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I just got a credit card from Chase with a chip -- American banks are starting to offer them. I'd like to know if anyone has used such a card in the U.K. recently and how that all worked out.

According to the guy at Chase, the deal with this card is that the chip helps it be compatible with U.K. point-of-sale systems, but the system will prompt the merchant for a signature (whereas their U.K. cards prompt for a PIN).

He also said that in some train stations this card won't work at an automated ticket kiosk because there's no PIN and the kiosk doesn't have a signature pad.

OK, great. So that's the bank's story.

I'm looking for up-to-date first-hand information from anyone who has used this type of card in the U.K. -- where it worked, where it didn't, any other useful information.

  • It sounds like you might have a "chip and signature" card. If so, these are rare, but not unheard of. Do you have a pin for the card at all, or is it only ever used for signatures? – Gagravarr May 17 '12 at 3:17
  • Yeah, the card has a chip but there's no PIN and when I used it in the UK, they asked for a signature. I didn't have any major problems with it. – Ethan May 30 '12 at 0:25
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    Note that "the chip helps it be compatible with U.K. point-of-sale system" is true, but the UK can also still handle strip-and-signature cards. We haven't phased them out in our POS systems, as so many tourists have them. – Jon Story Jan 29 '15 at 13:30
  • I don't have first hand experiance but my understanding is the terminals can handle it fine. The people operating the terminals on the ohter hand may be confused by it. – Peter Green Jan 22 '16 at 16:54
  • @Gagravarr rare until US issuers started issuing them, i suppose. In the US, it's difficult to find an issuer that supports chip-and-pin. – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 2:27
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Coming from New Zealand, when I arrived in the UK I had one of the credit cards that I hadn't gotten around to putting a pin on. But without fail, as long as there was a person there, they'd be happy to let me sign for it - and they'd usually request a form of ID to compare with.

In theory a pin is more secure, but signing is still perfectly valid.

I then got myself a chipped and pinned debit card while living there, so I didn't end up using my NZ one that often, but when I did, it worked.

I had a bit more trouble in Central Asian countries, but a bit of hand waving and you'd usually get the message across ;)

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  • "signing is still perfectly valid", IIRC Visa and MC guidelines are, to completely deprecate signing by end of 2012. – vartec Oct 28 '12 at 23:44
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    @vartec this comment did not age well :) – JonathanReez Dec 27 '19 at 1:16
  • @JonathanReez a month or two ago I heard that it is in fact deprecated. But it's still supported, obviously. I have indeed noticed an increasing but still slow rate of stores no longer requiring signatures. – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 2:29
  • @JonathanReez IIRC in EU Chip'n'PIN did become default back then. As for the US... well, the US banking system is stuck in 1950s, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯ – vartec Jan 7 at 2:01
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I have had a chip-and-no-PIN MasterCard, Visa card and American Express card issued by Malaysian financial institutions for ages and throughout my travels to London, Paris, Rome/Venice, Sydney/Melbourne, Hong Kong, Tokyo/Osaka - none of my transactions have been declined by merchants. What I observed while queuing up to pay was that the locals have to key in their PIN, but I have to sign my signature on the transaction slip.

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    For credit cards you can sign, even if they are debit versions of the cards. This may not work for other kinds of cards (ones without MC/Visa/AMEX/Diners logos). – hippietrail Oct 28 '12 at 9:30
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I'm from Ireland (which is similar to UK in this regard). Here many many point-of-sale or ATMs will be chip and pin. I overheard some Americans recently in my local supermarket unable to use their swipe credit card.

However I've never heard of these chip cards without a pin. Here "Chip 'n PIN" is what it's called at. You may have to explain to people about the lack of PIN. I'd be slightly surprised if it were to work without the PIN.

You could always use your card in a bank to get cash and just spend cash there. Or to be on the total safe side, get a proper chip & pin card.

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  • Chip and PIN cards aren't expected to be available in the US for a few more years. – Michael Hampton Jun 12 '14 at 19:23
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    Chip-and-Signature is what they are called in the UK. They're used in Europe by some disabled people who can't use Chip-and-PIN, so they should be accepted quite widely, as the various national disability-rights laws require them. Unattended devices (like parking machines, rail-ticket machines, ATMs) are the main exception. – Richard Gadsden Jun 18 '14 at 11:06
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If there's no pin on the card, there's no pin to enter. Just plug-in & confirm transaction.

I expect, like any other smartcard (the kind of thing the chip is), the system will just skip the pin checking phase. (if there's a pin it needs to be done to communicate with the card)

However, if you are unable to use the chip for whatever reason, you can not use the magnetic stripe with any machine that has a slot for chip cards. (whether the card has a chip or not is encoded in the magnetic stripe)

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  • Just last weekend I swiped my chip card (after the chip reader failed to read the chip). – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 2:31
  • I must either be mistaken about card-processing rules, or that bit isn't set in your magnetic stripe. Mind mentioning what payment network the card's on? (and the terminal too, if you know) – bobsburner Dec 27 '19 at 2:34
  • The chip on the card is frequently difficult to read. It's a Discover card. That was the first time it didn't let me try again with the chip by insisted that I swipe. Surely the rules allow the use of the magnetic strip as a backup in cases of malfunction. – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 3:59
  • Last time I looked into this, they didn't. (at least for European cards) Because that's a very simple security workaround if you've got a mag-stripe clone of a card. (put it on a real chip card, and varnish over the metal contacts) – bobsburner Dec 27 '19 at 13:23
  • Well European issuers seem to take security just a bit more seriously. It is baffling to me why US issuers have avoided chip-and-pin, but I suspect a greater concern for consumer perception than for actual security. Do you have a link to the rules? I'd be interested to know whether there are in fact different rules in the US and Europe, or for chip-and-signature vs. chip-and-pin. With the former there's theoretically the additional protection of the signature, but it seems retailers are finding that the costs of signature processing are higher than the benefit of the protection it provides. – phoog Dec 27 '19 at 13:52

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