Chip & Signature VS. Chip & Pin Credit Cards


The majority of credit cards issued now come with EMV chips. What I’m referring to is the little silver thing on the side of your card, circled in red above.

The purpose of EMV chips is to authentic transactions. Instead of simply reading the card info via the magnetic strip like an old swipe machine does, a chip reader communicates with the EMV chip in a way that makes it much harder for anyone to steal your credit card number.

There are two ways EMV chips are implemented:

  1. Chip and signature
  2. Chip and pin

Chip and Signature

How it works: The card reader reads your chip, and then you sign to verify the transaction.

This is the most common method across the board. The vast majority of establishments in the United States implement this method, and it’s probably what you’re used to at this point.

Chip and Pin

How it works: The card reader reads your chip, asks for your four digit pin number (which is set ahead of time), which you then type in. It’s very similar to making a purchase on a debit card or withdrawing cash from an ATM.

This method is more commonly implemented in Europe (as well as other parts of the world), at payment terminals where there is no human to facilitate the transaction. Instances where you’ll be required to input a pin after using your credit card are at self-service gas pumps, highway tolls, parking meters, and buying tickets for trains, subways, etc.

I’m probably not the best example as I don’t reside in the USA all year, but I’ve never been required to enter a pin to verify a credit card transaction within the United States.

My Experience in Europe

I am currently in the United States visiting family and friends, but I was just in Europe from the end of May through mid July. When using my credit card to pay for transactions where a person was present, like for a bill at a restaurant, I was often asked to input the pin of my card. This was never an issue though, as they would override the pin requirement and accept a signature instead.

However I ran into many situations at self-service payment terminals where a pin is the only way to verify the credit card: Driving through tolls, paying for gas, paying for parking, buying subway tickets… the list goes on. Every time this happened I would whip out my Schwab debit card to use instead, but it would’ve been nice to have been able to earn rewards on all those transactions.

That doesn’t have to happen to you. Before your next trip abroad, if you forsee yourself having to pay for a lot of things at self-service terminals (for me, it was when I rented a car that I ran into self-service payment terminals constantly), then bring along a card with chip AND PIN technology. Unfortunately the tricky part is finding one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Note that the SPG card pictured above does not have chip & pin technology, only chip & signature.

Cards with Chip & Pin and No Foreign Transaction Fees

Many credit cards from the following issuers offer credit cards with chip & pin technology:

  • Barclaycard
  • US Bank
  • Wells Fargo
  • Synchrony Bank
  • USAA

You can read about specific cards here. I’ll go over a couple good options below.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard comes with 50,000 American Airlines miles after just one purchase and paying the annual fee of $95. You’ll earn two AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, get a free checked bag for yourself and four travel companions on domestic American itineraries, preferred boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases, and a rebate of 10% of your redeemed miles each year (cap is 10k rebated per year). You’ll also get access to American Airlines’s Reduced Mileage Awards. 

Note that this AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is a separate product from the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, also issued by Barclaycard, which is what most of you who used to have the U.S. Airways card were converted to back in early 2015. So if you have the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, you should are still eligible for this card and its bonus.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with 50,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

The card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem the miles to offset any travel expense greater than $100 inside your Barclaycard account within 120 days of the purchase. Here is How to Redeem Arrival Miles. Arrival miles can be redeemed for any travel expense like any flight (no blackouts), taxes and fees on award tickets, hotels, airbnb, car rentals, cruises, and more. You also get a 5% rebate on all redemptions.

After meeting the minimum spending requirement on the card, you’ll have at least 56,000 Arrival miles, which you could redeem to offset a $560 charge.  And when you redeem the miles, you get the 5% rebate back instantly, so redeeming 56,000 would offer 2,800 miles back, worth another $28. It’s great for travel as it has no foreign transaction fees, and is a Mastercard, which means you will probably pay less in currency conversion fees. The card has an $89 annual fee which is waived the first year.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

Bottom Line

While it doesn’t really matter within the United States, if you travel to Europe often it would be wise to carry a credit card with chip and pin technology that also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Anyone else have troubles with their credit cards at chip and pin only payment terminals abroad? What’s your solution?

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Good Post normal people need this .No such thing as a prefect card or anything . Get 3 CC’s with a chip and pin and one Schwab Debit card (month before trip) call or Email the Banks where u are going . Check or reset ur pins to make sure they work if u can in US before u leave. One card may work in one place but not the other “So What” u have Back Up cards or Cash .I bring 20 E notes use them for even for a coke to get CHANGE locals don’t want 100e notes from the rich . Can B a major headache when there.


  2. Very useful post! I had to use my Schwab debit card in several train station tickets/parking garage payments in Amsterdam because of the PIN requirement. It is for small amounts each time, but it is good to keep a CHIP+PIN card handy for these expenses if you have small amount of cash in your Schwab account.

  3. The solution is to remember your 4 digit PIN ! How hard can it be?
    The American banking system will be dragged into the 21st century sooner or later, so get used to it.

    • Glenn pay attention. The card has to have chip and pin technology in it. Lots of cards have pin numbers for cash advances but that’s not chip and pin for cc transactions, they won’t work in a chip and pin machine that doesn’t have signature options.

      • My point is that the ENTIRE US banking system is still in the last century! For instance, transferring money around is by ‘wire’, referencing a process which happened around a hundred years ago!
        Anyway, because you are in the technological past is why you are having problems when you travel outside the USA. It is just another example of the continuing decline of America in the world order. Wake up!

  4. FWIW – I have the Barclay AAdvantage MasterCard (not World MC), and was able to use it with a PIN at an unmanned kiosk in London in fall 2015.

    Haven’t encountered any situations on most recent European trip to Sicily this past April, but will be in Amsterdam in September, carrying it and my Schwab debit card for backup.

  5. […] Difference Between Chip & Signature And Chip & Pin:  By now most of our cards, if not all of them have a chip on them.  However, not all chips are created equal.  What many of us here in the United States are accustomed to are the Chip & Signature cards.  It is a good idea though to know which ones have Chip & Pin capabilities for when you travel abroad. […]

  6. USA is so old-school. I remember the years that US cards didn’t even have a chip. Even today, I can’t use my “elite” Chase Sapphire Reserve card ($450 annual fee) because Chase can’t assign a PIN to it. How ridiculous that this (and other US “elite” cards) card is unusable for so many travel functions in Europe. It’s worthless in Europe. One would THINK, that such a credit card would be tech enable to WORK in Europe transportation kiosks. Consequently, I end using another US card that has a PIN. More and more, it seems USA is not so modern when one travels in many European countries. Also, US doesn’t have “3D Secure” credit cards necessary to book Air Algerie (and probably many others).

  7. The last time my wife and I were in Europe, we had to illegally board the train to the airport in Amsterdam because we couldn’t purchase a ticket from the kiosk. It wouldn’t accept our large Euro notes and it didn’t like any of our chip + signature credit cards. It even rejected our Schwab debit card. Luckily, entry is on the honor system (not sure if my wife would have jumped a turnstyle, but maybe with our flight back to the US coming up quickly!) so we just got on the train, and looked for a conductor to explain ourselves to before they fined us! Didn’t see a conductor and got a free ride to the airport, but it was a little stressful. Packing a Barclay Arrival Plus for our trip back next month.

  8. Good for u I was in France and got on the LAST car(engine) there was a conductor there doing the MONEY for 3 people who didn’t have tickets ..
    Some times NUTTHING works ..


  9. I am still looking for the best no annual fee chip and pin with no foreign transaction fee. That would be a long term keeper for travel outside the US for times when you are stuck at a gas station or ticket machine.

    • There are basically 2 choices, both from Barclay. Wyndham and Jet Blue. I want the same thing so did the research. I’m debating whether to downgrade my Arrival Plus to one of these, now that I have a 2.5% cash back card, or to open one for the bonus points and cancel the Arrival.

    • Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is the best option if you don’t want Barclays.
      It has no FTF and no annual fee as well. Chip and Pin recently introduced.

  10. Last month I tried to refill the gas in my rental car at (what turned out to be) a self-serve gas station. None of my cards worked as C&P, and I had to return the car only half-full of gas 🙁

    I would have gladly paid a 3% foreign transaction fee. Same thing for tolls, train tix, even the self-serve at McDonald’s…at the end of the trip, it’s just a few dollars.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.