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9 Chip + PIN credit cards with no foreign fees

by on Wed October 15, 2014 • 7 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

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 GlobeTrek 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.

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.

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.

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

Diners Club Premier
$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
$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.

Chase is planning to introduce PIN capability on its cards with EMV chips later this year. 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.

USAA’s MasterCards are among the few that offer cards that are purely Chip + PIN with no signature priority, but they all levy 1% foreign transaction fees, which aren’t worth it in our opinion.

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 ThankYou Prestige ($400 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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7 thoughts on 9 Chip + PIN credit cards with no foreign fees

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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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