Fish and Chips and PIN Cards?

PIN Photo

All across Europe, the switch has already been made from magnetic stripe cards to “chip and PIN” cards. This has caused headaches for millions of US tourists who try to use their credit cards – only to realize their cards aren’t accepted.

In several European countries – including Great Britain, Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands – chip and PIN cards have completely replaced magnetic stripe cards. These smart cards require entry of a PIN number in order to “unlock” the embedded security chip. Even if you do just want to rent a bike for a ride along the Thames. Americans in Europe who don’t understand how the system works may find themselves at a loss for how to pay for even the simplest of services.

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What to Do if You Don’t Have a Chip and PIN Card

Although Visa and Mastercard have asked for US banks to make the switch to chip and PIN by 2015, it’s hard to say when these changes will be implemented across all fifty states. In the meantime, we only have our magnetic stripe cards to work with.

In the meantime, our European neighbors have made accommodations for American guests:

1. At most public service stations (i.e., subways, tolls, garages, lockers, bike-rentals, and gas pumps), there will be a cashier nearby who will let you swipe your card and sign for your purchase.
2. Nearly all hotels, restaurants, and shops will be able to accept US credit cards. They may ask you to sign for your purchase or enter your US PIN number, so have it memorized!
3. Nearly all payment stations and shops accept cash, so you could bypass having to wait in line by always keeping cash on hand. Keep in mind that if you’re planning on driving across borders, you may very well have to wait in line in the cash lane.

My recommendation is to get a card with no transaction fees and a pin and chip. Most banks offer them I got one from Chase that is a British Airways card and I get miles on American Airlines. Another thing about credit cards abroad is that many places do not accept American Express. I have never had any problem getting cash with my ATM so don’t leave home without it.

If you have any more specific questions about chip and PIN cards, or are thinking about joining The Family Odyssey on one of our upcoming European getaways ($500 off all summer trips!), just reach out and we’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.
Happy Travels!

Liz and Mike Kohler
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The Family Odyssey offer group, private and customized trips for busy families looking for fun, active vacations the whole family will enjoy. Contact us for more info at 888-834-8675

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