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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 at the point of sale (which could happen, particularly at unattended kiosks like train station ticket vendors).
|Credit Card Issuers That Offer Chip-and-PIN Cards|
|Issuer||Offers PIN Cards?||Preferred Verification Method|
|Andrews Federal Credit Union||Yes||Signature|
|Bank of America||Yes||Signature|
|Diners Club International||Yes||PIN|
|First Tech Federal Credit Union||Yes||PIN|
|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|
|United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU)||Yes||PIN|
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 microchip is in addition to the magnetic stripe on the back. Every EMV 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 credit card fraud than the traditional magnetic stripe card. 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 technology, with three notable exceptions.
These issuers do not provide chip-and-PIN cards:
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 through their online banking portals or their mobile apps, and will only mail it to you. They may require you to call customer support to set or change your credit card PIN. Others are a bit less secure, and will let you change it online.
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:
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.
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 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:
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:
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:
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 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.:
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:
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:
The Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) issues cards with chip-and-PIN capability. They’re set as signature-preferred for the verification method.
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:
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:
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.”
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:
There’s at least one store credit card that features chip-and-PIN capability. This card is actually PIN-priority as well.
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:
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 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.
Though chip-and-PIN credit cards aren’t yet the standard in the USA, you can get them through various issuers, including Bank of America, Chase, Citi, and more. PIN verification is often preferred in other countries, making these cards a wise choice for travelers.
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