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9 Chip + PIN credit cards with no foreign fees

by on Mon June 1, 2015 • 32 Comments
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emv-smart-cardThere are two big frustrations with using credit cards when traveling abroad: nasty foreign transaction fees and not having your card accepted because it doesn’t have an EMV ‘chip’ built-in.

If you travel to Europe frequently you’re probably used to the hassle, thanks to Europe’s wide use of the ‘Chip + PIN’ method of accepting credit card transactions.

Many European merchants and vending machines won’t accept a signature or personal ID as verification of a credit card transaction. So in order to use a credit card with these merchants you need a credit card that has an EMV chip built-in *and* a PIN associated with it.

There are a good number of U.S. credit cards that have an EMV chip, but nearly all still rely on you signing a receipt to verify, because they don’t have the additional PIN based verification system.

That’s not good enough because  you could still be stuck unable to use your cards at some vendors, especially automated kiosks that only accept a transaction with a PIN. That’s because kiosks don’t have a human to verify your signature. And some shops and restaurants may refuse a signature-only transaction.

To make matters worse, among the cards that do offer the PIN option, most charge foreign transaction fees of 1-3% on all foreign purchases, which shouldn’t be a price to pay for convenience.

Instead, ignore the noise and focus on these cards that have a PIN option so you can use them at kiosks and not worry about foreign transaction fees. Most however will default to asking for a signature if it’s available, for example at stores and restaurants where an attendant is present.

Chip cards with PIN and no foreign transaction fees

Most of these cards default to using a signature first, but will fall back to a PIN in places where a signature is not possible.

State Department Federal Credit Union EMV Visa Platinum 
No annual fee. Join the American Consumer Council – free –  link here to be eligible for the credit union.

Andrews Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa 
No annual fee. Join American Consumer Council – free - link here - to be eligible for the credit union.

PenFed Platinum Rewards, Promise, & Gold Visa 
No annual fee. Donate $15 to Voices for America’s Troops – link here to be eligible for the credit union.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard 
$89 annual fee, waived the first year.

Diners Club Premier (closed to new applicants)
$95 annual fee. Earns points that transfer to Alaska, Delta, and several other airlines. PIN priority – will always default to a PIN transaction when available for maximum security.

Diners Club Card Elite (closed to new applicants)
$300 annual fee. PIN priority – will always default to a PIN transaction when available for maximum security.

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard 
$89 annual fee.

Wells Fargo Propel World American Express Card
$175 annual fee, waived the first year.

UN Federal Credit Union Elite
$50 annual fee. PIN priority – will always default to a PIN transaction when available for maximum security. Join the UNA-USA for $25 to be eligible for the credit union.

This UN card has a 1% foreign transaction fee

UN Federal Credit Union Azure
No annual fee. PIN priority – will always default to a PIN transaction when available for maximum security. Join the UNA-USA for $25 to be eligible for the credit union.

Chase was planning to introduce PIN capability on its cards with EMV chips, but backed down, opting for regular EMV chip and signature.

One caveat to each of the above cards is that they default to signature verification first. So if you’re at a restaurant that has a person to verify a signature it will use that method instead of asking for a PIN. That’s fine for most situations, but some establishments may refuse to process your charge because they only want PIN based verification. Unfortunately there is no way to override the terminal to force a PIN transaction at manned locations. But of all the issues with Chip / PIN this is probably the least frequent.

There are also many Chip and Signature cards available to you with no foreign transaction fees. They won’t help you at kiosks, but they can be helpful at places that won’t read the old style magnetic stripe.

Non-PIN Chip cards with no foreign transactions fees

  • Bank of America Travel Rewards (no annual fee)
  • Capital One Venture Rewards ($59 annual fee)
  • Capital One Venture One (no annual fee)
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee)
  • Hyatt Visa ($75 annual fee)
  • BankAmericard Travel Rewards (no annual fee)
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Visa ($85 annual fee)
  • British Airways Visa ($95 annual fee)
  • Citi ThankYou Premier ($125 annual fee)
  • Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard ($450 annual fee)
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express ($450 annual fee)
  • JP Morgan Select Visa Signature ($95 annual fee)
  • JP Morgan Palladium ($595 annual fee)
  • PenFed Platinum Rewards (no annual fee)
  • PNC Premier Traveler ($95 annual fee)
  • Hilton HHonors Reserve ($95 annual fee)
  • Ritz Carlton Rewards ($395 annual fee)
  • Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee)
  • City National Crystal Visa ($400 annual fee)

There are many other Chip and Signature cards that charge foreign transaction fees. We think those should be avoided with so many options available that waive the foreign fees.

A constantly updated discussion of Chip based credit cards is on FlyerTalk.com.

 

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32 thoughts on 9 Chip + PIN credit cards with no foreign fees

  1. David

    One important factor card holders should consider is their annual overseas spending, and whether it’s worth it to carry a card with a high annual fee just to avoid a 1% exchange fee. For example, let’s compare the UNFCU Visa Azure (no annual fee, 1% foreign exchange) and its sister card the UNFCU Visa Elite ($50 annual fee, no foreign exchange). It would require an annual OVERSEAS spending of $5,000 just to offset that $50 annual fee. For the Barclay card, the offset price would be even higher at $8,900. While this may be an easy feat for high net worth individuals, or Americans living/working abroad, the average holiday traveler may not often meet this threshold. This is especially evident when you consider that airfare/hotels are often prebooked at home, state-side, leaving “overseas spending” to little more than restaurants, museums, souvenir shops, and incidentals. In short, I’ve personally been carrying the Visa Azure for a year now and I find the 1% forex fee more cost efficient (by far).

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @David – Yes good point – an annual fee can rack up to more than a 1% transaction fee if you’re after the extra PIN convenience. Otherwise the no PIN but EMV enabled cards with no foreign transaction fee or annual fee like a Capital One Quicksilver can work well many places.

      Reply
  2. sarah

    can someone confirm for me that the sdfcu card is in fact chip + pin because i keep finding information stating that it is in fact a chip + signature card.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @sarah – It has a PIN built in and kicks in as a backup when no signature is possible. So it will ask for a signature first, and go to PIN if that’s not an option.

      Reply
  3. Steve

    My Barclaycard AAdvantage Red Card worked just fine at Deutsche Bahn track-side kiosks last week. It didn’t ask for a pin, possibly because of the size of the transactions (18 euros). In stores and resturants, it defaulted to signature.

    Reply
  4. Jen

    I ended up getting stranded at a gas station outside of Liverpool England with an Andrews Chip & Pin Visa card. No one seems to know what went wrong and they said well maybe the machine doesn’t accept our Visa cards. Not an acceptable answer. The good samaritan who came to the gas station and was willing to take my cash for using his Visa card to pay for gas (Sunday 10pm pay at the pump was the only option). How one Visa worked but the other didn’t is beyond me. I simply think the Andrews cards don’t work as advertised. I’m switching to PenFed – my coworker has one and used it successful to buy gas all over Europe.

    Reply
  5. Ken

    USAA no longer offers PIN preference EMV cards and has reissued signature preference cards to those who held PIN preference cards.

    Reply
    1. Carl

      I have had the USAA chip/pin card for over a year. I called them a few months ago and they verified it still is chip/pin. I used it as recently as last week with the pin at an Esso automated unmanned gas station in France and had no problem.

      Reply
      1. MileCards.com

        @Carl – Good to know – unfortunately the newer cards no longer offer PIN as the first option – it’s as a backup.

        Reply
  6. j richard

    I just read the disclosure statement for the Andrews Federal Credit Union Platinum Rewards Visa and it says there is a 1% fee on foreign transactions. The page I found when following your link says “No fee”. I joined the Join American Consumer Council (which is not free, cost $5) so I could join the credit union (also $5). I’m going to call the CU and see if their card has or does not have a foreign transaction fee.

    Reply
    1. sarah

      i called them today and they told me about the 1% fee; however, the representative said if you use the promo code CONSUMER, it waives the $5 fee for joining the american consumer council.

      Reply
  7. John

    Barclay *DOES* charge hidden fee. Unlike other credit cards, Barclay will not show the fee in statement as a separate charge but embedded in currency conversion. I mix used Barclay & Capital One Venture in many Asian countries for last two years. I didn’t realize it until one day I charged the same amount on both cards and Barclay turns out to be more than Capital One. I used the conversion rates of the day published by Visa/Master on their website. Capital One only missed by a penny. But Barclay added about 5% on top of it!! That’s worse than the average 3% foreign transaction fee charges by other credit cards.

    Reply
  8. John S.

    PenFed is asking if I belong to any organization from a list which I don’t. It seemed I don’t belong to any organization they list as qualify for PenFed membership. Without the membership its not even going to the application page. Any idea how a non-defense related person like me can apply?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @John S. – Anyone can join PenFed by joining Voices for America’s Troops. Just choose ‘other’ when it asks how you’re eligible and you will see that option.

      Reply
  9. David C.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that the UN Federal Credit Union Azure credit card does indeed come with a 1% foreign transaction fee, imposed by VISA. Nontheless, I find this is a small price to pay considering the card’s PIN Priority and no annual fee. Additionally, you can lower your costs even more if you reserve this card purely for un-manned kiosks and toll booths, and use an alternative no fee card everywhere else. For example, I pair this card with my Fidelity Investment Rewards AMEX card, which does charge a 1% foreign transaction fee but also has a 2% rewards rate, so really no fee at all.

    Reply
    1. Kent

      I have the UNFCU Azure Card, I can verify that it does have a 1% foreign transaction fee. The UNFCU Elite Card ($50 annual Fee) now has been updated to have no foreign transaction fees. These are great cards-true chip and pin cards

      Reply
  10. Linda

    Hello,

    The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card has no foreign transaction fees, but no EMV/chip. I’ve searched online and read that there are plans for an EMV in the card soon (2015), but might you be aware of when this would be? This spring?

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Linda – No details yet. The press recently reported Chase delayed its initial plans to roll out full Chip + PIN features on its cards.

      Reply
      1. traveler john

        I just got my new United Explorer chip-and-signature card from Chase. I asked to set up a PIN for foreign travel and this was their response (short answer is “no”):

        “Thank you for contacting Chase about a Chip and PIN for
        your account.

        Thank you for contacting us about a Chip and PIN card. At
        this time, Chase is issuing Chip and Signature cards,
        which only require your signature to complete a
        transaction.

        Here’s what you need to know about our chip cards:
        * Chase chip cards require a signature to verify purchases
        made at a merchant card reader.
        * Some chip-enabled cards require a PIN code to verify the
        purchase.
        * The difference in the method of verification depends on
        the microchip itself and what verification method the
        merchant’s card reader is set up to accept.

        In certain situations, your Chip and Signature card may
        not be accepted:
        * Card readers at unattended kiosks may not require a
        signature, but some will require Chip and PIN
        functionality.
        * It’s a good idea to be prepared with alternative payment
        methods, such as local currency.
        We hope this information is helpful and we thank you for
        your business and your trust. If you have additional
        questions, please call us using the number on the back of
        your card or visit chase.com/smartchip. We’re always
        available to assist you.

        If you have any further questions, please reply using the
        Secure Message Center.”

        So, I have a chip card which isn’t really a chip card. Good luck at train stations, gas stations, etc…

        Reply
  11. askmrlee

    There are two US based true Chip and PIN card issuers. Diners Club issued by BMO Harris Bank and the United Nations Federal Credit Union. The Diners Club credit card is accepted as a MasterCard and has no foreign transaction fee, primary car rental insurance and the ability to transfer reward points to many frequent flyer and hotel programs as well as lounge access. The annual fee is $95. There’s also a $300 version which gives additional reward points on travel purchases and trip cancellation insurance, but I don’t think it’s worth the additional fee.

    I’ve used this card at Walmart company locations and it requires entering a PIN even for a $2 transaction. This is what credit card security is supposed to be and gives me confidence that this card will not leave me stranded on a European toll road unlike a Chip and Signature might.

    Reply
    1. askmrlee

      The Barclays cards are Chip and Signature first then Chip and PIN, meaning the card attempts an online authorization and if not available, then the transaction requires a PIN. They are supposed to be able to allow you to use unattended kiosks, tolls, etc.

      Reply
    2. MileCards.com

      @askmrlee – Good call outs – noted above. Diners Club also the only Chip + PIN that earns transferable points.

      Reply
  12. mel ettenson

    still confused as to best chip and PIN cards…is it only Barclay Arrival Plus and PenFed VISA? Not terriblyvconcerned about foreign conversion fees.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Mel – The PenFed Visa is probably the best overall with no annual fee. Otherwise the Arrival Plus is generally best right now if you are willing to pay an annual fee.

      Reply
  13. john jermusyk

    Capital One Venture card (VISA) no fee and no Europe transaction fees.
    I used it , it was great just no chip.

    John

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @john- Glad it worked well for you. Yes, all Capital One cards have no foreign fees.Unfortunately they’ve been quite slow about considering adding the chips to their cards.

      Reply

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