5

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

EDIT I posted an answer with the experience I had with that card (and accepted another one, thank you for the help to everyone)

  • 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 So a lot of advice you hear is out of date.)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
1

"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.

Sometimes a payment terminal will ask if your card is a debit card (or credit card). In this case you should always answer no (or credit) even if your non-US card is a debit card. The US "debit" card network is an artifact going far back to the early days of US ATM cards, and piggybacks payment processing on top of ATM networks instead of the VISA/MC/AMEX etc. networks.

5

This is a follow-up of my question, with some practical aspects back from my trip.

  • the debit VISA card was readily accepted by the cashiers in all the shops, hotels, museums, ...
  • it worked in most of them:
    • in some places I was asked to put the card in the reader, chip first - as I do at home. When doing this the payment was successful 100% of times.
    • in some places the magnetic strip was ran though the reader (by the cashier or by me when instructed to do so), this worked in almost all the cases:
      • usually the bank accepted and I was asked to sign
      • a few times, the reader asked for my PIN (and the cashier also asked for a signature, probably "just in case")
      • once the cashier kept retrying when they saw "type PIN" and I was getting frantic feedback from my bank on my watch that a transaction was aborted. This is how I learned that they were trying to go through with the payment with repeated magnetic strip slides, but did not understand what "type your PIN" means (I know that this was not malicious)

Car rental was not an issue.

The most complicated part was at the automatic (pump) payment in gas stations, especially some older ones and usually Chevron. That was when I was greeted with the question on the display "Is this card a DEBIT card?"

  • if I answered "yes" then the transaction was always aborted and I had to go to the cashier's desk
  • if I answered "no", most of the times the transaction went through. It however failed when I was sometimes asked for my ZIP code (I know this is an artisanal was of somehow checking whether the card is OK, by comparing what is typed to the ZIP of the city or bank of issuance (do not remember which one)). I tried 99999 and 00000 and both failed.

Finally - contactless payment always failed, both on the card and on my phone (which has the card configured in Samsung pay and Google Pay)

  • How is it better to add this to the question? It's an answer (and a great answer)! Thanks for coming back to summarize your experiences. – Zach Lipton May 30 at 21:21
  • @TomasBy: I do not know what "yours" means. It cannot be "mine" (the one I have in France) as it is not liked with my card (or in a very indirect way, but that would require to ask the bank who would not understand the question). Not to mention that it is shorter than the US ones. I actually did some research on that and this is an anti-fraud system of sorts (artisanal, as I mentioned). It basically asks for information which is hopefully known by the owner of the card (their ZIP code, or the one of the bank they got the card from) - something hopefully unknown to a generic thief. – WoJ May 30 at 21:34
  • The zip code of the card owner, not the bank branch or main office. For a European tourist this does generally not work, although it might in some cases, e.g. German zip codes are also five digits. – Tomas By May 30 at 21:44
  • @TomasBy: I tried 99999 and 00000 but did not want to overly experiment and risk to have my card blocked or swallowed :) – WoJ May 30 at 21:52
  • 1
    @BenVoigt That's country-dependent. – Michael Hampton May 31 at 4:52
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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.

1

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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