Consumers travelling abroad may find themselves faced with a payment conundrum when trying to use their cards overseas, especially in places like trains stations and bus terminals. What’s the problem? Well, it’s that little magnetic strip on the back of your card, the one that contains all off the information necessary to make a transaction. This is because most European countries and elsewhere have embedded microprocessor chips in their plastic payment cards and those are what their point of sale terminals are set up to accommodate.
The chip technology, known as EMV for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, is currently being tested by some of the bigger retail banks in America such as JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Additionally currency exchange company Travelex has begun offering for sale to travelers a preloaded debit card that contains an EMV chip. There are also a handful of credit unions that are making EMV-enabled credit and debit cards available to their customers, such as the New York based United Nations Federal Credit Union and the Raleigh, NC State Employees’ Credit Union.
These chip-and-pin cards require that users type in a personal identification number to complete transactions in lieu of signing at the register. The claim is that these types of cards have a higher resistance to fraud, as they are difficult to counterfeit and the sensitive personal information stored on them is not as vulnerable as on magnetic-strip cards.
Up until now, American banks and business have been reluctant to change over to the new technology, primarily due to the expense of converting to chip-and-pin cards and the compatible cash registers and payment terminals.
But if you are not one of the lucky few who already has an EMV card and you are planning a trip out of the country, what can you do?
Identify The Likeliest Place to Run Into Difficulty
While most European businesses have the equipment to process magnetic strip credit and debit cards, there are cashiers who don’t know how to handle them. However, you should be able to go ahead and use your magnetic strip cards in the majority of bars, restaurants and retail stores. It is a wise idea to carry a couple of different credit cards with you when you travel, because if one does not go through there is a chance that a different one might. Just be polite and request that the cashier try each one of your cards to see if their card reader will accept one over the other.
The real potential for problems lies in automated ticket kiosks which are typically found at gas pumps, and in places like parking garages and train stations. Many of them flat out do not accept any cards other than chip and pin cards. It is possible to reserve train tickets online over the internet if you can plan your travel in advance. Otherwise, consider picking up one of those afore-mentioned pre-loaded Travelex debit cards. If you have any funds remaining on the card at the end of your trip they can be converted back into U.S. dollars.
The Good News
ATM machines, for the most part, will accept and recognize all different types of magnetic strip cards, so you will be able to withdraw money from your bank account in a pinch.