Chip and pin credit cards

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by IanJ, Jan 30, 2013.

  1. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    I'm thinking about a trip to Europe this summer/fall, and started looking into all the little bits and bobs that go along with that.

    One tidbit I came across is that USAA (which is now open to everyone for banking services) offers a "chip and pin" credit card as of about a month ago. Fairly handy for those times when a magstripe card won't work, but they still charge 1% as a foreign transaction fee. I think I'm going to skip it and just do the debit card and ATM route like I've done in the past, but I thought others might be interested to know about it.

    I assume other banks also offer chip and pin cards, but USAA is the first one I heard about, and I just got off the phone with them. Anyone know of others, particularly anyone offering a debit card?
    #1
  2. carrotnc

    carrotnc n00b

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    Typically make a couple trips to central and western Europe each year between work and vacation, and over the past ten years I've not had nor needed a chip+PIN card for either the work credit card nor the personal one. Work card I don't control, but the personal card is a Capital One Cash Rewards since it has no foreign transaction fees or surcharges -- just make sure they know you're travelling before you go so they can process a "travel alert" for you.

    Using a debit card to pull cash at ATMs will work if you notify your bank before you go, otherwise they'll likely lock your account until you call -- and they don't care about time zones, or dialing codes, or even putting a human on the line. Frustrating! So make sure you have a copy of the international contact number before you go.
    A debit card is a direct line to your cash and has no protection beyond yourself, so I only use it to pull cash from known ATMs (airports, train terminals, bank lobbys etc) and always check the card slot for a skimmer.

    When negotiating or paying there's no question that cash is king, but more and more places are receptive to cards. However, as acceptance of cards rises there's also a rise in the number of fake/stolen cards being used. As a result, when paying cash in Italy a few months ago it was possible to negotiate a discount before the meal -- vendors have been raising prices to overcome the funds lost to fraudulent cards.

    Have only been as far east as Czech Republic, so if you're going beyond that then please look for feedback from someone else who's been there. But in general, I wouldn't worry about not having a chip+PIN until the USA credit card companies finally catch up with the rest of the world on card security.
    #2
  3. Mark Manley

    Mark Manley Long timer

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    We have had chip and pin in the UK for several years now, all of our cards have them, and when I had an American girlfriend over a couple of years ago she went to pay in the supermarket with a US credit card and they literally had to dust off the old card swipe machine after finding one hidden away somewhere, a chip and pin might come in handy if you can get a good deal on one.
    #3
  4. eddie98

    eddie98 Been here awhile

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    We used Capital One 2 yrs ago. they don't charge a fee for using overseas.
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  5. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    One note - if you want to use your card to buy gas (petrol) at the pump, you'll need a PIN-Chip card. You can always use your mag stripe card inside, but that's assuming that there's someone inside.

    Unmanned fuel stations are more the norm than the exception in Europe in small towns and secondary roads.

    Oh yeah - for the USA crowd, Canada s also pretty much PIN-Chip at the pump, too.

    Andrews Federal Credit Union now offers a PIN-Chip card.
    #5
  6. cybrdyke

    cybrdyke In the Dark

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    +1. GET THE CARD!!! Buying gas in Europe without one can be a complete pain in the ass. Imagine running low on fuel and the only fuel nearby is at an unmanned station. Also, alot of fuel stations are tiny and crowded and you get the stink-eye from everybody because you're slowing down the whole process by using a "regular" credit card.
    #6
  7. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    Cool, thanks for the tip on Andrews. That looks like a good deal.
    #7
  8. lhendrik

    lhendrik Truffle Rustler

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    Trying to find a manned gas station in Southern France on weekend was horrible this past Summer 2012 on my GSA. Good thing I had a 33Liter tank. Get the chip and pinn card.
    #8
  9. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Try Bastille Day.

    I was sucking fumes a couple of years ago with no way to get fuel. Luckily a local who was fuelling his car took pity on me and shared his card in return for an appropriate amount of cash. :D
    #9
  10. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

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    Where else would one be riding?

    jk
    Perhaps due to outside influences one may have to visit some major metropolitian areas while over there (airports excluded).
    For myself, I haven't had my fill of the small towns.
    And I'll have to familiarize myself with said chip and pin cards if I'm fortunate enough to go again. I'd hate to travel with just my obsolete cash.
    Jim
    #10
  11. bnordgren

    bnordgren Curmudgin

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    Just out of curiousity, is there any possibility of buying a prepaid chip and pin card after arriving?
    #11
  12. carrotnc

    carrotnc n00b

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    Smacking my forehead for never even thinking about that, but it's a great idea. And yes, a quick search shows that it's possible: http://www.travelex.com/us/products/cash-passport/
    If you don't use the card above for 12 months then they'll start deducting a fee from the remaining balance. So it'd be great for loading up before a trip and then unloading when done.
    No fees for most actions, but what's missing is the exchange rate when you first load the card. Tread carefully -- if they don't declare openly where they make profit, then it's hidden for a purpose.
    #12
  13. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    Awesome, thanks for mentioning that! If Andrews decides they hate me for some reason, I'll probably do the Travelex. I do wonder how they're making money on that though. Must be exchange fees.
    #13
  14. bnordgren

    bnordgren Curmudgin

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    The website seems to indicate that they're not doing this any more. Must be very recent:

    :eek1
    #14
  15. bnordgren

    bnordgren Curmudgin

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    Try this link: VISA Europe prepaid

    Maybe these are hanging in the checkout isle of some euro-Walmart. :1drink
    #15
  16. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    Good catch -- I spotted the notice, but missed the initial sentence saying they weren't selling them at all. I thought it was just a warning about existing cards. I may call my local Travelex store and see if they can tell me what's up, and whether the card will be offered again.
    #16
  17. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    Ok, the word from the Seattle Travelex store is that the cards are not currently available, but will be again in the future. Exact date unavailable, but "call back in a month or two." Where they make their money is in the currency exchange, as previously suggested: their current dollars to euros rate is .6744, and the current rate listed on xe.com is .7454, so they're taking about 10% on the transaction. If I can find out what Andrews is charging, I'll post it here (I expect it'll be similar).
    #17
  18. argulus

    argulus 89 Alp

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    You may want to check out State Department Federal Credit Union. Anyone can join, you just need to state you are a member of the American Consumer Union (or some such group). I'm planning on relocating to LUX for my job (from Seattle) and was looking for a chip and pin solution (in addition to my USAA card). SDFCU has a prepaid Visa w/ no foreign currency fee - not sure about the exchange rate. I looked at Andrews as well but it seemed their signup process was pretty laborious. I signed up for SDFCU online in 10 minutes. After signup, you'll need to login to their online banking portal and can click the link for a prepaid chip and pin visa. Note, to login the first time use the member number they email you for your uname and the last 4 of your social as the password (they had no instructions indicating this and I had to call customer service to find this out). The whole process should take about 15-20 min. They also have a pin and chip credit card w/ no foreign fees as well.
    #18
  19. John933

    John933 GSX 1400

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    I do that a lot. Just wait at a petrol station, then ask the next who arrives flashing 20 euro note. A bit of hand work will get it across. One tank full and the card holder had a couple of euro's in his/her pocket. Never fails.
    John933
    #19
  20. IanJ

    IanJ Criminal Mastermind

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    Finally got my Andrews card. Communications got a bit scattered, and I didn't receive the notice saying I needed to jump through a few hoops.

    They required that I be a member of the Credit Union, which requirement is satisfied by opening a no-fee savings account, which has a minimum balance of $5. In order to become a member, you have to live in DC, or meet one of a couple of other qualifications. The one qualification that anyone can fit into is some club they have you join. It's linked from the Andrews website, and signup was instantaneous. I had to give them my address and contact info, but haven't heard anything, and it's not clear what advantage they get from me joining, or what advantage I'm supposed to get by signing up for this club (other than allowing me to get an AFCU account). The club option is not terribly obvious on the application, but once I figured it out, it was straightforward. I had to call their loan department to figure out that I needed to jump through these hoops, so if you apply and don't hear anything for a couple weeks, check in with them.

    It does indeed appear to be a good deal: no fees I can find, and the exchange rate (assuming I did the math right) is around 6% over the xe.com mid-day rate, which is a pretty good rate from what I can tell. It does indeed have the chip, but obviously I won't be able to tell whether that works until it's too late to do anything about it. ;)
    #20