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When asked for a pin with a credit card purchase

is it really a cash advance? When getting a pin from my bank for my credit card, the lady helping me warned me that in Europe, when a merchant as one to use their pins, it will be a cash advance not credit charge.

Anyone run into this?

Posted by
5687 posts

Actually, in my understanding, a PIN for a credit card that isn't a "chip and PIN" credit card will work only for cash advances at ATM machines - and not for purchases. It's true I've never tried it, but that's what I was told years ago when I got a PIN for my old magnetic strip card. (Never used or wanted the PIN, no plans ever to get a cash advance with a credit card from an ATM.)

You could get an actual chip and PIN credit card if you wish - there are a few out there. But, even at many machines in Europe, you can use a chip and signature card without a PIN to make purchases - I know I have. I have a chip and PIN credit card too but use it only when my other cards don't work in a machine.

Posted by
15573 posts

It depends on the card and how it is used.

A couple of my cards have become contactless.

Posted by
6788 posts

Many bank employees may be totally clueless about pretty much everything involving foreign travel, often just making up answers to questions.

I asked this simple question of my bank: "what fees will the bank charge me when I use my debit card when I'm in Europe to withdraw cash at an ATM?" I went through about a half-dozen tellers at my local branch and customer service agents at their HQ before I got someone who even understood the question. I got answers like "we won't charge anything!" (not true, there's always a fee to convert dollars to Euros, typically a minimum of 1% that's charged by Visa), I also came across employees who did not understand that ATMs in Europe would dispense cash in Euros or other local currency, they seemed to think they would spit out US dollars. My point being: don't take what a bank employee says as gospel, especially if what they say seems crazy or dubious. Get a second (or maybe a third) opinion, and make sure the person you're speaking with really understands what you're asking about.

Posted by
4865 posts

No, I never had that happen, but my card is a Chip and PIN card. With my card, whenever I use a PIN with a merchant (which has only ever happened to me outside the US) it appears as a normal credit charge, not a cash advance.

But your card may be different.

Posted by
3241 posts

Actually, in my understanding, a PIN for a credit card that isn't a "chip and PIN" credit card will work only for cash advances at ATM machines - and not for purchases.

I've used my chip, but not a pin, card in UK, Netherlands, and Sweden. I've used it with people and in kiosks. If a person can't get it to work, it is only because they don't know how, as their boss or another employee has always gotten it to work easily. When I've used it in kiosks on its own, when it asks for a pin, I usually just wait and it will ultimately process it without putting a pin. I also understand that some people put in any number and it will work. I've never had anything come out as a cash advance.

That being said, I bring my credit card pin and number with me in case my atm card doesn't work, so I'd use it if I had to to get a cash advance...again, this is my emergency back up system. It is not for the usual situation or, hopefully, will never be needed, as it is more expensive.

Posted by
5687 posts

I've used my chip, but not a pin, card in UK, Netherlands, and Sweden. I've used it with people and in kiosks

So have I. But, at some machines, it will not work - and then I have to use my chip and PIN credit card. (E.g. train tickets machines in the Netherlands, at least a few years ago; two years in a row). At other machines, no PIN is required so I can use any chip credit card. If a PIN is required at a machine, having that "cash advance PIN" wouldn't help.

Posted by
3241 posts

Hi Andrew, I think, from my experience, you almost have to wait an unreasonable amount of time. Just when I think I should give up, and say, well, I'll count to 10 or some such thing, my tickets spit out. I've never not had one work with this strange system. However, never say never...

Posted by
1329 posts

I’ve also been told by the bank that the PIN for a USA credit card is only for the cash advance feature at an ATM. However, I also realize the customer service person answering the phone call probably doesn’t frequently travel to Europe and may not be aware of European chip and PIN cards and how they work versus USA chip and signature cards.

I always do bring one PIN number with me for a credit card cash advance, if Iose my debit card or it gets eaten by an ATM, I’ll still have access to cash. If I ever needed to do that, I’d just make an immediate payment to the credit card company for the amount of the advance. Thankfully, cash is needed less and less these days.

Posted by
14580 posts

When I am making a purchase with my US credit card, I have been asked for the PIN so that the transaction will go through. Where?

In Germany using a DB ticket machine to buy a ticket ticket when I don't want to use cash. The key pad will ask for the PIN. Admittedly, I was a bit unsure about this but punched it anyway.

The transaction goes through. When the ticket drops into the light flashing ticket slot, another "document" comes along with it, your receipt indicating not only the amount charged on your credit card, the type of card (MC or Visa) but also the card's last 4 digits.

Posted by
3521 posts

The only time you can be charged for a cash advance when using your credit card is when the transaction results in you receiving cash. That would be when you use it to get cash at an ATM.

You will never and can never be charged for a cash advance when you are using your card PIN for a normal purchase transaction.

Unfortunately most customer service people you talk to about your credit cards are reading scripts that are designed for the country where the card is issued. So if it is a US bank, they will argue with you that the PIN makes any translation a cash advance. They are wrong.

I have used my chip cards from Bank of America and Capital One with their PIN nearly 100 times between the two and have never had a PIN transaction be charged as a cash advance. Sometimes the card machine will spit out a receipt for me to sign, sometimes nothing. If you still have a mag stripe only card (rare and becoming more rare every day) the machines in Europe will not ask for a PIN unless you are trying to do a cash advance at an ATM.

Posted by
1997 posts

The Chase card website FAQ says:

Can my cash advance PIN be used to make purchases? No. Your cash advance PIN can only be used at the ATM.

I don't know what Credit Card the OP has but many of them in the US don't use PIN, just chip and signature. OP, I would double check as you don't want a cash advance charge on your credit card.

When I used my chip card in Spain, I had no troubles except for buying tickets in the Metro. Americans really don't need a PIN number for their cards in Europe if they are just there for vacation.

Posted by
2916 posts

in my understanding, a PIN for a credit card that isn't a "chip and PIN" credit card will work only for cash advances at ATM machines - and not for purchases.

That's basically true, but the card will work, just not the PIN. And except for transactions where a person is not present (self-service gas pumps; train ticket machines), you wouldn't have the opportunity to even try a PIN, since the merchant's machine will spit out a receipt for you to sign. I've had an Andrews CC with a chip and a PIN for several years, and the only time I need to use the PIN is at gas stations and tram/train kiosks. Otherwise it's treated exactly the same as a non-PIN card.

Posted by
14580 posts


Unless you intend to pay in cash whenever you decide to buy a train ticket in Germany using the DB machine instead of at a staffed ticket counter, using the American chip and signature credit card, you will be required to indicate the PIN to complete the transaction. No PIN punched in, no transaction.

Buying the ticket at a DB ticket counter, no PIN when paying with an US credit card.

Posted by
197 posts

This reminded me of the time I returned from Europe and decided to exchange my unused Euros for USD at my bank. The teller gave me the Canadian exchange rate instead of the Euro rate. I tried to tell her she was mistaken, but she insisted she was right. I made a little money on my euros! Unfortunately, that teller was never there again when I came in.

Posted by
2764 posts

I have a true chip and pin card. Everytime I have used it, the charge appears as a charge not a cash advance.

The truth is that since OPs card is really "chip and signature" it's going to default to that and probably not work as a chip and pin card anyway.

And if a merchant in the US asks for my PIN number as opposed to letting me enter it, I pull out another card. NEVER give your PIN to anyone! :)

Posted by
14 posts

Here's what i have found. Best to have a debt card. That works in Europe and in remote places. That's chip and pin. Another option I have found is to use Apple Pay (what I use). So then I just need my fingerprint to purchase most items. Luckily, Europe was far ahead of this as opposed to the US. Then for cash, use an ATM from a real bank and you are fine.

Honestly Apple or Google Pay work great in Europe and thus no signature required. When you go out to eat, they reach over, you reach over with your phone and in 3 seconds it's charged. I have it linked to my watch and I found out that being in Iceland, it took a total of 5 seconds for it to complete the transaction.