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Problems With Plastic?

Cindy Loose

When traveling recently in Ireland, reader Adrian Cargill found he couldn't use his U.S.-issued credit and debit cards in gas stations, some restaurants and ATM machines along major roads. His "swipe and sign" cards just weren't welcome at certain places because the U.K. and much of Europe have switched to cards that are embedded with a microchip and require a PIN.

"How are my fellow travelers coping?" asks Cargill.

His e-mail happened to arrive after I'd already written an item about the problem in last Sunday's Coming and Going column. As the item related, all three major credit card companies said that every business that accepts their cards must accept both swipe and sign and chip and pin versions. There's no problem, they say. Yet, readers keep reporting problems at select businesses and many machines.

More anecdotal evidence is needed. Traveled to the U.K. or Europe in the past year? If so, you're a fellow traveler. How'd it go, credit card-wise?

By Cindy Loose |  October 31, 2007; 11:08 AM ET  | Category:  Cindy Loose , Shop Ops , Travel Logistics
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I was in Paris and Versailles in mid-July, and had no problems using my Visa and Amex cards. The bills, on the other hand....

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | October 31, 2007 12:43 PM

Never had a problem with my credit cards--did find that my ATM cards didn't reliably work at all machines in Chile. There was no problem with network compatibility so far as I can tell.

Posted by: MECM | October 31, 2007 1:13 PM

I had mine refused in Germany earlier this year. (Capital One Visa) At one store I was told that they only accepted "normal" credit cards. Granted, Germany is still cash in a lot of places, but it surprised me. Mastercard was also turned down in a few northern European countries. My current theory is that Euro retailers prefer the pin and don't accept the idea that your LLBean rewards Visa is a Visa.

Posted by: J | October 31, 2007 1:41 PM

Is there any way to get a pin if you're american?

Posted by: Traveler | October 31, 2007 2:12 PM

I tried to use my Capital One Visa card to buy train tickets from a kiosk at a train station in Paris. Because the card didn't have a chip, it wouldn't work--and it drove me batty until I figured out why. Luckily we had enough time to buy our tickets at the ticket counter, but we sure did cut it close!

Posted by: Paris Problem | October 31, 2007 2:24 PM

We spent two weeks in France this August, and had no trouble with ATMs or merchants. I was impressed with the hand-held electornic charge units that many restaurants brought to your table and swiped the cards there.

Posted by: lovetotravel | October 31, 2007 2:47 PM

When the cashier points to the keypad to enter the PIN, just hit the (usually green) Enter or OK button. When I was traveling in Portugal earlier this year, they do ask that you enter a PIN, however, the system seems to know that American cards don't require them. I never had a problem with either my Capital One or Citi card.

Posted by: Matt G | October 31, 2007 5:06 PM

Visited the UK last year. I found it helpful prior to leaving the US to contact my credit card issuers a few weeks ahead of time for two reasons - 1. let them know I will be using my cards outside the US and what dates to prevent a fraud alert/block on my cards, and 2. to request a PIN mailed to me for each of my cards. Only used my credit cards a few times around London with no issues, though a couple of times my card PIN was requested before I could complete the transactions.

Posted by: UK traveler | October 31, 2007 5:08 PM

We traveled to England this past summer; Lakes, Hadrians Wall, York. No problems in using credit card or ATMs. Every palce we went, they just swipped the card in the machine. Loved the wireless machines in various places

Posted by: Tom | October 31, 2007 5:50 PM

In the Netherlands the train ticket vending machines will not take un-chipped cards; otherwise we had no problems. In the UK our cards were frequently refused as small neighborhood shops such as news agents, liquor stores and groceries, which insisted they only took chip cards. We just took out cash from ATMs to deal with it.

Posted by: wentagain | October 31, 2007 6:26 PM

No problems with my Visa in Spain or Morocco in May.

Posted by: Liz | October 31, 2007 10:55 PM

Never have had problems using my Visa in Europe -- Australia, on the other hand....

Posted by: Anonymous | November 1, 2007 3:52 PM

My boyfriend and I travelled to Ireland (East and West Coast) and London for two weeks in Sept. 2007 and had zero problems with credit cards. Both MC Debit and MC/Visa credit cards all worked just fine!

Posted by: Stephanie | November 5, 2007 2:02 PM

I was in Spain in September (Madrid, Toledo & Barcelona) and had no trouble whatsoever with my Visa debit card. I used it with no problems while shopping and dining anywhere, and for subways, train stations & cash machines.

Posted by: Virginia | November 7, 2007 12:46 PM

We were in Ireland (west coast, Offaly, Dublin) for a week in October, paid for everything with Visa, no problems at all. I would caution against INSERTING your card into any ATM when traveling unless you have a backup means for paying (look for swipers instead) - had a card eaten on a Saturday morning at Gatwick a couple of years ago, where the coffee shop next door said, "yep, it does that all the time".

Posted by: tucson mom | November 7, 2007 3:06 PM

I am in the UK (Newcastle) right now and have been having some problems using my capital one visa card. Today I was unable to use it to purchase a metro pass. Other friends have had problems as well. I called the company who issued the card and ended up speaking with a supervisor who said he had never heard of "chip and pin." He had no solution to the problem and I'm not sure that I do either.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2008 12:22 PM

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