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Countries and continents can never seem to get on the same page at the same time when it comes to credit card technology. While we’re used to swiping and signing for purchases in the U.S., that’s not the norm in many foreign countries. Chip-and-pin credit card technology is finally taking off in the United States, but it’s still much different than abroad.
So how is a traveler supposed to know what credit card tech is the best and which cards will be most widely accepted? Here is a breakdown of the best chip-and-pin credit cards for international travel.
What are chip-and-pin credit cards?
The most popular cards in the U.S. that contain chips as opposed to just a magnetic stripe are chip-and-signature. That means you swipe or insert your card into a chip reader and then sign a digital screen or a receipt to validate the purchase. These days, signing isn’t always a given, but it’s still the norm in many establishments. Chip-and-pin credit cards, however, require you to type in a pin instead, much like with a debit card.
It’s also called EMV, which stands for the companies that pioneered the technology: Eruopay, Mastercard, and Visa. This is the most popular type of credit card tech, especially in Europe. It’s widely seen as a more secure way to pay since an incorrect pin immediately invalidates the purchase. After all, when was the last time a waitress or cashier checked your signature to the one on the back of your card?
Occasionally a card will have a combination of these technologies (magnetic stripe, pin, and signature). In fact, almost all chip-and-signature and chip-and-pin credit cards in the U.S. still also include a magnetic stripe on the back of the card. This is mainly because not all merchants have adapted to chip technology. Time will tell if that feature will fade as more cards make the change.
It’s also worth noting that while these cards are chip-and-pin credit cards, many are also chip-and-signature. The signature is often what is requested first when using your card overseas. But as the technology advances in the U.S., this will hopefully change.
Who offers chip-and-pin credit cards?
Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard
The Arrival Premier credit card includes chip-and-pin technology, but plenty of other perks, too. You get 2X miles on every dollar spent, 75,000 miles a year (after spending $25,000), a $100 statement credit for Global Entry, and 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars in regards to foreign transactions. You can even transfer your miles to participating frequent traveler programs, but the transfer ratio is that appealing. See Rates & Fees.
There is a $150 annual fee (waived the first year), but miles never expire with the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard. Keep in mind, too, that not every card Barclays offers includes chip-and-pin technology. The options include the co-branded Wyndham Rewards, Priceline Rewards, and Hawaiian.
There’s also the lower annual fee Barclays Arrival Plus that has a limited time offer of 60,000 miles.
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
No foreign transaction fees, 1.5X points on every dollar spent, and 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months make this chip-and-pin card worth considering. Points are redeemed for a statement credit, so there’s not much flexibility when it comes to getting the most out of your miles. But you do get 10% more points per purchase if you have an active checking or savings account with the bank. Plus, there’s no annual fee for this chip-and-pin credit card.
Diners Club Card Premier
As of now, you can’t just log on and apply for this chip-and-pin credit card; you have to be invited to apply. But if you are, it includes airport lounge access, car rental discounts, and travel insurance. The annual fee is $95 and you’ll collect 1X point per dollar spent, but this one doesn’t come with any sign-on bonuses.
USAA Preferred Cash Rewards
You have to be a member of the military (or a family member) to apply for this card. But if you are, it’s a decent option among chip-and-pin credit cards. There are no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and you will receive 1.5% cashback on all purchases.
U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select+
If you prefer an American Express card as opposed to Visa or Mastercard, this chip-and-pin card is an option, though not the most rewarding. You’ll earn 1 FlexPoint for every dollar spent on eligible purchases, but point values are respectable. There is no annual fee, but you may have to specifically request a pin.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard
This card comes with travel accident insurance and no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Cashback is standard at 1.5%, but you’ll get an additional 10% bonus on all cash rewards for the year on your account anniversary.
PenFed Credit Union Pathfinder Rewards
This is another credit union that requires applicants to either be members of the military, their family, or members or employees of certain employers (like American Red Cross). You can also make a donation to a couple of military organizations to qualify. It offers 3X points on travel purchases and 1.5X points on everything else. You will get 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months, even airline and TSA application fee credits. All for no annual fee.
The Takeaway of Chip-and-Pin Credit Cards
If a credit card comes with a chip, a pin is often requestable at the very least. To be sure, chip-and-pin cards make it much easier to travel internationally. So choose the one that’s right for you–whether it comes with stellar benefits or no annual fee–and travel with confidence.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.