Chip-and-PIN Credit Cards in the USA

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Blog

Jun 04, 2018 | Updated Jul 23, 2019

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Traveling internationally? Much of the world (outside of the U.S.) uses PINs to verify credit card transactions, rather than the signatures we’re used to here in the states.

So you may want to pick up a card with chip-and-PIN capability, in addition to the basic chip-and-signature you’ll find with most cards. Although more card terminals around the world are accepting signatures as time goes by, it could be wise to have a PIN card while traveling to avoid running into situations where your card isn’t accepted (which could happen, particularly at unattended kiosks like train ticket vendors).

Credit Card Issuers That Offer Chip-and-PIN Cards
Issuer Offers PIN Cards? Preferred Verification Method
American Express No
Andrews Federal Credit Union Yes Signature
Bank of America Yes Signature
Barclays Yes Signature
Capital One No
Chase No
Citi/Citibank Yes Signature
Diners Club International Yes PIN
Discover No
First Tech Federal Credit Union Yes PIN
HSBC Yes Unknown
Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) Yes Signature
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) Yes Signature
State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) Yes Cardholder decides
Store Credit Cards Some PIN
U.S. Bank No
United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) Yes PIN
USAA Yes Signature
Wells Fargo Yes Signature

Getting a Chip-and-PIN Card in the USA

If you’re traveling outside the U.S., particularly in Canada or Europe, it’s useful to have a credit card with chip-and-PIN EMV technology.

The EMV chip is in addition to the magnetic stripe on the back. Every chip credit card issued in the U.S. has the chip-and-signature verification method, but only cards from certain issuers also have chip-and-PIN.

EMV technology in general (signature or PIN) provides better security against fraud than the traditional magnetic stripe. PINs are harder to forge than signatures, making them more secure in some ways, but only for PIN transactions of course.

Although many merchants and checkout terminals outside the U.S. will take chip-and-signature cards, in some cases you might find a card reader that only accepts PIN cards. Or, you may want a card that defaults to the PIN verification mode to speed up checkout, because that’s what merchants outside the U.S. are generally familiar with.

Most cards that have both signature and PIN capability will default to signature for the verification method when making transactions — these are called signature-preferred or signature-priority cards. But there are a few issuers that provide cards which default to PIN to verify the transaction — they’re called PIN-preferred or PIN-priority cards.

Many credit card issuers now offer cards with chip-and-PIN capability, with three notable exceptions.

These issuers do not provide chip-and-PIN cards:

  • American Express
  • Discover
  • Chase

This isn’t a very big deal for American Express and Discover, because those cards don’t have very wide acceptance outside the U.S. anyway. So they probably wouldn’t be your first choices for traveling abroad.

But it’s quite unfortunate that Chase doesn’t offer chip-and-PIN with its cards. It has some much-loved travel cards that would be even better with PINs, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, along with quite a few airline and hotel co-branded cards.

For trips outside the U.S., check out the cards below and our picks for the best travel credit cards. Many of the top issuers of travel cards now offer PIN capability.

Card issuers take PIN security pretty seriously. Some won’t let you see it online, and will only mail it to you. They may require you to call customer support to set or change your PIN. Others are a bit less secure, and will let you change it online.

Do people give you odd looks when you say “PIN number”? That may be because PIN stands for “Personal Identification Number,” and you’re repeating yourself — but we won’t tell if you do!

Travel Tips If You Don’t Have a PIN Card

What if you can’t get a PIN card before you leave? Don’t despair, all hope is not lost. You should be fine in most cases, as many terminals will accept signature cards, but keep these tips in the back of your mind to help your trip run smoothly:

  • Carry a backup or two: Carry one or two additional cards in case a terminal has a problem with your card or doesn’t accept the card’s network. Consider carrying some cash and a debit card for emergency ATM withdrawals.
  • Don’t pay extra: Try to use cards with 0% foreign transaction fees when traveling in foreign countries or making purchases in foreign currency.
  • Communicate with your issuer: In most cases you should tell your credit card company when and where you’ll be traveling so it doesn’t report suspicious activity once you start making purchases abroad, and place a freeze on your account.
  • Prepare for automated points of sale and kiosks: Although you might not be able to avoid them altogether, try to buy things like transit passes ahead of time to avoid dealing with automated kiosks and terminals. If you run into an automated terminal try looking for an attendant you can pay, or use a debit card.
  • Try pushing “enter” or “cancel”: If you’re using a signature card but the terminal asks for a PIN, try selecting one of these options without entering anything. Some travelers report that this works occasionally. If that doesn’t work, look for an attendant or try a debit card (or go with cash).
  • Use mobile wallets: Add your cards to Apple Pay, Android Pay, or other mobile wallets for contactless transactions, which are fairly common in some parts of the world. You’ll find many terminals accept these NFC transactions, giving you a robust payment method whether your cards have PINs or not.

Credit Card Issuers That Provide Chip-and-PIN Cards

The following issuers provide cards with chip-and-PIN functionality. Some of them are signature-preferred for the verification method, while others are PIN-preferred.

We’ve highlighted some of the best travel cards from each issuer (some issuers don’t offer good travel cards, so we show whatever they might have). These cards may offer rewards and valuable perks in addition to being PIN-capable. Many of them have no foreign transaction fees as well, which is what you’ll want for traveling outside the U.S.

Andrews Federal Credit Union

You’ll need to join Andrews FCU to apply for its credit cards. Certain people will be eligible to join, such as if you live or work in Washington, D.C.

Or, you can become a member of the American Consumer Council for free with promo code “Andrews”. This will let you join the Andrews FCU, which requires a minimum $5 deposit in a bank account.

Credit cards from Andrews FCU are available as PIN-priority if you request it specifically. We heard from a reader who requested a PIN-priority card, which Andrews supposedly provided, only to find that it was signature-priority after traveling to the U.K. But we’ve also heard from other readers who say you can get PIN-priority cards if you make it clear that this is what you want.

So we recommend testing your card to make sure it’s PIN-priority before traveling abroad. If you find that your card is signature-priority, you can request a new PIN-priority card from customer support.

To set or change your PIN, call 1-888-886-0083.

There are a few cards from Andrews FCU that would be good for traveling because they have no foreign transaction fees:

Bank of America

Bank of America credit cards come with chip-and-PIN capability, but are signature-preferred for the verification method.

You can set or change your PIN online. Just log in, go to your account settings, and select “Create or Change PIN.” Or you can choose to have your PIN sent by mail.

There are several travel cards from BofA worth noting, which don’t have foreign transaction fees:

Wondering how to use your Alaska Airlines card for free travel? Learn how to get the most out of your Alaska Airlines credit card.


Barclays credit cards all come with chip-and-PIN capability. They are signature-preferred for the verification method.

You’ll be prompted to create a PIN when you open an account online. Otherwise you can have one assigned to you.

To activate your PIN, use the card at a regular chip-and-Signature checkout terminal. Then you’ll be able to use the PIN function.

You can change your PIN by logging in, going to Account Settings, and then selecting “Manage Your PIN.” If you ever change your PIN, you’ll need to activate it again by using the card for a chip-and-Signature purchase.

There are several Barclays cards that have no foreign transaction fees, making them good for travel. Here are a few:

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is not currently available for new applicants.
Wondering if Hawaiian Airlines is right for you? Learn more about its frequent flyer program and how this credit card can earn you free trips.


Citi credit cards come with both chip-and-Signature and chip-and-PIN capability. They’re signature-preferred for the verification method.

Your PIN for purchases with Citi cards will be the same as your cash advance PIN.

There are three options for setting or adjusting your PIN:

  • Change existing PIN: Call 1-866-696-5673 and listen for instructions to change your PIN (this number may or may not work for you; if it doesn’t work, call the number on the back of your card or see our listing of backdoor credit card company phone numbers)
  • Send a new pre-assigned PIN: Have a new PIN sent to your mailing address.
  • Cancel PIN and do not replace it: Remove the PIN from your card entirely.

Citi offers quite a few credit cards that would be useful for traveling because they have no foreign transaction fees. Here are a few:

Diners Club International

Diners Club International is not currently accepting applications online, but you may receive an invitation in the mail to apply.

Diners Club credit cards have both signature and PIN capability, and are PIN-priority.

You’ll be issued a PIN when you get your Diners Club card. Call 1-800-234-6377 if you need to reset your PIN. You’ll then be directed to visit a chip-enabled ATM within a specified time period to choose a new one. Diners Club recommends you visit a BMO Harris ATM.

There are several Diners Club credit cards, but unfortunately the first two below have foreign transaction fees, so they’re not as good for spending outside the U.S.:


  • Diners Club Card Premier: $95 annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, 1X Club Rewards point per $1 spent, airport lounge access.
  • Diners Club Card Elite: $300 annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, 3X Club Rewards points at grocery stores, supermarkets, drug stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, airport lounge access.

First Tech Federal Credit Union

The First Tech Federal Credit Union offers chip cards that come with chip-and-PIN capability, and they are PIN-priority.

Your PIN will be assigned when you’re approved for a card. It will be mailed to you separately from the card for security purposes.

To join First Tech you’ll need to meet the membership eligibility requirements. You’ll be eligible if you work for the state of Oregon, for example, or if you’re a member of the Financial Fitness Association ($8 per year).

To use a First Tech credit card you’ll need to open a bank account with them. All of their cards feature no foreign transaction fee, so they’re good choices to bring with you outside the country:

  • Odyssey Rewards: $75 after the first year, no transfer fees, 3X points per dollar on travel, 2X points on dining
  • Choice Rewards: No annual fee, no transfer fee, 2X points per dollar on certain purchases
  • Platinum Rewards: No annual fee, no transfer fee, 1X point per dollar
  • Platinum Secured: Secured card, no annual fee, relatively low APR, 1X point per dollar.


HSBC credit cards come with chip-and-PIN capability. We were originally told by HSBC that their cards are set as signature-preferred for the verification method, but on subsequent calls to HSBC we were told (after lots of long hold times) that they’re PIN-preferred and other conflicting information. If you have any information about what HSBC actually offers please contact us.

Your PIN for purchases will be different than your cash advance PIN. If you want to change your PIN you’ll need to call customer support, you can’t do it online.

Every HSBC card has no foreign transaction fee, so they’re all relatively good for traveling. Here are some of their better cards, including a couple designed specifically for travelers:

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed)

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) issues cards with chip-and-PIN capability. They’re set as signature-preferred for the verification method.

You’ll receive a PIN when you’re approved for your card. To have a new PIN reissued, call 1-800-247-5626 (Visa cardholders) or 1-800-732-8268 (American Express cardholders).

To open a PenFed credit card you’ll need to become a member of PenFed. PenFed is federally insured by NCUA.

PenFed offers several cards without foreign transaction fees, which you might find useful for traveling abroad:

Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU)

The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) issues chip cards with chip-and-PIN capability. They are signature-priority for the verification method.

Your card won’t come with a PIN initially, but you can set one for it. To set a PIN, log in to your online account and select the correct option, or call 1-888-842-6328. After setting a PIN, test your card at a chip-enabled reader to ensure that the update was processed.

NFCU membership is basically limited to members of the military, Department of Defense employees, employees of some related organizations, and their families.

None of their credit cards have foreign transaction fees, so they’re all potentially good picks for spending outside the country. Here are some of their more rewarding cards:

State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU)

The State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) offers cards that are chip-and-PIN capable.

By default, their cards will use signature as the preferred verification mode. But you can select PIN-priority when you’re approved for a card, by selecting the option that says you’ll be “frequently traveling or living overseas.”

To change an existing PIN on credit cards, call 1-703-706-5000 or 1-800-296-8882. The PIN for purchases is the same as the PIN for cash advances.

SDFCU membership is open to U.S. Department of State employees, employees of certain affiliated organizers, and members of their families. You can also join the American Consumer Council for an $8 fee if you want to become an SFCU member. (You can join the ACC for free using promo code “Andrews”, but that’s technically for members of a different credit union.)

SDFCU issues three credit cards, and none of them have foreign transaction fees:

  • SDFCU Premium Cash Back+: No annual fee, no balance transfer fee, 2% cash back on all purchases, $200 bonus cash reward for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.
  • SDFCU Visa Platinum Credit Card: No annual fee, no balance transfer fee, no rewards.
  • SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card: Secured card, no annual fee, no balance transfer fee.

Store Credit Cards

There are at least a couple of store credit cards which feature Chip-and-PIN capability. These two cards are actually PIN-priority as well.

  • You’ll be prompted to set a PIN when you activate the card


United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU)

The United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU) provides cards with chip-and-PIN capability. The verification method is PIN-preferred.

According to UNFCU, it was actually the first card issuer in the U.S. to offer chip-and-PIN credit cards, back in 2010.

Employees of the United Nations are eligible to join the UNFCU, along with members of their families and some other individuals. If you don’t meet the criteria, you can join the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) for $25. Then you’ll be eligible to join the UNFCU.

You’ll receive a PIN when you’re approved for your card.

UNFCU offers three different credit cards, but only one has no foreign transaction fee:


  • UNFCU Visa® Azure Card: No annual fee, 1X point per dollar, foreign transaction fee of 1%.
  • UNFCU Visa® UNA-USA Card: No annual fee, 1X point per dollar, foreign transaction fee of 1%, a portion of revenues from purchases will go to the UNA-USA.


USAA provides credit cards for military members and their families. Cardholders can request cards with chip-and-PIN capability, although many USAA members have reported problems using the PIN function outside the U.S.

Cards issued by USAA are signature-priority for the verification method. To reset your PIN, call 1-800-531-8722.

USAA credit cards don’t have foreign transaction fees. Here are a few of their best:

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo provides credit cards with chip-and-PIN capability. The verification method is signature-priority.

Call customer support to check or reset your PIN.

Wells Fargo offers a fairly extensive selection of credit cards that cater to a variety of spending habits. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (Review) is the only personal Wells Fargo card with no foreign transaction fees, but there are several Wells Fargo business cards that don’t charge fees for purchases abroad.

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  • S.O.S_1.20.17

    We used a Target card issued by TD Bank in Europe and it was the only card we have win pin capability. I was annoyed to find out that Amex doesn’t offer a pin # for their gold card. What a pain! They should all have a pin # it’s 2019.

  • morgante86

    Thanks for this updated list of US-based PIN cards! Unbelievable how difficult it is to get a PIN-preferred card in the US in 2019. Will likely be getting a card from First Tech CU before heading to Europe in a few months.

  • Dr. Jameson

    I want to add that my credit union (Bethpage Federal Credit Union) offers pin-priority credit cards. Membership is open to anyone ($5 to open up a savings). I used the card in Ireland and Canada and didn’t have any problems.

  • QuantumMechanic

    Is there any way to find out before traveling if a card really is PIN-priority?

    • John Ganotis

      You could contact the credit card issuer to ask.

  • Mike

    Im a Canadian traveling in USA, its a pain to see that most merchants (so far) don’t know that you need a pin for chip cards (although sometimes it goes through with a swipe). But i guess it makes sense since US is used to signature priority. Chip cards are way more secure than regular stripe cards, so why not use the new tech and enter a pin for every purchase, mind boggling. Europe, Canada uses pin priority most of the time (my experience), why is it not common in US?

    edit: EMV originally stood for “Europay, Mastercard, and Visa”.
    Mastercard, and Visa both US companies, even more confused why most cards are signature priority, since the chip and pin was developed by them.

  • Sunbolt

    Here’s my experience with First Tech FCU. I only joined to get the chip and PIN card to use overseas. Pretty much every bank or CU offering “true” chip and PIN cards has a slew of negative reviews, which is too bad. With FT, most of the complaints seem to be about banking, outdated site and app, and customer service. I figured since all I want is a credit card, it might work out okay for me.

    7/25 Thu
    Applied online to be a member, opened a “Membership Savings Account”, funded it for $5 from my outside checking account.
    FT apparently pays for your membership to the Financial Fitness Association, then sends you a 1099-INT if the FFA membership fee plus earned interest is over $10 for the year, so you don’t even have to pay the $8. Cool.

    7/29 Mon
    $5 deducted from my checking account.

    7/30 Tue
    Received email from FFA confirming FT paid for my membership. Logged in to FFA to explore my membership “benefits.” I have no idea why this organization exists. Lol.

    7/31 Wed
    Received email for online access, set up online acct. The portal does appear dated, but seems very functional to me. Like they built a very versatile forward-looking framework some time ago and just kept updating it instead of starting fresh with a “Web 2.0” site. Kinda feels like a corporate intranet site.
    Applied for card “Choice Rewards World MasterCard.” (min $10k / max $35k)
    Instantly approved conditional on proof of income. ($25k / P+6.74%=12.24%)
    Emailed paystubs.

    8/1 Thu
    Received email with approval letter and cardmember agreement to e-sign.
    Included credit score from Experian. Score is 759 FICO. According to one of my other credit cards, my Experian should be 788 FICO this month. Wonder what’s up with that. Not scheduled to pull Experian ’til February. Dangit.
    For reference, my TU info from CK is: 0 inquiries / 27 accounts / 8yr11mo age / 0 derogatory / 23% usage($19k/$80k) / 100% payment. Not sure how helpful that may be.

    8/8 Thu
    Received credit card in the mail. Accompanying letter says that the PIN will be mailed separately.

    8/10 Sat
    Received PIN in the mail.
    Went to the local branch (South Lake Union, Seattle). Changed the PIN using their ATM. The branch was empty of customers and someone came up and asked if I needed help right away. Customer service seems fine to me.

    Used the card for a few purchases:
    Street food vendor using a tablet with Square chip reader: asked for signature like normal.
    CVS pharmacy: asked for PIN.
    Trader Joe’s: didn’t ask for PIN or signature which I think is normal..
    Gas station: asked for zip code like normal.
    Sit down restaurant: server brought receipt for me to sign like normal.

    So my experience so far is that it should work like a normal card in the US except occasionally asking for a PIN at a customer swipe/insert POS terminal. I’ll be going to Europe in a month and I can report back how that went! Hopefully this big ass write up is useful for someone! Lol.

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