Americans Required to Provide Credit Card PINs Abroad
If you are traveling in Europe this summer, do not be surprised if your credit card is refused at a local restaurant, hotel or merchant. The problem is that an increasing number of European banks are requiring the use of chip-enabled cards with PIN numbers to make purchases and other transactions, and only very few U.S.-issued cards currently comply with the European Banks’ standards.
As a result, more and more American travelers in Europe are facing difficulties when trying to pay with their credit card. Also, even though the biggest international card networks – Visa, MasterCard and American Express – all require that their participating merchants accept American chipless credit cards, you may still face trouble with card use.
In spite of all the complaints from American consumers who have been unable to use their credit card in Europe, U.S. card networks and banks do not yet have an effective solution to the problem. They maintain that no problem actually exists because: a) U.S. cards can be used everywhere when you provide your signature instead of a credit card PIN number; and b) even though many countries have adopted the chip-and-PIN technology as a means of cardholder authentication, U.S.-issued magnetic stripe cards can still be recognized by credit card payment terminals in these countries.
However, all of these assurances are of little assistance when it comes to real situations. When you urgently need to buy a train ticket or reserve a hotel room and your credit card is refused, what you need is a direct action plan. So, what should you do if a merchant or a vending machine asks you for a credit card PIN?
If you are dealing with a clerk, waiter or agent, just remind them that under the current international credit card rules, U.S.-issued credit cards are to be accepted with nothing more than a signature to verify your identity. If the person in question still refuses to complete your purchase, do not give up. Ask to see their manager and persist in your request.
In case you are trying to use your U.S. credit card at an unattended vending machine that requires a credit card PIN, you will not have much success, although you can still get a cash advance from your card at an ATM. However, remember that cash advances usually incur high interest rates and flat fees. Also, if you do agree to provide a PIN in order to make a purchase instead of a cash advance, then you may be charged a cash withdrawal fee.
So, be very careful when using your U.S. bank card abroad for credit purchases. If you want to avoid trouble and extra expenses associated with the European Banks’ requirement to provide credit card PIN numbers, consider taking a debit card with you. You can use your debit card at ATMs to withdraw cash, and you’ll pay much less in interest charges and fees than you would by using a regular credit card.