Chip-N-Pin sounds great – in practice not quite what I expected.

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After 3 weeks in Sweden with me mum it is good to be home again. It was a great visit and much was accomplished. But that is not the reason for this post.

What matters is the testing of the Delta AMEX Reserve Chip-N-Signature card as well as my Barclays Arrival+ Chip-N-Pin card. Both cards I got just weeks before the trip and I could not wait to test them out.

The nice thing, since 1MAY2014, is the Delta AMEX cards no longer charges the international transaction fee so I can feel free to use it anywhere AMEX is accepted. I have found that many times I get a teeny tiny bit better conversion from SEK to USD but nothing so big it makes it my go-to card. It is still great to have it when I want it to help meet spend.

The Arrival+ card does not charge any king of international transaction fee either. So really it is just up to me what points I want more. Unless I NEED to pin transaction right?

I was not off to a promising start. My very first test with my Arrival was in the taxi coming home. The cab driver says it did not take the first time and tried again. This time it works but spits out a slip for signature. Later I find it billed both times. I am working to get one of the charges reversed.

Over the next few weeks I am sad to say I was never once asked for a PIN. You name the place, never once was it asked for and spit out a slip to sign. Not a major problem most of the time. Why most of the time?


After about two weeks, I went to pay and I hit a brick wall. The grocery store had updated their policy to disallow any foreign cards that did not have a PIN. Since neither of my cards would prompt for this I was stuck paying cash the rest of the time.

Now this was the ONLY place I had an issue but it was chain-wide. If more go this way, this could clearly be a major problem.

I did call the number on the back of my card to report the double taxi billing and asked the rep why, even though I had set the PIN online, it was not being requested. I was told it was the fault of the stores and they had to update their software. Perhaps that is right or not. Either way, until the two link up be prepared for the reality of the situation.

My experience seemed to be very similar to my fellow blogger MJ on Travel when in Canada as he posted about here. I would love to know have you ever used your Arrival+ card and had it ask for a PIN in this country or anywhere else? I would love some feedback! – René

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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  1. There are cards being issued with chips, but that do not require PIN entry and the vast majority of those are US-issued cards, or rather cards issued to addresses in the US. I’m a banker, and even amongst us there are tons of confusion and misinformation. And oddly, the frontline staffers (whether customer service or terminal operators) are usually the last to be trained in the differentiation. And not that one could discern the difference just by looking at the card anyway.

    There are now 4 different EMV cards: 1) Chip-Signature, 2) Chip-PIN, 3) Chip-Signature contactless (NFC), and 4) Chip-PIN contactless. And like I said above, discerning between 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 is impossible with just looking at the card.

    Supposedly once more terminal adoption is accomplished by merchants in the US, the type 1 card will be eliminated.

  2. Hi Rene– Just spent three weeks in Europe with chip and PIN cards. None of the places we used them (and we used them a lot) asked for a PIN. Every time a slip printed out to sign. We were very happy to have them at subway machines as I doubt we would have been able to buy tix without chip cards. Still no PIN was required. We would have preferred the security of a PIN.

  3. Since every European card has been using PINs and chips for decades now, I think it’s the U.S. card issuers that need to update their side of the “software”. If they cannot make their card work with PIN in Europe, they are the one to blame. 😉

  4. I was talking to a merchant at one stop on my trip and they said it’s been pretty standard to process chip and signature on all US issued cards that have a chip EVEN if it’s a chip and pin. Sounded like software on their end picking up pin or signature. No issues using my CSP, AA Exec or Delta Reserve in Sweden, UK or Ireland besides that one hiccup at lunch.

  5. I used my Arrival+ card exclusively when I traveled to Vancouver and always had to sign the receipts. I am just as confused as you are and hope that everyone gets it figured out sooner rather than later.

  6. I have been able to use my Barclaycard Arrival at walmart a few times now with Chip-n-pin

  7. I was in Peru last week and took my new Arrival chip and pin card. All charges went through as chip & signature even tho I set my pin before leaving the US. Card worked fine otherwise. Good thing that i did not encounter a mandatory pin such as in many euro machines.

  8. I live in Germany and have traveled extensively, the only time I was prompted for my pin was in Luxembourg, all other times it spit out the signature line, which of course, defeats the purpose.

  9. If using the card at a terminal where signature is an option the card will default to chip-and-signature. If at a terminal where signature is not possible (i.e. automated machines for train tickets, parking, etc.) you should be prompted for your PIN. I have no explanation as to why you weren’t promoted for your PIN at the grocery store, because it would seem to situation where the default – chip-and-signature – would not be possible.

  10. I think it depends on the card to be honest. My debit card doesn’t need a pin but if i use my credit card it does…when it comes to taxis. My debit card also has my photo on the back so its good for security reasons. All bank cards should have your photo on th back…cuts down on theft and good to use as ID as well 🙂

  11. Hi, Rene.
    I have been using my new Barclay Arrival+ card in Europe successfully. I needed the Chip + Pin feature twice: once at a parking garage in Spain and once at a gas station in The Netherlands. Both were unattended machines.

    I want to give a warning to US credit card users in Spain: every terminal gave the option to make the charge in Euros or Dollars. Always select Euros, better yet, ask the person operating the terminal beforehand that you want to charge in Euros. The penalty for charging in Dollars is almost 5%!!!!

  12. @robert is 100% correct. A machine will look to see if it can do signature first, but if it can’t (either the card won’t allow signature or the machine is unattended) then it will decision to go to PIN.

  13. @Ben – TXS to you and @robert for feedback. The question is can we say get the banks to NOT all allow signature then to force the PIN as the default? #LoveLearning

  14. I had the similar experience in Montreal recently with the Barclays Arrival+.
    If the machine could print out a signature receipt, it always prompted to print it! However in the automated ticket kiosks (Subway stations), it asked for a PIN and worked as I had expected!

  15. I remember some sort of instructions about using the pin feature of the arrival cards. It said that the pin must first be used at an attended location like a restaurant before it could be used at unattended locations like kiosks etc. Has anyone found this to be true?

  16. Just used Arrival for 2+ weeks in NZ and AUS. Was asked for PIN exactly twice: once on a reversal of a charge at a restaurant (though not on the initial transaction) and once at a metro train kiosk for a ~$6 transaction. Every other time, it spit out the paper for a signature. AUS is phasing out signatures altogether, so maybe it’ll prompt for PIN there once that happens?

  17. I’m Italian and I have only EMV cards but, as DK Mashino said, you don’t know what card exactly you have:

    1) the Blue AMEX card needs always a PIN for any charge of the purchase in Italy and generally in Europe. When in US the shop agent always take the card and swipe it (for low payment sometimes the sign is not required), give it back without to take a look at the authorized sign on the back and wait for any sign on the receipt. So it’s completely unsecured for the owner of the card… in US

    2) the bank MasterCard card needs always a PIN for any charge of the purchase in Italy and generally in Europe, it’s an NFC’s PayPass card so for compatible POS you can pay for a maximum of € 25 just touching the devide. When in US the shop agent always take the card and swipe it (for low payment sometimes the sign is not required), give it back without to take a look at the authorized sign on the back and wait for any sign on the receipt. So it’s completely unsecured for the owner of the card… in US

    3) the VISA card (affiliated with Hilton, not much other affiliations with Italian cards) needs always a sign for any charge of the purchase in Italy and generally in Europe; I have a PIN but probably I need it only for ATM’s withdraw of cash. When in US the shop agent always take the card and swipe it (for low payment sometimes the sign is not required), give it back without to take a look at the authorized sign on the back and wait for any sign on the receipt. So it’s completely unsecured for the owner of the card… in US

    During my last trip in US I always used the VISA card and I paid twice a taxi (like you) in Chicago, I showed to the driver the TEXT of the correct first payment but he didn’t care about my phone. Later (on a Sunday night) my phone informed me about three $ 300+ in less than a minute in a Rite Aid in Monroe (Washington). I was never in Monroe. 5 minutes later I phoned and blocked the card. I was told the thief tried again for the fourth time to take other stuff for more than $ 300 but the card was blocked at that time. Because I was so fast, thanks to the texts (we call it SMS) my bank did not charged for the three payment and, separately, the second taxi payment was scrapped from my bill.

    The “Chip and PIN + text” is the only good method to pay offline with credit cards. You guys in north America need to understand it.

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