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Travel Tip: Chip and Pin vs. Chip and Signature Credit Cards

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Credit CardMany American credit card companies have adopted new technology, but don’t get confused by the terminology.

We’re all used to the credit cards with magnetic strips, which are known in the industry as the old “swipe and sign.”

But those cards are going the way of the dodo, so you might have problems using them abroad.

Many European nations have eliminated the magnetic strips on cards, which are embedded with a small computer chip.

Here’s where things get confusing. They have what’s called “chip-and-PIN” technology, meaning you enter a four-digit personal identification number.

In the U.S., we’re now seeing a hybrid—cards with a magnetic strip AND a chip. Instead of entering your PIN, you still sign your name…or “chip and signature.”

These are much more likely to be accepted abroad, but you still might have issues in unstaffed places, like a train ticket kiosk.

If a merchant says they can’t accept your card, be firm that they at least try.

If all else fails, well, that’s why cash is king. Always have spare currency for emergency situations.

For more information, visit the Money, Currency, & Credit Archives.

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