I'm traveling to Ireland, then Scotland in a few weeks. Do both countries still accept Visa or Mastercards with a magnetic strip or do they require the chip and pin system?
When paying for a purchase, be sure to make the cashier aware that you are using a U.S. style credit card which requires them to swipe the card and for you to sign for the purchase. Although U.S. style credit cards are no longer issued in the United Kingdom and Ireland, most cash registers are still equipped to process transactions this way.
You may, however, continue to experience problems with automated ticket booths such as those found at train and gas stations, as these will usually only accept chip and pin credit cards.
For most retailers you can still pay with a card that only has a magnetic strip.
However, there are a couple of caveats to that. As previously mentioned, some automated systems, such as at petrol stations or transit ticket machines, may reject these cards, which will mean you might have to use manned sale points.
Technically, if they accept Visa or MasterCard and the point of sale machine won’t accept it, the store should be able to ring the transaction provider to obtain an authorisation. However, staff are unlikely to have been trained in this (or in my case, when this happened to me, unable to find the phone number for authorisation).
There are a couple of cards that are now beginning to have quite limited acceptance in the UK; these are Solo and Maestro/Electron (issued by Visa and MasterCard respectively). These are issued by some overseas (to the UK) banks, but are not now universally accepted here in the UK, as UK banks no longer issue them.
The biggest example of this in on the rail network, where some companies do, but some don’t. The National Rail site says:
All National Rail train companies accept the major cards such as Visa, Visa Delta, MasterCard, Maestro and Amex. Some train companies also accept Diners Club International, Solo and Electron.
You may also find that prepaid debit cards might have some acceptance limitations depending on the institution that issued the cards originally.
This wasn’t asked, but I’m including it here as useful. Quite a number of smaller retailers do not accept American Express, or JCB cards, mainly due to higher merchant fees.
I was in Scotland this summer, and my American cards worked in every ATM (with PIN) and every establishment (with signature) where I tried them. Sometimes I had to remind the clerk to use the swipe on the side of the terminal instead of inserting the card.
My only failures, not on this trip, were in France, at an automated parking garage exit and in the Metro. In both places a clerk with a machine that accepted swipes was nearby.
All retailers should be able to use the magnetic stripe instead of chip-and-pin. This is not just because of foreign cards but also because the magstripe is the back-up system if the chip fails.