Traveling Abroad? Make Sure You Have A Credit Card That Works Everywhere

  @ismati.mangla@ibtimes.com on July 10 2014 4:22 PM
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Magnetic-stripe credit cards aren't accepted as often abroad. Wikimedia Commons

If you’re traveling overseas this summer, don’t be surprised if your credit card isn’t accepted everywhere. While the majority of credit cards in the United States come with the standard magnetic stripe to encode information, the rest of the world has upgraded its technology.

Abroad, “chip-and-PIN” is the norm when it comes to credit. Such cards employ an embedded microchip to process transactions and require the user to enter a PIN instead of a signature at the time of purchase. Chip-and-PIN cards are considered more secure because each transaction generates a unique code that can’t be used again -- and in an era of constant data breaches, that’s a big advantage.

While most touristy establishments abroad still accept credit cards with magnetic stripes, off-the-beaten-path destinations or places that offer automated kiosks are not as flexible, says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. For example, an unmanned train ticket or toll-both machine in Europe is likely to to accept chip-and-PIN cards only.

And even if you have an American chip-enabled credit card, there’s still a good chance it won’t be accepted, since most U.S. banks use signatures instead of PINs with their chip cards. But there are a few chip-and-PIN cards available to Americans. Here are your options:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

APR: 14.99 percent to 18.99 percent, depending on your credit worthiness

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Foreign transaction fee: None

Rewards: 2 miles for every dollar spent, plus 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days

This card is a good bet for frequent travelers, says Schulz. If you redeem your rewards for statement credits against travel expenses, your reward rate is bumped to 2.2 percent -- one of the best around. And the 40,000 bonus miles is worth $440 in airfare, gas and hotel expenses.

Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa

APR: 7.99 percent to 18.0 percent, depending on your credit worthiness (1.9 percent introductory rate for nine months on all purchases and balance transfers)

Annual fee: None

Foreign transaction fee: None

Rewards: One point per $1 spent, plus 5,000 bonus points after your first purchase

You have to be a member of Andrews Federal Credit Union to apply for this card, but anyone can join for free by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council for $5. If you’re looking for a simple, no-fee card that’s equipped with chip-and-PIN technology, this is a good low-cost option. Don’t expect a lot of redemption options for rewards, though.

USAA World MasterCard

APR: 9.90 percent to 25.90 percent, depending on your credit worthiness

Annual fee: None

Foreign transaction fee: 1 percent

Rewards: 1 point for every dollar spent, plus 2,500 bonus points after your first purchase

Only military members, veterans and their families can apply for a USAA card. While it does charge a foreign transaction fee, it’s lower than the 2 percent to 3 percent fees that have become the norm. 

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