Gimme some credit (or at least help me use it with ease in Europe)
May 30, 2016 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Here's what I want in an American credit card: 1. No foreign transaction fees 2. It actually, no shit, honest to god, works with European chip + PIN point-of-sale credit card interfaces 3. No annual fee/low annual fee/no fee for at least a year If you are American and have a card like this and have used it in Europe and have been able to punch in your PIN instead of a signature please tell me all about it!

I've scoured NerdWallet and a few other places on the web. I even have a card that claims to be all of these things, but, no, when you go to use it in POS transactions, the PIN doesn't work and it has to be run as a signature card. Apparently "PIN" is just for when you want to use it at an ATM to withdraw cash.

So I'm not really looking for "hey this looks like it might work" but I'm looking for "I have this card. This is the card. I know it works because I've used it." I will be fine traveling without such a card and have done so in the past. But if a card like this really exists, I'd sure like to know. Thanks!
posted by MoonOrb to Work & Money (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I used my Barclay Arrival+ card to get train tickets from chip-and-pin machines in France last fall. $89 annual fee waived in the first year. No foreign transaction fees.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:10 PM on May 30, 2016

BOA and Citi both offer international chip and pin cards. Cost depends on the usual, however fees can be steep depending on offer. The US banks are money sucking ticks when it comes to the true cost of an electronic transaction.....
posted by Funmonkey1 at 12:17 PM on May 30, 2016

I'll add an anti-recommendation. I went to the trouble of becoming a member of Andrews FCU to get their card which claimed to be chip-and-pin a few years ago for a trip around Europe. In all cases but one, the "and pin" part did not work, and machines refused to accept it. It failed 100% of the time with free-standing bus and train ticket machines, which was the entire reason I went to the trouble of getting the card. The "and pin" part kicked in one time at a hotel, and the rest of the time it defaulted to "signature" mode.
posted by slagheap at 12:29 PM on May 30, 2016

Sorry, I thought I had the answer until I read your desire for no signatures.

In case you have to give that one up, I can at least confirm that the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card does satisfy the criteria you listed as 1-3. (Note: I have BoA checking and savings accounts, so that may be why I don't have an annual fee. Not sure what the general policy is.)

I'm living in Germany now and it's all I use. The lack of PIN has never been a problem for me... I have used it at train station ticket machines here, as well as retail stores and restaurants, and have not encountered any problems like requiring a PIN I don't have.

Not sure if Funmonkey1 knows about a BoA card that actually does satisfy the PIN requirement…
posted by dondiego87 at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2016

If it helps, I have a Citi Premier Card, and can confirm that a signature is required (in the UK at least). I've never been able to get a US card with a chip to work as a chip & PIN card in Europe, and have come to assume that the systems are just different (given that, AFAIK, chip & PIN isn't a thing in the US).

All that said, I give a big thumbs up to the Premier card because there's no transaction fees, the annual $95 fee is waived in the 1st year (and they waived it for my 2nd year, when I called to cancel), and you earn really good points that you can link directly to your Amazon account.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 12:52 PM on May 30, 2016

Earlier this month I traveled within several cities in Europe, and was told by one cashier that "as long as your card has the signature strip, it won't read as chip and PIN." Whether this is accurate I have no idea, but might be an avenue for you to investigate. I had a Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclay Arrival, both with chip.
posted by tyrantkitty at 2:30 PM on May 30, 2016

I just spent three months living in Amsterdam using my Capital One 360 Online Checking Debit MasterCard. No fees. Absolutely, definitely a real Chip/PIN card. Only place it didn't work was Maestro only Dutch POS points. Better exchange than my PayPal Debit Card which was my best option up until the Cap One. Online deposits via photo. I'll be closing out my brick and mortar checking account when I get back to the states.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:36 PM on May 30, 2016

JetBlue's card issued by Barclaycard. There is no fee.
posted by dame at 5:04 PM on May 30, 2016

UNFCU visa elite works in europe as described. It's issued by the goddamn UN's credit union, so you know it deals with travel well.
posted by lalochezia at 7:09 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used an Andrews FCU chip card in Scotland last year, and it definitely worked with a pin the few times I needed it to, but I never needed to use it at a bus/train ticket machine or an unstaffed gas station. Most places ran it as chip and signature, so I remember being excited the couple of times I actually used the pin.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:54 AM on May 31, 2016

I just spent three months living in Amsterdam using my Capital One 360 Online Checking Debit MasterCard.

Seconding that. I just used mine in Tanzania and Amsterdam with no problems at all. The card also has a magnetic strip should you need it.

360 Checking was previously ING Direct Electric Orange Checking, and as best as I can tell, hasn't picked up and Capital One scumminess. The one downfall is that it's a debit, not a credit, card, so be aware of the differences there.

Here's the blurb on foreign transaction fees from the FAQ:
Can I use my Card overseas?
Sure, you can use your Card anywhere you see the MasterCard® logo. But if you are planning on traveling outside of the U.S., for security purposes, please notify us of your travel plans. That way we’ll know it’s you and not someone else making overseas purchases. If you have any questions or problems when you’re traveling you can give us a call at our collect international number 302-658-9593.

To notify us of your travel plans, just follow these simple steps:

Sign in to
Click on your ‘360 Checking'
Click on the 'Debit Card' tab
Click on the 'let us know' link in the ‘Travel Plans' section and follow the steps
If you use your Card for a foreign transaction (any transaction made in a foreign currency or that MasterCard® classifies as a cross-border transaction), we won't charge you anything.

Are there any charges for using the Card?
In addition to worldwide cash access, we provide free access to your cash at over 38,000 ATMs in all 50 states through our partnership with the Allpoint® Network (ATM Locator Opens a new window).

If you use your Card for a foreign transaction (any transaction made in a foreign currency or that MasterCard® classifies as a cross-border transaction), we won't charge you anything.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2016

I successfully used the SDFCU card two years ago and it always worked, whether in PIN or signature mode. It's not the most convenient card to get because they want you to set up a savings account, and the website/customer service isn't up to the usual standards of a Citi/Chase/BigBank, but it definitely works and there's no annual fee.
posted by wnissen at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2016

I recently got a PenFed card that (supposedly) tries Chip + Signature first and then will do Chip + PIN (this is presumably the same behavior as the Andrews FCU card). I'm going to the UK in a few weeks and will try to remember to report back on what happens. (I don't expect to need to use any automated kiosks, though, and that's the ultimate test.)
posted by hoyland at 6:10 AM on June 4, 2016

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