Ask an Expert: My Credit Card Won’t Work Overseas!

Photo (cc) by Hunter-Desportes

I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. Check out more on our credit card page. Have a question? Email me.

A Money Talks News reader recently wrote me with a travel tech question…

Our company does a lot of overseas travel. Since U.S. bank cards are not issued with electronic security chips, they are useless in most other parts of the world. Please tell me what you know about where we can get these cards in the U.S., and if we are at the mercy of the expensive Travelex-type companies for them.

Thanks,
Anne

As employees at Anne’s company have discovered, there’s a reason why your credit card might not work overseas. It turns out that credit card technology in Europe and other parts of the world has advanced beyond ours.

Specifically, if you want to buy a train ticket, you’ll find many unattended kiosks at European train stations – and they require cards with an EMV smart chip that U.S. cards don’t have. It’s frustrating to be denied a train ticket because your credit card is rejected – yup, it’s happened to me.

Until very recently, American cardholders had only one option: products such as Travelex, which Anne mentioned. These are called stored-value cards – which get the job done but come with a slew of fees and an awful exchange rate.

Fortunately, we’ve been catching up with our friends in the Old World. In the past year, several major card issuers have begun to issue products with embedded EMV smart chips. For example, Chase has made its Hyatt Credit Card, British Airways, and J.P. Morgan Select cards compatible with this new system. Others with this feature include most Bank of America cards, the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa, the Wells Fargo Platinum, and all Citi MasterCards.

And if you already have one of these cards but don’t have the EMV chip, simply call your card issuer and ask for a new card before your next overseas trip. You should get one at no cost.

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