Avoiding Credit Card Woes in Europe

Recently, we have noticed that our credit cards do not always work in some areas of Europe. Although not a cause for panic, there have been a few changes that travelers should be aware of when using credit cards in Europe.

Choose your credit card wisely

The Chip-and-PIN cards were introduced in Europe almost ten years ago and now more than 80 countries use them. The Chip-and-PIN credit cards use an embedded chip technology instead of the magnetic strip cards that most American credit card companies use.

Chip-and-PIN is very secure technology that makes it much harder for credit card hackers and fraudsters to steal from consumers. Rather than just stealing the information contained in a card’s magnetic strip, they’d have to know the carrier’s pin number as well.

We  first became aware of the issue when we tried to use our credit card to purchase train tickets from a machine in the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. The vending machine rejected our card, so we went to the ticket counter and the person behind the counter would not accept our credit card either. We paid with cash.


Other places that might reject your magnetic strip card are toll ways, unattended parking garages or gas stations. We also found that some restaurants in Amsterdam would not take our card, and in some instances, wouldn’t even take cash!

We had no problem of this sort in France, but have heard of credit card rejection stories in Italy and several other countries. We have been warned that the demand for Chip-and-PIN cards will only increase. Note: ATM machines have always worked with our debit card and that should not be an issue.

One remedy to this problem is to be sure you have adequate cash in case you run into one of these quirky machines. Another is to get a credit card with a Chip-and-PIN for Europe travel.

Some banks that offer a Chip-and-PIN card are: American Express Platinum, Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and US Bank. However, not all configurations on each of these cards will offer Chip-and-PIN cards. Furthermore, banks are not happy to offer Chip-and-PIN cards, because they are more expensive to produce, so they may try to talk you out of it.

To complicate matters further, some banks will offer a Chip and signature card, which also will not work in Europe’s machines and defeats the safety feature of a PIN. The best place to start is to contact your credit card carrier. Perhaps, with enough requests, this technology will be as readily available to Americans as it is for Europeans.

Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com

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