Using A "Chip" CC In Europe Without A P.I.N.?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Credit Cards' started by Whatwasthat..., Apr 5, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    I hope this isn't a completely silly question to ask.

    The Missus & I are headed to the U.K. (and Paris) at the end of this month. My no-forex-fee BA Visa Card now has a "chip". Will I need to get a P.I.N. to be able to use it on this trip (I haven't needed one so far, to use it in the USA)?

    Your experienced guidance will be very much appreciated (as always) - thanks!
     
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  2. TravelBear

    TravelBear Gold Member

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    Good question! One I would like an answer for as well. For some reason I am thinking it is situational so best to have the PIN set up.
     
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  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I have personally not encountered a situation where a Chip card was required *other* than automatic/unmanned credit card readers for train/subway tickets, parking garages or gas stations, and in those cases a PIN was needed since there was no way to sign a piece of paper.

    So while I have a few US cards now that have a chip, they haven't proven useful, and for cases like the ones above I have a European credit card with PIN.
     
  4. sharris503

    sharris503 Silver Member

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    Agreed. The issue is with automated machines. But they also take cash. I know we like our credit cards and hate missing out on points but I use cash for everything when overseas.
     
  5. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    Thanks TravelBear and HaveMilesWillTravel!

    TB: Was afraid of that (it'll be one more P.I.N. I'll need to remember).

    HMWT: I currently have two "go-to" no-forex-fee cards - and now both of them have chips. I haven't found the chips to be particularly beneficial to me personally yet either. But the cards have 'em regardless of whether I want them or not, and my concern is that I may not be able to use them in "un-automated" places (like restaurants) unless I get P.I.N.s for 'em (okay, make that two more P.I.N.s I'll need to remember). :oops:
     
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  6. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    Cash instead of my beloved points-generating, expense-delaying (well, for a couple of weeks anyway) credit cards? Heavens, what's the world coming to! :eek:

    Point taken though - thanks sharris503!
     
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  7. FlyingBear
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    FlyingBear Silver Member

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    I haven't had any need for Chip cards in UK or Paris. Nordic has given me quite a heartburn, especially, as already mentioned, at automated machines.
     
  8. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

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    I have the BA card with chip but it doesn't have a PIN - I asked Chase and they said it only gets an ATM pin not transactional PIN so when I go out in UK/international I need to tell them it is chip no PIN and still need to sign slip -not sure why Chase won't do true chip/pin -
     
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  9. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    I don't think it's possible to get PINs for US-based EMV cards. If you do get PINs for them, they'll be designed for withdrawing cash at ATMs, and they may or may not work for PIN-based purchases. The only US-based cards that are truly chip-and-PIN are a few cards from small credit unions and Diners Club. The credit union cards are not tied to decent rewards programs, and Diners Club is not currently accepting new applications (and I'm starting to wonder if they ever will). If you get an EMV card from a US bank, it'll likely be chip-and-sign.

    Having said that, I don't really think a chip-and-PIN is an absolute necessity, unless you're planning to use unattended kiosks (gas stations, ticket machines, etc) or travel to areas that don't see a lot of tourists. If you're sticking to areas that are used to tourists, chip-and-sign should be good enough, and if it's not, just make sure you have enough cash.

    My AS Visa from BofA has an EMV chip, and while I haven't had occasion to travel outside the US since I got the chipped version (last July), it's better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.
     
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  10. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    Aah, interesting - so you're saying I shouldn't need (or can't use) a P.I.N. number for the BA CC when making non-kiosk, non-ATM transactions such as paying the bill at a restaurant (that's what I'm hoping)?
     
  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Not all. I "fondly" remember driving around Asterdam neighborhoods near the airport on an early Sunday morning trying to find a gas station that was open. The two I found had machines that only took PIN credit cards. Eventually I was running out of time and drove to the airport and fortunately found one (large and staffed one) there.
     
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  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I've had a number of problems in Denmark in the past few months with non-C&P cards. I get around it in the end but truly frustrating.

    If you don't have a PIN make sure to tell the person swiping the card. Sometimes they know what to do to make the transaction go through. Not always, and when language issues get in the way that doesn't help either. Explaining it as a "stupid American CC" sometimes helps the situation but a card which has a chip probably makes it more confusing that the majority of US-issued cards which have no chip.
     
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  13. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    I have encountered chip-only cc terminals in grocery stores and full service restaurants, where servers brought portable ones with them along with the bill. Also some newer automated terminals accepted chip cards without a pin -- I just had to press the "Yes" button one extra time for authorization.
     
  14. guberif

    guberif Silver Member

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    I was in Poland and Germany last week, and used my Citi HHonors card with chip. They always inserted it in to the "chip" slot of the cc terminal, but I was never asked to provide a pin. No issues. The only place I had an issue was buying subway tickets in Frankfurt; had to use cash at the auto machine.
     
  15. SuperKirby

    SuperKirby Gold Member

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    My two long miles:
    There are never silly questions on forums! Thats what forums are for! IME, everyone here got it spot on. Just to recap and clean things a little bit here (or mess it up even more, lol). There are essentially TWO types of smartcards credit cards in the USA. One is a Chip & Signature card, the other is the Chip & PIN card (the true global chip credit card version). Currently, ALL major US banks ONLY have Chip & Signature cards. Your BA Visa is a Chip & Sig card. There is absolutely no way (impossible) to add a pin to your smartchip Chip & Sig card. If you requested a PIN for your BA card, it is for cash advances only, which is actually used on the magnetic striped part of your card, not the actual smart chip. It is just like any other magnetic strip credit card with a cash advance PIN, similar to how a USA debit card works.

    Like Letterboy said, only Diners Club and a few small credit unions here in the USA carry a true Chip & PIN card. I doubt there is a single terminal here in the US that requires only a Chip & PIN card. Remember, cash advances and ATM PIN uses are a totally different story (it uses the magnetic strip on your card).

    Alright, so here are my experiences while overseas (mainly France & Spain). In the exact order, I always use 3 cards while shopping and dining through Europe. 1. I always attempt to use my magnetic strip Chase Sapphire Preferred (no smartchip at all) first (to test out this theory and of course the extra UR points). As long as the merchant accepts credit cards, this card (all magnetic strips only) worked at 85-95% of my shopping and dining. Keep in mind I mostly tend to go to touristy places.

    Now, for the few merchants (mostly outside touristy places) that did not accept my Sapphire card, I revert to my 2nd to-go card: my Amex Platinum and as I said earlier, all major US banks have Chip & Sig. So my Amex Plat is a Chip & Sig card. Anyways, the Amex Plat always fails. If my magnetic strip sapphire didn't go through, my Chip & Signature Amex never goes through as well. OR, if there is no swipe slot for a strip card, then they insert my Amex into the insert slot, but also no cigar. My guess is that because that type of machine does not spit out receipts to sign, then while reading my Amex Chip & Sig smartchip, it has to simply deny it (that terminal is looking for a PIN inside the smart chip, but does not find one so it denies the entire transaction).

    Now a few times (to test out this theory in another way), I did however happen to give the Chip & Sig card first, the checkout person will automatically assume that its a PIN card and is typically surprised when s/he sees a receipt spits out to sign. <-- I assume these machines will work with magnetic strip cards as well but I did not confirm by buying something else with my Sapphire card (I will next time just to see). Also, some merchants will not require you to sign anything regardless because the amount is too small.

    As I said earlier, there is NO pin in that smart chip of a Chip & Sig, only a cash advance PIN for the Magnetic strip. So, if card 1 and 2 fails, that leads to 3. I use my credit union true Chip & PIN card and it works 100% of the time when my Chase (mag strip) and Amex (Chip & Sig) cards did NOT work.

    In addition, like all the other posters already said, neither my Chase or Amex worked at un-manned kiosks train stations, only the small credit union Chip & PIN did.

    So IME, the magnetic strip card is no different than the Chip & Sig cards in terms of usability. It only makes the US cards look fancier. Although according to other stories i've read, some people have had luck using the Chip & Sig when their Magnetic strip cards didn't work. I have not had that experience at all during all my overseas travel.

    However, please keep in mind there are a few minor exceptions to the rule, but it gets even more confusing so we'll have to leave it at that. Also keep in mind that if the merchant inserts the card and it doesn't work, tell them to swipe it, and vice versa.

    Sorry if I was so redundant. I always have a weird urge/need to try to be clear and concise (which actually backfires and becomes the opposite sometimes).

    Take home point: you will be fine with your BA card, and there is no PIN anyway. Just make sure to take out lots of cash if you plan to use public transit.
     
  16. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    Superkirby nailed this. The us cards are all chip and signature. If for some odd reason you can get an automated machine to accept them in Europe you will be charged as a cash advance or ATM fees for the transaction. There have been a few rumors that the cards might work at a kiosk if you type in 9999 or something but I think it's dumb luck or urban legend. Don't test this theory at an isolated subway platform at midnight with no other means available to pay. Trust me on that...
    Frustrating I know but don't sweat it. Just exchange enough cash to pay for the automated stuff and you can use a regular card for other transactions. Also if you have the chip cards get an RFID signal blocking sleeve or wallet to protect it from hackers. Rare but can occur.
     
  17. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    While there are contactless payment features available with some cards, I think that's separate from the EMV chips. Those have contacts (clearly visible) and I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe that they they also support RFID-based access.
     
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  18. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    Wow, thank you all so much for your experiential guidance! Seems the "chip" in my U.S. based cards is pretty much ornamental.

    Thanks again!
     
  19. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    That's not true. I used my Chip&Sig version of Citi TY Premier MC to buy commuter train tix from machines in Europe. Those machines did not ask for a pin, just an extra confirmation. The transactions all posted correctly as purchases / transportation.
    The subway ticket machines that insisted on a pin, did not charge anything on a card.

    You may be confusing two separate devices. The "Chip" on a credit card requires an external electrical contact, and looks similar to one on a phone SIM card, except that the cc chip contacts are usually not gold-plated.
    RFID devices are entirely embedded inside credit cards. Such cards are marked with the Wi-Fi symbol, and sometimes one can notice a slight bump on it's surface. Those devices are contactless. Their use is fading though, and they are quite rare now.
     
  20. SuperKirby

    SuperKirby Gold Member

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    That makes sense. From what I heard from others, if a train kiosks happens to take a Chip & Sig, then it won't ask for a PIN, just a receipt/confirmation. If it does ask for a PIN, and you happen to enter your CASH advance PIN for your Chip & Sig card, it should deny it because the cash advance PIN is a different system. I haven't had a kiosk that accepted my Chip & Sig yet. Would like to hear more stories.
     
  21. TravelBear

    TravelBear Gold Member

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    So what I take away from this is keep cash handy, then, pick a card, any card....try it, no go.....cash!
     
  22. SuperKirby

    SuperKirby Gold Member

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    LOL exactly, well put. I'm gonna try my old Pokemon trading card next.
     
  23. Counsellor
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    Counsellor Gold Member

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    My experience as well. I haven't been rejected for no PIN in transactions in Europe, whether or not my card has a chip. Someone said if there's no PIN associated with the chip, the chip is read by the machine to say that (although I've been unable to confirm).

    The problem in Frankfurt, like many German cities, is that the machines selling subway/local tickets are looking for a debit-type card, either a chip loaded with a small amount of money that is debited at the transaction point, or a real debit card. They're not creating credit transactions. The DB machines selling long-haul train tickets, however, accept credit cards with chips but no PINs, and even credit cards without chips.
     
  24. GenevaFlyer
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    GenevaFlyer Milepoint Guide

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    Actually, it is not. There are machines in Europe which cannot read the magnetic strip anymore, while it will read your chip. The fact that it's then a signature instead of PIN is a second part to the story.

    Cheers,

    GenevaFlyer
     
  25. Whatwasthat...
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    Whatwasthat... Silver Member

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    Fascinating, I hadn't thought of that possibility - thanks!
     
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