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I will travel to the US and I have two choices for payment of usual touristic activities while there ("usual touristic activities" = renting a car (booking and payment), booking and paying for a hotel, shopping in a supermarket, restaurants, museums):

  • I can use my current VISA or Mastercard (debit card with deferred payment). It is linked to a French bank and the primary currency is EUR. Using it means going through conversion and whatnot charges.
  • I have the opportunity to get a "VISA Debit" card which is linked to an account in USD and directly draws money from that account (1 USD paid in the US = 1 USD drawn from the account. No charges whatsoever (except an initial fee to get the card))

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The answer to another question (especially the bottom part) discusses in details the difference between "debit" and "credit" applied to US and EU cards. It does not state, though, if the "VISA debit deferred from EU" is accepted or not.

My question is about the practical (from experience) acceptance level for such cards. The areas of interest are the touristic one I mentioned above.

Are there known cases where the card has to be credit? (1)

(1) for instance in France there is the case of tolls, where a "debit card with immediate account checking" will be automatically rejected (this is mentioned in bod when getting the card). Same for most parking, and in general places which do not check your account, taking the risk of a faulty one

  • It will be very. very difficult to get an exact answer to your very specific question. (Notably, banks know literally nothing, and anything they tell you is meaningless and will have no connection to what actually happens on the ground.) Also, the US payments rofl system is "modernizing" somewhat as we speak, so a lot of things are changing. (You can - no, really! :) - use a PIN sometimes in the US now. So a lot of advice you hear is out of date.) – Fattie Sep 28 '18 at 17:04
  • Hmm, how are you going to acquire USDs to load the debit card up with in the first place? I can't imagine you'll not pay an exchange rate spread for that too. – Henning Makholm Sep 28 '18 at 18:06
  • I have been traveling several times in the US with a French 'débit différé' Visa card and never had the card rejected in the areas you mention. One point to take into account is your monthly foreign payments limit. – audionuma Sep 28 '18 at 18:38
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One issue might be the amount of funds available. For a car rental, they may want to make a large reservation to cover the deposit and other potential extra charges. This might not be possible with a debit card. At the least, you may need a large balance for this reason and, even if you have that balance, it might not be possible or desirable for the rental company to reserve a large amount.

You could try offering to pay the expected charges on your debit card but use a credit card for the deposit. If nothing bad happens then there will be no charge on your credit card.

The last time that I rented a car in the US, the expected charges had been prepaid but I still needed to present a credit card for the deposit. Nothing bad happened so there was no charge on the card.

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"VISA" and "VISA Debit" cards should work fine with the chip or magnetic stripe at almost any payment terminal in the US, and at virtually every ATM. Contactless may or may not work depending on the specific terminal. "VISA Electron" cards won't work for payments, but can be used at ATMs.

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Visa, in the United States, used to have a requirement that merchants accepting either credit or debit must accept the other product. However, due to a 2003 antitrust lawsuit and settlement brought forth by retailers, this "honor all cards" policy was dropped.

While the vast majority of merchants will accept both, there is no requirement to do so. Due to lower rates, US merchants will usually try to settle debit cards through a PIN-based interbank network (STAR, Cirrus, Plus, etc) before Visa Debit.

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