Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is pilot testing the Visa Smart Card, which includes a magnetic strip and EMV chip technology, this summer. About 15,000 current customers who travel abroad will get their cards in July or August of this year, says Lisa Westermann, assistant vice president of public relations for Wells Fargo & Co. "If all goes well, we hope to offer the card to more customers," she says.
Although card issuers say their non-chip-enabled, magnetic strip cards are still accepted by overseas merchants who've adopted the newer technology, problems can arise when an attendant doesn't know how to process a magnetic strip card or when a credit card terminal is unattended. "We have heard of cases where some U.K. shops don't accept these cards, usually caused by misunderstanding by that shop's management as to the situation regarding non-EMV cards," wrote Mark Bowerman, spokesman for the UK Cards Association, in an email.
Benitez recalls a trip to France last year when he gave a few euros to help out a New Yorker who was stuck on a road median, "because he didn't have cash or a chip and PIN card" to pay the toll. He adds that some merchants are reluctant to accept magnetic strip cards, "because they're afraid they'll get a charge-back if it's a fraudulent card."
Still carrying a magnetic strip card? Here are three ways to avoid problems while traveling abroad.
Notify your card issuer about your plans. It's a good idea to alert your bank before traveling internationally, as some will freeze your credit card as a security measure after it detects unusual activity. While you're on the phone, it can't hurt to ask if it offers chip and PIN credit card technology to customers who travel internationally, as some issuers are starting to do so.
Carry cash. One surefire way to ensure you never wind up like the New Yorker mentioned above is to carry the local currency in addition to a credit card and debit card. Even if a merchant can't (or won't) accept your card, cardholders have other options. For instance, "Visa cardholders can also access local currency at 1.7 million ATMs around the world," wrote Ted Carr, a Visa spokesman, in an email.
Find an attendant. Automated ticket machines at train stations or gas stations might save time, but if the machine doesn't recognize your credit card, you're better off dealing with a real person. "In the rare instance that a cardholder encounters a problem, such as at an unattended ticket machine that does not recognize nonchip cards, cardholders should present their card to an attendant or agent (e.g., at ticket windows)," wrote Carr. Allow extra time for waiting in lines or even better, try to order tickets online before you go.
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