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If one has a chip-and-pin card (not chip-and-signature), is it possible to use it in the US at this time? What is the experience like? For instance, in many restaurants in Europe the waiters will bring the credit card reader directly to your table so that you can type in the PIN (and also enter the tip electronically), which is ideal also for security -- the card never leaves your sight. In the US in my experience the waiters take the card away to use at a central kiosk and then return with the receipt to sign. (This is just one example but I think it illustrates the problem.) How does this affect the ability of US merchants to take a credit card that uses chip-and-pin technology, such as a European credit card?

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    Not sure there's a universal answer - it depends on the store and their credit card machine – Gagravarr Jun 12 '14 at 8:42
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    Your European card can be swiped as well just as a credit card without the chip on it. – Aditya Somani Jun 12 '14 at 12:45
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    Are you asking about cards that have a chip-and-pin as well as a magnetic stripe, or cards with no stripe? – Nate Eldredge Jun 12 '14 at 18:03
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    @NateEldredge There are credit cards with no stripe on them? :O – Aditya Somani Jun 14 '14 at 8:46
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Currently I live in the US but I use only my European chip credit card. It works everywhere without any problems. The merchants just swipe it and I'm good to go.

I travel frequently and the only inconvenience is at gas stations where I have to go inside to pay. I cannot use my credit card to pay at the pump because it requires to enter a ZIP code. Just a minor annoyance.

  • You may find that "00000" or "99999" works fine. :) – Greg Hewgill Jun 13 '14 at 3:40
  • @GregHewgill Thanks for the advice. I heard about this and tried it several times but never worked for me. – K L Jun 13 '14 at 11:57
  • That assumes your card has a magnetic strip and the chip, (my Canadian card works like yours). If the OP's card doesn't have a magnetic strip, it won't work – blackbird Jun 13 '14 at 15:33
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    I used to be stuck when required to enter a zip code. On my last trip I found that entering the first 5 digits of my home country address's equivalent to the ZIP code worked for me – jogabonito Jul 16 '14 at 9:16
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    Canadian cards often work if you enter in just the digits from the postal code (eg. M9C3L4 = 934) followed by 00 to get 5 digits. It's a real inconvenience when you have to go inside to prepay, so I tend to go to stations that I know work eg. Shell. – Spehro Pefhany Dec 21 '16 at 20:43
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From an equivalent question at Money.SE:

US ATMs and POS require magnetic strip, chip-and-pin only cards will not work almost anywhere in the US. This is starting to change, especially after the Target fiasco, but we're not there yet.

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As a Canadian travelling to the US, I am always taken aback when I need to sign slips of paper when making purchases. The joke is that instead of having my card signed, I have written "ASK FOR ID" in the signature field. Since I've never been asked for ID, it's clear that no one is checking the signatures! This is somehow supposed to be more secure?

All credit cards, even the pin&chip cards, have a magnetic strip as backup to deal with legacy equipment, so European and Canadian cards will work in the US (although you'll need a pen).

  • I think chip and pin are relatively recent in Canada, it used to be the same there even 3 or 4 years ago, wasn't it? – Vince May 21 '15 at 20:20
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    the magnetic strip that today is a backup was once the cool new thing not all terminals could handle, which is why our cards still have raised numbers across the front for scrunchswiping the carbon imprinter across. And our new tap-only cards have chip-and-pin for backup when tap doesn't work. – Kate Gregory May 21 '15 at 20:36
  • @KateGregory contactless (tap) cards generally have a per-transaction limit, so you need chip-and-pin when the amount is above the contactless limit (£20 in the UK) – Richard Gadsden Jul 20 '15 at 9:58
  • I believe if you have "ASK FOR ID" written on your card it may not be valid as (almost?) all credit card companies have a "not valid unless signed" clause in their user agreement. Visa and Mastercard certainly do. Source: I audited some large banks' credit card businesses. – Laconic Droid Mar 2 '17 at 20:56
  • @KateGregory, the purpose of the raised numbers is to improve speed and accuracy when doing a transaction in the absence of a computer. You can perform a credit-card transaction using only pen and paper, but using carbon paper greatly reduces the odds of incorrectly transcribing the numbers. – Mark Mar 3 '17 at 2:45
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They just swipe it... it's weird but it's quick :)

Also I've served many American customers in London, their cards only have a mag strip so it feels weird for me to swipe their card rather than hand the pdq to them.

They've also told me chip and pin cards are starting to get popular in the US so you may be able to use the pin payment at a few establishments but if you don't then the card should still work.

I haven't been to the US in 6 years so for all I know, they may have taken the chip and pin method to the mainstream by now, would be nice to have some Americans from different states to weigh in...

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    US uses chip and signature from the card issuer's perspective, chip and pin is basically nonexistent, though many payment systems will work with chip and pin if the card is set up for it. – Joe Mar 2 '17 at 20:20
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    @joe that is not true today. Chip and PIN has become very common at major retailers in the USA and is filtering down to smaller businesses. Sure, Farmer Bill's Roadside Produce Stand probably doesn't take it yet, but it is nowhere near "nonexistent". – Robert Columbia Mar 2 '17 at 23:28
  • @RobertColumbia Retailers are able to support it if your card does, but which option a card considers primary is up to the issuer. Nearly no American card supports chip and pin as primary (even if you request it). Hence 'card issuer's perspective'. – Joe Mar 6 '17 at 17:37
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I live in the USA, Virginia specifically, and use a Chip-and-PIN MasterCard issued by a major U.S.-based bank as my primary payment card. I have used it as a Chip-and-PIN at major chain retailers here without issue. Some specific places I have used it are CVS, Safeway, 7-11, and Best Buy. Fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's and KFC often do not take "the chip" as it is becoming known as, but in those cases they will ask me to swipe the card rather than reject my business.

As in any case when traveling in a foreign or unfamiliar area, get and carry some local currency as a backup if you find yourself in a shop that, for whatever reason, decides to throw a fit over your preferred payment method.

  • What issuer is your card from? I know of only one issuer that issues chip and PIN credit cards (not debit cards), and they're a credit union, not a bank. – Joe Mar 6 '17 at 17:38
  • And McDonald's and other major fast food retailers in my experience are far more likely to support chips; it's smaller stores that don't. McDonald's supports Apple Pay, even, worldwide (or every location is supposed to support it, anyway). – Joe Mar 6 '17 at 17:39

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