"Electronic" credit cards

We just returned from France. We had reserved a car with Hertz, but on arrival found that we HAD to have an embossed card to use for the rental deposit. An electronic (flat) card was not acceptable. We tried four other agencies at the Toulouse Airport to find they had the same policy. We ended up having to cancel our trip and return home.

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

The desk agents were not real clear about why they didn't want to accept the cards.
But, they were clear the cards had to have raised numerals. It was the lack of the third dimension that was causing the problem.

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

I just spoke a Hertz rep. He had not heard of this problem, but asked me to email Hertz and the written format could initiate a look-see.

Posted by Jane
Lebanon
605 posts

Do you mean to say that you had to have a chip and pin credit card or what exactly? Didn't you arrange your car rental from the USA? We have always used our regular credit card to get our cars in France, but not a debit card or anything like that.....can you explain a bit more please?

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6827 posts

Could you possibly mean that you tried to use a debit card to rent your car instead of a credit card? A lot of rental companies won't accept debit cards because there isn't enough money in the customer's checking account to cover the deposit. With a credit card the deposit comes out of the credit limit, which is usually a lot higher. Same deal with a lot of hotel chains.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4862 posts

And you cancelled your trip and returned home? You couldn't revise your trip and use public transportation? I always use AutoEurope to reserve cars in advance and pay for the rental at that time. I rented a car in Perpignan, France last October and had no problems.

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

We made the reservation on line from the US. There was the opportunity to pay before we left. I chose to wait until we arrived in Toulouse. I initially offered the Hertz rep. a "credit" Visa. Then, I offered her a MasterCard debit. All of our cards are "electronic" or flat. There are no embossed numerals. There is no way to make a hard copy "imprint" of the card. That seemed to be why the rental car companies would not take the cards. Several pay phones would not accept the cards either. But, that was a minor problem.
We thought about public transportation, but we used VRBO to rent houses in two small towns. I suppose we could have gotten there by train(?) or bus. But, then how would we have been able to explore the locale. Could not work that one out. So, we returned to the US to cut our losses.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4862 posts

That's too bad that you went all that way for nothing. Did you also lose the money for your vrbo rentals? Its too late now, but if you were to plan another trip you might want to pay in advance for a car. Did you have a computer or iPad with you? You could have gone online and paid or called Hertz and arranged payment over the phone with them.

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

Well, good suggestion. We didn't think about paying online. But, I think Hertz still wanted a copy of the card. They said we could pay with cash when we brought the car back, but they wanted an imprint of the card before we drove away. And, right now, I don't think we have any recourse with VRBO. The property owners are suitably disappointed, but the rental agreements are specific about no-shows.
A costly lesson. At least, on our part.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
960 posts

Well Thaxton, I've gotta say this is a new one on me. All of my credit and debit cards have the numbers embossed on them. I don't think I've seen one that is not. Is that something new? Is this another example of technology getting away from us?

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

We just got back from our bank and the manager was a little perplexed by the problem. She admitted the "flat" cards are new technology, but she didn't know that there were places (in the world) where they couldn't be used. She pointed out that many places in the US can/do enter the card number by hand if the mechanical/digital process is slow or not working at the moment. She did recognize that the car companies might still want a hard copy of the card number. And, the conversation petered out after that. She is going to take the matter to her vice president.
I guess we will see.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6827 posts

You learn something new everyday....here's a description of flat cards (they actually exist): http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/instant-issue-debit-cards-flat-unembossed-raised-numbers-1273.php But, I haven't had any merchant physically imprint a card in almost 10 years now. It's always swiped these days. I wonder if the rental car companies had never seen these cards before, thought they might be counterfeit, and didn't want to take the chance???

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
960 posts

I'm not sure I like the bank's answer all that well either. Whenever there is new technology you know that some places in the world are not going to be set up for it so I guess caution is advised. I take it the bank issued you these cards on their own initiative - that is, you didn't request them specifically?

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

As of May 31, 2011, their "embossed" card no longer work. You must use the "more secure" flat cards.

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

Actually, it's a billion dollar, 90k member, 13 branch credit union.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

I have an account with TD Bank, and my new debit/ATM card is the new flat kind. I noted this and momentarily worried; then I realized that I couldn't remember when I last had a card zip-zapped (as Michael's linked article called imprinting), and that I never use this card for purchases, only ATM withdrawals. It worked fine on my April 2012 trip to the Netherlands in their ATMs. I just checked, and my credit card and my Chase debit/ATM cards are embossed. I'm sorry to hear that this ruined your trip, and am amazed that anyone still takes an imprint of a credit card. As I said, I haven't seen those kind of machines in years. We're always upset that our lack of chip and pin puts us behind Europe. It seems that now we have to be worried about being ahead of Europe as well!

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

@Michael - Thanks for the link to that article. It was two years old. Do you think that more electronic credit cards might have been issued since then? I'm not sure what you think confuses me about credit cards versus debit cards. My debit card says "debit" on the front. Is your debit card encrypted in some way so that no one knows it is a debit card. Or, finally, go to Toulouse, go to the Hertz office and give them a flat card. @Nigel - I guess it wasn't clear enough that my credit union does not issue embossed cards. Are you suggesting that I apply for a new credit with a new issuer and wait in the French hotel for the card to be Fed-Exed. Good idea.
And, so far, one of the unanswered questions is why the fraud agency approved the withdrawal of cash to pay the hotel and approved the payment for the flight change. We're waiting on that answer. @You both - The houses we rented were 60 miles away in different directions. If we took a bus/train/cab, then what. We sit in those towns for the duration? What about seeing local sights? going to the Med? going to Niaux? anywhere? I don't think so. But, we are looking forward to your suggestions. Next time, we may follow your suggestions.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7671 posts

OK, so what CREDIT UNION is this? (Tell us who to avoid doing business with.)

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

@ Harold. Thanks
@ Nancy. Achieva Credit Union. But, as the article from Michael pointed out a growing number of banks, etc are moving to this type of card.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

So far, nearly all the instant-issue flat cards are debit cards, not credit cards. The first sentence of the story says it is not a credit card. Yes in the future they say it will spread to a credit card but not now. Most if not all car rental agencies will not take a debit card. What I don't understand is you getting back on a plane and going home?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

I'm SO confused!!! You paid thousands of $,$$$$.$$ to go, your credit card goofed up, and you left?!? Leaving more $$$.$$ at your holiday rooms? And you didn't just get a normal card Fed-Exed to you? You'd have to pay extra for the new airfare - how did that payment happen? You just left?

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

Many don't know the difference between a debit card and a credit card. Just because you have the visa on the debit means nothing in relationship to credit. The card can be used like a credit card but only to the max that you have in the account linked to the debit card. I don't mean to sound like a smart - but that is a huge mistake. Yes I would not get on a plane and go back home. But I wouldn't go to Europe without a credit card either. I would get where I am going even if I had to rent a taxi and from there try to figure transportation to the next big city and enjoy the hand dealed to me.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
667 posts

Just for the record, I've had a card whip-whapped twice in the last year. Once was in a NJ limo service, in the car. The other was in a NJ computer store whose POS computers (!) were down. They were in fact taking a risk because I'm sure there are no longer credit-card white thin-paper "reject" books like twenty years ago. But I agree, it's a new one on me. I am much more concerned about getting a Chip-and-PIN card due to reduced acceptance of swipe cards in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands over the last few years. But there are only a few US issuers for now. I read that Chase (for one) has the technology, but they only provide it to affiliates that want to issue such cards.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

This is astonishing in 2 respects. First of all, while I checked and all my credit cards are embossed, it's the stripe that gets read, not the embossed numbers. So when the European car rental agency takes my card for a guarantee (I always pre-pay in the US), as for example through Europcar in France last month, it reads the stripe rather than the raised numbers (the debit card issue is different; my new debit card is not raised, but I know debit cards are generally NG for rental cars).
Secondly, I'd do anything possible to salvage my vacation in such a situation, even if I had to spend a full day or 2 on-line and on the phone trying to get a new card or make some type of alternate arrangement. Such as take a train/bus to where I was going to stay then figure things out; rent bicycles, walk, take public transportation, get help from locals on getting a car locally, etc. But boy do I hope I never run into such a dilemma.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Ironically I was just issued a new flat debit card...from an American bank for US Servicemembers here in Europe. It works fine at ATMs here, or where magnetic-stripe cards are accepted. I still think cancelling the trip is rather strange as you took such a bath on it all. I agree it's a problem to be out in rental houses in small villiages without a car...but maybe you could have trained to another city that would accept your cards? The issue here isn't chip & pin but the old school style of making an imprint of a traditional credit card. And I didn't realize they did "flat" credit cards, I've only ever seen embossed ones. Most rental car agencies in the US also don't accept debit cards as a deposit, they want an actual line of credit.

Posted by DH
San Antonio, TX, USA
67 posts

I never knew of flat "electronic" cards. I will avoid them. Tks for the tip.

Posted by DH
San Antonio, TX, USA
67 posts

I never knew of flat "electronic" cards. I will avoid them. Tks for the tip.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Thaxton, Sorry to hear about the problems you experienced. I've never heard of this issue before, but immediately checked my cards to see which "format" they were. One of my Credit Union ATM/Debit cards is flat and the other is embossed, while ALL of my "C&P" credit cards are embossed. I don't know for sure, but suspect the merchant was reluctant to take "flat" cards as they're easier to counterfeit. Since no embossing is needed, only a cheap read/write unit attached to a Laptop is needed to program the magnetic stripe, along with a printer to put a name and number on the front. While some counterfeiters have embossing machines, they're not as common. Apparently this situation also occurs in Mexico, according to this: milepoint.com/forums/threads/chase-sapphire-preferred-the-actual-metal-card-im-over-it.29891/ In the same situation, I'd open an account with another financial institution in order to obtain an embossed credit card, and use it as a "backup" on future travels. I'd also make sure the Credit Union you're dealing with is made aware that you're taking part of your business elsewhere, since some of their products are "lacking". Happy future travels!

Posted by Thaxton
Belleair, Florida, USA
12 posts

We have gotten some resolution to the "flat card" issue, I think. I finally spoke to a Hertz rep who seemed to know what he was talking about. He said that no Hertz agencies in France accept "flat cards." Our issuing credit union used this information and other bits to contact Visa and Hertz and it seems that Hertz is in violation of an agreement made with Visa to accept these cards. Doesn't do us a lot of good, but it there is definitely a cautionary tale there.

Posted by Lori
Yelm, WA, USA
10 posts

Thaxton, I have something to add to your strange, and sad travel event. On May 10th, I rented a car for 5 days in Nice France, WITH a flat credit card. My account is with Chase. I actually have 2 separate credit card accounts with Chase. One account has a flat card, and the other has the embossed card. I checked my records, and I used my account with the flat card to rent the car with. When I handed over my flat card to the rental car agent, she looked at the card, then showed her co-worker the card, I mentioned that it was a silly new trendy style of card, the agent then shrugged her shoulders a bit, and ran the card through the machine. My card was accepted, and that was the end of it. I rented the car online with Budget rent a car, which is affiliated with Avis.