Chip & Signature

Prior to my trip to Madrid and Istanbul last week, I had heard that AMEX Platinum Cardholders were eligible to get a Chip & Signature Platinum Card for free.

For those of you not familiar with Chip & Signature (or EMV) technology, it is a variation on Chip & Pin technology. Basically when they run your Chip & Pin Credit Card, you have to enter a Pin (similar to what we have to do for a Debit Card). With the Chip & Signature, you just have to sign (no Pin).

In the US, we don’t really use Chip & Pin or Chip & Signature Cards, but abroad Chip & Pin is used almost exclusively.

While most Restaurants and Hotels abroad will allow you to use a regular US Credit Card, many of the automated kiosks at the Train Stations, etc, will only take Cards that have Chips. 

In Montreal, I could not get my Chase INK Bold to work at any of the Train or Bike Stations and it was horrible.

When I saw that AMEX Platinum Cardholders could get a Chip & Signature Card for free, I jumped on it and simply called AMEX to request one. AMEX was great and overnighted me the new Card.

None of my other Cards have Chip & Signature technology, so I was excited to try out my new AMEX Platinum in Europe.

Overall, I was EXTREMELY HAPPY to have a Chip & Signature Card because I had ZERO issues using it at the automated kiosks at the Train Stations in London or Madrid.

At the kiosks, I just popped in my AMEX, and even though you are suppose to enter a Pin, it worked without issue.

It was also useful to have at Restaurants, since the Waiters were far more accustomed to running Chip Cards than having to physically swipe the US Cards.

If you don’t have a Chip & Signature Card, it isn’t the end of the World (unless you don’t have any Cash and are at a Train Station), but it is a nice feature to have.

If you have a AMEX Platinum Card, I’d strongly suggest getting the new Chip & Signature Card since it is free.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

While I did have my AMEX Platinum and Chase INK Bold with me during my trip, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t really maximizing my Points earned while traveling because I didn’t have a Chase Sapphire Preferred!

Once upon a time, I did have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa but downgraded it to the free Chase Sapphire Card when the Annual Fee came due.

If you haven’t had a Chase Sapphire Preferred before, I highly suggest getting one.

Link to Chase Sapphire Preferred

The reason for this is simple.

On my last trip, I concluded that 95% of my purchases were either related to Food, Lodging, or Transportation!

All of those categories earn 2x Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

While my INK Bold earned me 2x at Hotels, we spent quite a bit at Restaurants and on London Cabs, etc and it would have been nice to earn 2x UR on those purchases too.

While the difference between 1x or 2x on your purchases may not sound earth shattering, you do have to factor in that Ultimate Rewards Points are some of the most valuable “Points” out there.

The Chase Sapphire also has a whole host of other features, like no Foreign Transaction Fees, that make it extremely worthwhile to have while traveling. A full breakdown of the Card can be found here,

As I said earlier, I already had the Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa, so after I apply for the Hyatt Card this month, the next Chase Card I get will be the Chase Sapphire Preferred Mastercard.

Even though both the Visa & Mastercard Sapphire Preferred Cards are issued by Chase, apparently the Visa & Mastercard distinction qualifies them as “different Cards”, so you can get the 40,000 Point Sign Up Bonus again without issue!

More information on how to get the Mastercard version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred can be found here.

Hopefully this will work out perfectly because my Chase INK Bold’s Annual Fee will be coming due around April, so I will downgrade that Card and get another Chase Sapphire Preferred in the process!

Recap

Although you don’t have to get an AMEX Platinum (there are other Chase Cards that have the same Chip & Signature technology), if you are traveling abroad, I’d highly recommend getting at least 1 Credit Card that doesn’t have Foreign Transaction Fees AND also has Chip and Signature technology.

While the majority of foreign retailers will accept your regular U.S Credit Card, I have found myself in situations where my Credit Card wouldn’t work because it didn’t have a Chip and I couldn’t get any cash out of the ATM. Let me just tell you that it isn’t a fun experience!

Even if you don’t plan on using your Chip & Pin Card as your “everyday” Card while traveling, it is always good to have it as a back-up option in the event that you need it.

In a perfect World, the Chase Sapphire Preferred would come with Chip & Signature technology, but at this current time that is not an option!

In the mean time, as a consolation prize, feel free to sign up for another Chase Sapphire Preferred Mastercard to get another 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points!

-Parag

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4 Comments

  • tom says:

    Thanks for the good info. Do you have a list of cards with chips? I have a European trip coming up in a couple of months so I may need to get a new card.

  • entrada says:

    In my experience a debit card with a 4-digit PIN will work in train ticket vending machines when a US credit card will not. I try my Chas. Schwab debit card whenever the credit card option doesn't seem to work and have always been successful so far!

  • Marcus says:

    Glad you wrote about this. I'd read about American credit cards not being accepted in Europe, so this was helpful. The bonus was double-dipping the Chase Sapphire Preferred card by getting the Visa and Mastercard versions.

  • Frequent Flyer University says:

    @Tom – So there isn't a list but there is the AMEX Platinum, Chase Hyatt, Chase British Airways, and Chase Marriott Rewards Premier. Any of those are great, and have pretty awesome sign up bonuses too!

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