Chip & PIN credit cards for European Travel.

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The Flight Deal Team has taken annual group trips to Europe the past two years. One of our pet peeves when traveling to Europe is the fact that most of the credit cards in our wallets don’t really work with the automated kiosks at gas/petrol and train stations.

Chip & PIN logo via The UK Cards Association

Let us explain — most of the world uses a more secure and advanced form of purchase verification than us. While chip enabled cards are the norm in the US now, they are still behind the rest of the world. The chip enabled cards in the US are chip and signature, meaning, you have to sign for your purchase. The rest of the world uses chip and PIN. Instead of signing for a purchase, you enter a PIN like you would going to the ATM.

Therein lies the problem. Since the US uses chip and signature, the transaction will most likely fail with automated kiosks. This can create a lot of headaches if you happen to stop by a gas station at an off hour like us when we were in Portugal last year. Good thing we had our Barclaycard Arrival+ credit card with us; if we didn’t, we probably would’ve had to wait for someone to come fill up their car and hope they be nice enough to take our cash in exchange for them filling up for us.

Here are some US credit cards that are chip and PIN enabled:

  • All credit cards issued by Barclaycard:
    • Arrival
    • Arrival+
    • Hawaiian
    • Aviator (All variations)
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express
  • Target Mastercard

While the cards above are chip and PIN enabled, they still default to signature with PIN as the backup. This means if the payment terminal has the ability to do signature, it will default to that. If the payment terminal doesn’t offer signature capabilities, only then it will try to utilize the PIN. This means that even though the above are chip and PIN enabled, it still might fail.

In those scenarios, we use our ATM card. That has worked for us. Though, we only use it as a last resort due to the fact that credit cards are not tied to our bank account should there be fraudulent activity.

If you are traveling aboard, consider adding a chip and PIN enabled card to your portfolio to save time and potential headaches.

What are your experiences with chip and PIN cards while traveling? Let us know.


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Comments (11)

  • Linda 6 years ago Reply

    We had that problem with some of the automated kiosks as well, we just happen to be lucky that those machines had Android/Apple Pay options. I guess have that ready as well and see what you end up having to resort to.

  • Brett Barry 6 years ago Reply

    I have the Aviator Silver card and have used it extensively in Europe. Even though restaurants have those mobile terminals that most Europeans use for credit cards using a pin number, they still have the ability to print a receipt for a signature. I recommend carrying a pen since this is usually unexpected and the server has to run and get a pen to have you sign it. Otherwise, I have used this at kiosks to buy metro and train tickets and the pin works great!

  • Jessica 6 years ago Reply

    Sadly if it’s signature + chip with PIN as backup, many unattended stations (like at least some train station ticket machines in Sweden and Switzerland) reject the card.

    The Flight Deal 6 years ago Reply

    @Jessica – we have experienced that too. Its very frustrating.

  • Nikki 6 years ago Reply

    Question for clarification: could you just use the PIN for your credit card? I’d have to contact my credit card company to get it, but would that work?

    The Flight Deal 6 years ago Reply

    @Nikki – the PIN for cash advances / ATM is different than the PIN that you get for a true chip+PIN card. not saying it won’t work, but different.

  • Sara 6 years ago Reply

    We used our bank card when my husband and I were in England back in October visiting family. It never let us put in our PIN number – we always had to sign. It’s incredibly frustrating (and embarrassing) how backward the States is in terms of technology.

  • Chad Russo 6 years ago Reply

    Cash is still king, accepted everywhere.

    Jeff Lewis 6 years ago Reply

    Your solution for the US being behind the world in technology again… It’s to go even further backwards.


  • Pit Pony 6 years ago Reply

    Most of europe(*) has moved on from Chip and Pin to contactless now. In the UK, any purchase under £30 can be contactless, if your card / bank supports it

    Of course, Apple and Android pay are almost ubiquitous too, giving more convenience!

    (*): With caveats, of course

  • Chris 5 years ago Reply

    TO me that is stupid if the card is set to accept Chip & PIn cards the card should always ask for a pin first and only then should it result in a signature should there be an issue and not the other way arounf

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