Chip and Pin Cards

We are headed to Spain in about a month and have a question regarding Credit Cards. In our past travel to France we have NOT had a problem with our debit cards at ATM's or with our credit cards at other locations. We HAVE had problems at the train station and metro stations purchasing tickets since our cards do NOT have a Chip and Pin. Is that the same situation we will find in Spain??

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Jim, I agree with the previous reply that carrying cash would be a good idea, as it's not likely that you have a "Chip & PIN" credit card. Some of the members here on the HelpLine have reported that it's possible to get a C&P card from the Andrews Federal Credit Union (Maryland?). I can't recall the details, so you'll have to search through the posts. "I'm getting one because it is the wave of the future here in euro land." I've been finding that it's more a "wave of the present" in Europe. In some locations ONLY C&P cards are accepted, even at staffed ticket windows. One example is the ticket windows at Amsterdam Central rail station. Also, many automated ticket Kiosks (ie: CDG in Paris) will ONLY accept C&P cards. C&P cards have been the only cards issued in Europe, Canada and elsewhere in the world for at least two-three years. Hopefully the financial institutions in the U.S. will "get with the program" at some point. Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by Diane
Ft. Worth, TX, USA
45 posts

Jim, If you decide to get an Andrews Chip & Pin, called GlobeTrek Visa, I would get on it right away. We decided to get one as a safety net for a trip in Sept. We got ours a few weeks ago. I think it took about 2 weeks to go thru the process and get the actual cards. It was not hard to join (ok, I just forgot what it was called!) xxx in order to qualify for opening an account with Andrews. It only cost us $5 to open up a savings account with them which we put on one of our other credit cards. It did take us a little bit of time to dig out of the files different documentation that they wanted. And I did have to make several phone calls. But they were incredibly helpful and courteous and took plenty of time with me to walk me through certain steps. If you go up to the "search" bar and type in "chip & pin Andrews" it will take you to a post that gives you a lot of information on how to apply. Have a great trip!

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6726 posts

We were recently in Barcelona. No problems there at all with our U.S. ATM/debit cards. We didn't encounter areas where it was chip and pin only. We did encounter chip and pin issues going all through France. We easily got by as there was always a staff member to take our card. But, the machines there don't (i.e. train station machines, metro ticket machines and toll booths on the toll ways).

Posted by Kathleen
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US
19 posts

Apparently, it's not the banks but the merchants that are resisting the new type of card. Their systems aren't set up for it. I recently read that some banks are offering cards that have both an American-style magnetic strip and a European-style chip. Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase all are starting programs with some travel-related cards

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

I recently spent three weeks in Spain and never had a single problem using my regular mag stripe ATM and credit cards. Some of the smaller hotels will only take cash, but if they took credit, they took mine.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Hi, I know you are asking Spain and the situation with not having a Chip and Pin card, can't help you there, but in Germany you'll find, unlike your experience in France, same as mine, that the US magnetic stripe credit cards will be accepted at the ticket machines...no problems there.

Posted by Leslie
Chicago, Illinois, United States
21 posts

I recently visited a currency exchange in Chicago to inquire about buying euros before my trip to Paris. The customer service representative told me that they offered prepaid debit cards with the chip and pin. That's another option for you.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2391 posts

re the above post, the Travelex Cash Passport Card is Chip & Pin. But you pay a 10% markup on the exchange rate. That might be worth it for certain types of travels, but just for general travel it is easy to get by with a magnetic strip card and cash.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

@Kathleen, "Apparently, it's not the banks but the merchants that are resisting the new type of card. Their systems aren't set up for it." That's definitely part of the problem, but easily rectified by changing the POS Terminals and using newer models that can accept both types of cards. That was done here several years ago, and I don't think the merchants had much choice in the matter. I suspect that Banks also had to change some of their data systems, so there was definitely a cost associated with the changeover. Cheers!

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

The chip and pin isn't the future because it's been in use since the late 90s in Europe and around the world. The US banks didn't want to pay the patent for the chip, keeping us in the 20th C. State Department personnel get their chip and pin cards via Andrews Federal Credit Union. UN employees, even in NY, get them through the UN Credit Union. You can certainly still use the magnetic strip cards for most purchases for the time being. However, like 110v electricity, it's horse and buggy technology that brings a chuckle to store clerks when residents of a great, powerful nation pull these dinosaurs out of their wallets. Then the clerks remember that money is money in any form.

Posted by Heather
Royal Oak, MI, USA
46 posts

Chip and pin even came into Canada by 2007ish. My Canadian debit card has the technology and none of my American cards do, which is extremely frustrating all in all. I recommend using cash as much as possible while in Europe. I had no problem with the standard ATMs in the UK using magnetic stripe/non-chip, but I do not know whether the systems in the continental European nations will accept magnetic.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

You asked about Spain, but I should note that when we were in the Netherlands in May, outside of Amsterdam, we were almost unable to use American "swipe" strip credit cards, except at our hotels. I am aware that some merchants are unwilling to make the extra effort of doing an unfamiliar "swipe" transaction. But as I have posted here before, at Het Loo palace and the Kroller-Muller museum (two of the biggest and most important tourist attractions not in Amsterdam) the swipe crevices were covered with duct tape on the "dual-function" POS terminals. The ticket booths at the Floriade (Venlo, NL) had big signs in English saying that they only took Chip-and-PIN or Cash. It's quite true that you can usually get along with cash. The problem comes if you want to use a ticket machine to avoid a long line for a human rail or subway ticket clerk. And, to change countries for a moment, many Paris Metro stations don't have a human clerk. Some smaller stations don't even have a machine that takes paper currency for Carnets or single tickets. This doesn't mean you can't get along without a Chip-And-PIN. Rather, it means you have to be willing to think about your future needs and risk ending up with, say, too many metro tickets when you go home. I got little sympathy when I wrote to United Airlines, AARP, and Bank Of America about how they could retain my credit card business for the future ... .... I managed to use my ATM card as a Debit Card in an unattended Belgian gas station after a plain VISA swipe card and AmEx Green Card were refused. (All 3 cards had travel notifications in place!)

Posted by Jenny
Salem, Oregon, USA
209 posts

We never had a problem with our debit or ATM cards in cash machines. We only use credit cards for major purchases like hotels, train tickets, jewelry and sometimes on the last day of our time in a particular money zone for a meal. We were last in Britain, France, Italy and Switzerland a month ago. No problem in Canada a few months ago either. Only two problems with magnetic strip cards for us. First the tube station machines would not top off our Oyster Cards so we had to pay in cash at the window though the French and Italian train ticket machines liked our cards just fine and they were fine for picking up Euro Star tickets in London from that machine. Second, occasionally there was a delay while the clerk at a gift shop found a manager or other employee who did know how to deal with our cards. No problems at all in Canada. We did not drive in Europe or the UK so I can't speak to automated gas machines.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Bank of America's chip cards, including the one noted above, are chip-and-signature, not chip-and-pin. According to Bank of America's announcement about the card, "the bank's new chip-enabled credit cards will continue to prompt customers to sign for transactions just as they would today".

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
912 posts

Here is another vote for cash, not just because it is easy to use but because it is cheaper, and still quite common in Europe. Unless you have ATM/debit and credit cards from one of the few financial institutions that don't charge fees on international transactions, you are paying extra every time you hand over your plastic. Those fees are minimized by a one-time withdrawal of a substantial amount of cash from an ATM. All my cards are chip-and-PIN but I use cash in Europe except for large purchases.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

That's good news about the B of A cards. It's amazing that it's taken U.S. financial institutions so long to "get with the program". In order to remain competitive with B of A, I suspect others will follow in the near future.

Posted by Kathleen
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US
19 posts

Hold the phone. I continued to search and the topic is muddled. I really can't tell whether the new card I've signed up for is a chip and sign or chip and pin. I guess I'll try to call the bank. I'm just not even sure they'll give me the right answer.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

The article mentioned above is talking about chip-and-pin cards for corporate clients who have employees who travel abroad frequently. Further, it says "Still, the full migration of chip and PIN onto U.S. shores seems like years away at best. Bank of America says it is evaluating the technology for its nonbusiness, individual credit card holder, but did not give any concrete plans."

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2391 posts

All credit cards have, or have the ability to have a PIN. What US cards have been lacking is the chip. So while I'm not knowledgeable about the BofA card, if it has a chip, I don't know why it wouldn't work with a PIN. But maybe there is some internal difference that European chip and pin card readers won't recognize. I've even used my PIN before in Europe on hand-held chip and pin readers that also recognized the magnetic strip.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

As the announcement article stated, the B of A card will prompt people for a signature, just like now. Since they made a distinction between use of a PIN and use of a signature, I'm assuming this is not a true chip-and-pin card in the European sense.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Using the Andrews FCU card overseas, sometimes we used the pin and others we were asked to sign.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Douglas, I would agree that there seems little reason why a US credit card with a chip could not have an associated PIN. However, I have a British Airways chip card issued by Chase. Like Kathleen, I thought it was a chip and PIN when I ordered it. Turns out to be, like the B of A card, a chip and sign. I called Chase and they were of no help. They understand the issue, that the chip and sign card does no good at unmanned sites, but offered no solution to associating a PIN.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

We spent a month in Spain this April. Our debit card (USAA with a MasterCard logo) worked in every ATM we tried. We don't use a credit card very often but had no issues this trip. We bought our only train tickets online before the trip. We used cash for metro tickets but the machines may have needed a chip and pin type credit card. The train stations offer service windows. The metro stations we saw we're primarily automated - they had a service person/window that would help you navigate the machine, but they didn't sell tickets. All gas stations are full serve so you don't run into the automated stations that often need chip and pin.

Posted by Ann
Boulder
7 posts

We just returned from a month in France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Iceland, carrying a supposedly chip&pin card from Bank of America, obtained through AAA. The first time we tried to use it, at an autoroute tollbooth outside of Nice, it was completely rejected by the automatic toll machine. In restaurants and other places, the machine used by the waiter/clerk required a signature every time, even though BofA had given us a PIN number and we had changed that to our own number. No human clerk ever seemed to have a problem processing the signature; it just wasn't an issue. But we had to be very careful about not needing to buy gas on a Sunday, as most stations were closed. I will be letting BofA and my local AAA office know about this, and will cancel the card once I pay the bill.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I was under the impression that all BOA chip cards are chip and signature. When I got mine last year, it was made clear that it was a signature card. On the other hand, my Andrews card is chip and PIN, but it appears to revert to a signature whenever it's used with a person present. However, it has worked as a chip and PIN at all unmanned gas stations and train ticket machines in France, although it failed at all tollbooth machines there on a recent trip.