When consumers reach for the check in the U.S., cards are king, with cash payments making up an ever-dwindling percentage of in-person sales. So it comes as a rude surprise to many Americans vacationing in Europe, Canada, China and elsewhere when they are told that their card cannot be accepted.
Often, the business happily accepts plastic—just not the cards Americans are carrying. The majority of U.S. cards use magnetic strips, which are vulnerable to fraud through a process called “skimming.” European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology (or “smart cards”), in which the user enters a PIN for each transaction. Fewer and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards.
U.S. banks have been slow to make the switch to chips, leaving many traveling Americans stranded at the cash register—especially in less touristy destinations. If you only have a magnetic strip card, read these tips before traveling:
No matter what card you’re using, be diligent about following these general recommendations for traveling with a credit card.
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