Will our credit cards work in Europe?July 2, 2012: 5:30 AM ET
I am traveling with a group of 50 middle school students this summer. Are our American credit cards with magnetic strips widely accepted in Europe? If not, what is a good alternative — debit cards, travelers checks, or cash? — Janice R.
While most major credit cards are widely accepted overseas, you could have trouble paying with the typical American credit card with the magnetic strip, says Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com. "In Europe, EMV or 'chip and pin' cards are most commonly used," she says. It would be wise to have a backup on hand, such as another credit card, travelers checks, or access to cash through a debit card.
The good news is that both Visa and Mastercard plan to roll out EMV cards more widely in the U.S. over the next year, so this is a temporary problem.
One thing to watch out for, though: currency conversion fees on foreign purchases, which can add two percent to four percent to your bill. "Only a few cards — notably, Discover and Capital One — don't charge these fees," Detweiler says. Call your credit card issuer and ask about currency conversion fees — and consider applying for a card with no fees for your trip.
— Kate Ashford
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