purchase machines may also be like this.