Credit cards and computer chips were both invented in the US, so why is America the last country on earth to combine the two technologies?!
The chip and PIN feature was developed in the 90’s to fight credit card fraud. Since then, the world has been ditching the magnetic strip readers and replacing them with new readers, which require you to enter a PIN to make a purchase.
This has created a major dilemma for US cardholders. Since we still have the old fashioned plastic, our cards have been rendered almost useless while traveling in many areas of the world.
The most common places your card won’t work?
The good news is many stores and restaurants in foreign countries are able to process your card manually by typing in the account number into their reader. There are, however, a number of scenarios where this might not be possible:
European rail tickets – Most train ticket kiosks will not accept magnetic strip cards. If you scroll down to the comments on my recent blog post about chip and PIN cards, you will see a rant from someone who was practically stranded at the airport in Paris because the machine would not accept his US-issued AmEx Platinum Card.
Pay-at-the-pump gas stations – Better known as “petrol” stations in Europe, if you try and swipe your card at the pump, there’s a good chance it won’t work.
The misinformed employee – Regardless of where you’re making a purchase, I frequently hear stories about store employees in foreign countries who are skeptical (and might outright refuse) the acceptance of magnetic strip cards. Technically speaking, that’s against the Visa and MasterCard TOS. Unfortunately, not every employee knows that!
How can you get around this problem?
One option is to avoid foreign travel until the US catches up with this technology. But since that’s a good five years away, I think all of us would agree that’s an utterly ridiculous solution!
No worries, as there are a couple ways you can get chip and PIN cards right now:
Solution #1 – Switch your card: There are literally 1,000s of different credit cards available in the US. Among those, the number which currently come with a chip and PIN you can literally count on your hand. These include:
Chase: British Airways and Hyatt credit cards (both Visa)
JP Morgan (Chase subsidiary): Select and Palladium credit cards (both Visa)
U.S. Bank: FlexPerks Travel Rewards (Visa)
United Nations Federal Credit Union: all of their cards (Visa)
North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union: all of their cards (Visa)
Solution #2 – Buy a prepaid card: Don’t want to apply for a new credit card? Well, if you’re willing to cough up the cost, you can buy a Travelex Cash Passport prepaid card, which comes with this technology.
About the Author: By Michael Dolen, editor-in-chief at CreditCardForum – a social media portal for credit card reviews and news.