It’s Time to Go to Europe More Easily—and for Less

One of my favorite places to travel in the world is Europe—especially in the summer. And this summer should be an amazing time for Americans because it’s never been cheaper. Thanks largely to Norwegian Air Shuttle, flights to Europe are cheap, and the dollar has been strengthening at a rapid rate. Have you seen the current exchange rates? My eyes almost popped out of my head when I looked today and saw €1.00 EUR = $1.06 USD (here’s the up-to-the-minute rate at XE.com). Predictions are saying that the Euro will be even with the dollar by this summer, but compared to what it’s been, I’ll happily take this rate for now.

If you do (and I really hope you do) go to Europe this year, make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees and that it has a chip with pin capability. Why?

Don’t get charged extra
Many credit cards charge up to 3% for foreign purchases so you definitely don’t want to use a card that charges foreign exchange rates.

Don’t get stuck is a tough spot
You want a card that has a chip with pin capability since it makes traveling to Europe (and other foreign destinations) so much easier. For example, most international automated ticket machines require credit/debit cards to have a chip (also referred as EMV—Europay, MasterCard and Visa). It’s a technical standard designed to ensure that microchip-embedded payment cards all work with the terminals of merchants who accept them.

The impetus behind the chip with pin capability is fraud reduction (if someone finds or steals your card they can’t use it unless they know your secret four-digit pin). With all of the credit card fraud in the world I’m surprised the US has taken so long to adopt it, but I’m happy that banks are slowly making the switch.

Having a credit card that requires a signature, as I used to have, made traveling more difficult for my friends and I. For example, I once couldn’t buy a train ticket in Denmark (and Germany, France, Italy…) using the ticket machine because my credit card didn’t have a chip. So, I had to stand in a long line to have the teller swipe my card and because of the time it took to do that, I almost missed my train. Another time in Monaco, the ticket office was closed so if Natalie hadn’t had her Canadian credit card with a chip we would have been screwed.

My tip for Europe this summer
That’s why I always travel with at least one credit card that has an EMV chip and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. My top one and many savvy travelers’ favorite is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

Fresh off a relaunch in July, it’s offering a sign-up bonuses to new and qualified customers (US residents only) of 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days—typically enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit.

Below is more info on the card—and hope to see you in Europe!

Johnny Jet

About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

22 Comments on "It’s Time to Go to Europe More Easily—and for Less"

  1. If you have the chase saphire card that is chip and signature (but does not use a 4 digit pin) does the chip still help or will you have to wait in line? I have 2 cards with chips (citibank and chase) but neither have a pin, only signature capability.

    • I think you would still have to wait in line. That’s why I use the Barclaycard.

      • Hi Johnny,

        I have the Barclay card and used it in Australia and New Zealand last October and every time I had to sign even though I set up a pin # before leaving the US. I did try entering my pin at one restaurant, asked for a signature.

        • Hi Rick,

          It has pin capabilities meaning if there’s an attendant available they will still ask you to sign. However, if there’s no one available like a gas pump or ticket machine you can just put in your pin.

  2. Interesting you’re writing about this today, a few HOURS after we just booked a flight with Norwegian to start our Eurail trip! Can’t wait. So exciting to see such cheap airfare for transatlantic travel.

  3. I have had the Barclaycard for about four months now. I have not yet tried to redeem any miles, so I don’t know how easy/difficult it will be. But it can’t be any worse than the American Airlines Advantage card.

    The best part about the Barclaycard is that you get double miles.

  4. I have used a Chip card the past few years from Andrews Credit Union (Andrews Airforce Base)…anyone can get one just deposit $5 in their savings bank. Its a chip card with numeral codes and no transaction fees…so works in EU just fine. I also have a Chase Card but have not yet used it in Eu….

  5. At least for the automated METRO ticket machines in Paris (in CDG and in town), I was able to use my chip+signature card (this was in 2013). When the “enter your PIN” prompt appeared, I just pressed continue/OK, and was able to purchase my tickets. YMMV now or in other places, though.

  6. This is a timely post for me. My son will be studying abroad this fall in Bonn, and I’m just now starting to think logistics like paying for services, etc. Not only will he need a card like this (and thanks for the tip!), he’ll also need regular access to cash. Not sure how to handle his cash needs w/out paying steep conversion fees. Any suggestions?

    • I would open an account with a bank that has partner banks in Germany that doesn’t charge atm withdrawals

  7. Which airline(s) are the miles earned by using the Barclay Card affiliated with?

    • You can use your points towards any airline, hotel, car, cruise… if you earn 40,000 points that’s a $400 credit towards anything travel related.

  8. more cheaply? That is horrible grammar.

    Prediction not predication.

  9. Helpful = other than as a resident of Iowa, I can’t apply for one = and I cannot figure out why Iowa is lumped in with Puerto Rico and the US Territories….Hope my other chip cards without PINs will work…

  10. We traveled to France in April for 3 wks. & just returned. Upon your recommendation we applied for a Barcley card which comes with a chip. We used it excusively & not until our last stop in Nice did we need to enter our pin which we thought was needed for fraud protection. Also at the end of our trip when using the toll road to Nice the machine would not accept Mastercard so fortunately we still had euros but at a 20 euro toll charge we would have been “screwed” if we did not have euros. So having the Barcley card, despite the bonus miles, does not seem to be the answer when traveling in Europe (or maybe just France).

    Also you mention your wife having a Cdn. cc with a chip. We are Canadians living in the US since 1989 & now that we spend half our year in Cdn. cannot get a Canadian cc because we are not “residents of Canada”. Very frustrating even though we have a Canadian bank acct. with funds being deposited year long from Cdn. CPP, Old Age Security, etc. Any suggestions on how we can get around this residency rule & get a Cdn. cc. Even BMO who we’ve dealt with for many years, will not issue us a cc.

    Enjoy your travels & follow you weekly mainly because of your Cdn. connection.

    • Johnny Jet Johnny Jet | May 4, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Reply

      Yikes! Sorry to hear that about Barclaycard. My wife lives in Canada that’s how she has one

  11. Changing the topic slightly but still CC related, I`m English, in England and looking to go to Australia late 2016 and wonder if you know or can recommend a credit card that accrues miles on most purchases that we can use against Qatar airlines (business class) have been looking around and there`s no frequent flyer UK sites and tho the likes of some CC`s here are available theyre mostly Virgin and/or BA Avios. With Qatar airlines being a One World affiliate would airmiles accrued on any workable CC be usable against Qatar tickets ?
    I sa a guy on a travel show last night who just happened to be a travel writer who gets to jet around the world using points/irmiles etc, has never in memory paid a penny for a ticket and couldn’t remember the last time he flew economy.
    He also has 3 full to bursting wallets for all his credit cards. Including I think 10 cards that he`d gotten in two monthly succession where he`d been able to claim 10,000 each time on each card ! He lives out of a suitcase and is virtually “of no fixed abode” since he flies on a very frequent basis and stays in hotels wherever he goes, presumably earning miles there as well. Think George Clooney in the movie “Up in the air” and 10 million airmiles lol.

  12. Traveling to Santiago Spain in a couple months. Is getting the Barclay card a good idea when traveling to that destination? Also I will search your site for other tips to this location but if you have any advice off the top of your head, it would be great to hear them.

    Thanks

    • It’s a Mastercard so it’s accepted pretty much everywhere. Just wrote a post on 12 travel tips for Europe which will go live in an hour or so.

  13. Thank you…for this fantastic description about heaven of earth…we are curious and plant our next trip to europe…

  14. If you are coming to Europe, visit please Vilnius, Lithuania and book your place by our site http://www.uburrow.com
    Discount of 10-20 % for sure , if you will let me know that you heard about me from johnnyjet.com :)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.