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Chip and Pin - ad nauseam

OK, this topic has been discussed until everyone involved is sick of it. One follow up. Since debit cards have a PIN, can I use a debit card at unmanned kiosks for train tickets or gas? I would prefer a the greater safety of a credit card, something that isn't a direct siphon out of my back account, but this is the US so we're only lagging behind the rest of the world by 5 years (or is it 10?). Or am I better off joining one of the few US credit unions that seem to offer chip and pin credit cards?
Thanks.

Posted by
2829 posts

Debit cards are more hit and miss. You need to authorize international debit operations with your bank, it is never automatically enabled.

Once that is done, you can use your debit card with chip and pin, theoretically, in all places that have automated POS, such as gas stations, toll plazas etc.

Two small caveats:

  • At gas stations, or hotels, sometimes they will charge a high-ish "maximum reasonable expense" to your card, then let you fuel/check-in, withdrawing all the amount from your account. Couple days later, they automatically refund the difference. Debit cards don't have a "pre-authorization" function. At gas stations in France, for instance, depending on the bank circuit the POS at the unmanned pump will withdraw € 70, and then refund the difference to your actual refuel expenses 2 or 3 days later. The refund always work, so no worries.

    • Some POS have some tricks where they offer "instant currency conversion", i.e., to charge your card in your own account currency (US$). Almost always, this is a bad idea, reject it and charge it in €, CHF, £... the bank conversion rate is more advantageous than the exchange rate offered on spot (and international use fees will be charged regardless - the catch is that many people think that having an expense charged in US$ means no international fees will apply, whereas what really counts is the place of transaction, not currency).
Posted by
3491 posts

Most credit cards issued in the US with a CHIP are CHIP & SIGNATURE, including almost all of the Bank of America, Wells, and Chase cards. Chip & PIN is still very rare for US cards. If you sign the receipt for larger purchases, it is not a Chip & PIN card no matter what the card issuer claimed.

I have 2 actual PIN credit cards: one from Barclay's Bank and it is PIN Preferred which means in Europe I get asked for a PIN while in the US it only wants signature. Second is the Target MasterCard which requires a PIN to be entered everywhere for every transaction (this one is no longer offered to new customers). All my other Chip cards only want a signature even in Europe. I do have the PIN (called a cash advance PIN) for all of them which means I can use the cards at most kiosks for things like train tickets. None of the transactions are billed as cash advances except for those done at ATMs where I receive actual cash.

If you are truly worried about using your main debit card for purchases, you could open an account at one of the financial institutions that don't charge foreign fees (Capital One 360 is my favorite). Just put enough into the account to cover your travel expenses and the rest of your money remains safe and untouched.

Posted by
2916 posts

I don't belong to a credit union and I have 2 chip and pin credit cards from Bank of America.

Bank of America doesn't have any true chip and PIN cards. http://www.spotterswiki.com/emv/cardsearch.php?issuer%5B%5D=4&priority=no_preference&type%5B%5D=credit

I have 3 BOA credit cards, all have chips, but all are actually chip and signature. Even if you get a PIN, I'm not sure it would be of any use except for getting cash at an ATM (which one should never do), because of the priority and methods of verification as set forth in the list.

Posted by
5859 posts

Unfortunately you may not know until you try, there are just too many variables between your bank, the card issuer, and the terminal you would be using.

One issue I see is that the terminal would need to be "online" and communicating with the network, which it likely will be, but offline systems are common (or only transmit the data, not communicate). Then, in the US, you usually indicate whether the sale is Debit or Credit, not an option I have seen in Europe.

Posted by
36 posts

Yes, as Mark said, Chip and Signature is still the US norm. I have a Chase Sapphire and a couple of days ago, Chase acknowledged that they are STILL chip and signature. They keep saying they are going to update but then they back down. Also I am surprised about Barclays. I knew they had a chip and pin card, but I thought it was the one with an annual fee. Guess I'll have to check the Barclays website again. Thanks all.

Posted by
2012 posts

Of course in order to protect you BofA will decide to not allow the card to be used in Europe so it really won't matter. (Yes, after I spent over an hour on hold to tell them I was going to Spain they "blocked" the card anyway) Also, the contactless system in the US does not mean that it will work as chip/pin someplace else... Once again we seem to insist on trying to do things our way even if it's harder LOL!

I have one true chip and pin card. Unfortunately it's another one of those you can't get anymore (Diners Club MasterCard)

Posted by
8403 posts

**> but this is the US so we're only lagging behind the rest of the world

by 5 years (or is it 10?).**

More like at least 20 years. The first time my magnetic cards made a waiter wonder what to do with such an antique was in 1999.

Posted by
103 posts

Agree that debit cards are hit or miss, I prefer to use a credit card abroad for these situations. We have several credit cards as we use them for points - the only one that worked 100% of the time was the Barclay World Arrival Plus card. We had to call them to set up a pin but after that it worked.

Very necessary for some locations - for example, Amsterdam's very good and ubiquitous Vlaamsch Broodhuys sandwich shops/bakery chain doesn't take cash or do signatures for cards at all. The employee at the register will only enter your order into the computer, they don't handle your card or print receipts "because of hygiene", so if you don't have a functional chip+pin card you cannot eat there.

Posted by
34 posts

When we were in Italy at a small town (unmanned) train station our only choice for buying tickets was to use their machine. The machine accepted either cash or a chip+pin credit card. ATM card was not acceptable. I believe you can get a Chip & Pin Visa card from L.L. Bean. We have one but haven't taken it to Europe yet.

Posted by
2916 posts

Of course in order to protect you BofA will decide to not allow the card to be used in Europe so it really won't matter. (Yes, after I spent over an hour on hold to tell them I was going to Spain they "blocked" the card anyway)

Do you mean they did that intentionally, or just screwed up? I've been giving BOA notice of travel via their web site, but that's only to be safe, since I now use other credit and debit cards in France instead.

Posted by
11613 posts

I use my BoA credit card in Europe and it always works. I notify them of travel dates and places. It has never been blocked.

Posted by
2012 posts

Zoe, Have you traveled to Spain? According to the 'wizards' at BofA that's a "high risk area so even though you told us you were there we blocked your card just to be safe" They did unblock it, but..... I decided that I was tired of their "protection" (which really was not much protection they let someone in Indiana charge $10,000 in gold to the credit card, but I can't charge a $100 hotel in Spain?) and moved my business LOL!

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks to all for the responses. It sounds like I was correct to question whether a debit card would work since some people said their debit cards did not work in kiosks. Anyway, Barclay promises their cards can all be PIN enabled, so that's who I went to for a card. Still won't know for sure until I try it in Europe. Guess I'll try it the first time at a place where there's a human as an alternative, just in case.

Posted by
21067 posts

It doesn't really matter how many times the card works. It may work 8 times in a row and fail on the ninth. I have a perfectly ordinary US chip-and-signature credit card that worked all over Italy and the Balkans in 2015 but failed about half the time at restaurants and hotels in eastern Germany. I have no clue why. Thank heaven for Card #2.