The Rapid Traveler received a letter from BMO dated January 28 containing his pin for the new look US Diners Club card with chip and pin. This is true chip and pin, not the half-measure chip and signature that US banks condescendingly claim is more suited to their US customers. A magnetic strip is retained and the card can be used at any merchant that accepts MasterCard. The card was supposed to arrive within ten days of the letter, but has not, so either there is a BMO issue or a mail delivery issue.
This will be the first mainstream chip and pin card in the US. Too bad it is currently closed to new applications. Hopefully BMO will open to new applications as it revitalizes the card. The big strengths of Diners Club are the rental car primary collision damage waiver and access to an eclectic mix of airport lounges. The weaknesses are the 3% foreign transaction fee and the high transfer fees in its rewards catalog when moving points to airlines. That 3% foreign transaction fee dents the primary appeal of chip and pin, but the hit can be swallowed in a pinch or by low volume users.
But wait, The Rapid Traveler just peeked at the new look Club Rewards website (registration required) and found the vexing points-to-miles transfer fees have vanished. 1,000 points = 1,000 miles and no fee on Alaska Airlines, Delta and numerous other airlines. Hotel partners have varying formulas.
If BMO slashed the foreign transaction fee, Diners Club could again be a high flyer.
Tomorrow, a look at a little-known chip and pin card with 1% foreign transaction fee unearthed by the denizens of the Credit Card Programs forum on FlyerTalk.