Detailed field report on the chip and pin Andrews FCU GlobeTrek Visa Rewards Card

Chip and pin credit cards have become the standard in many parts of the world, with automated kiosks often no longer accepting magnetic stripe cards common in the US. The half-measure chip and signature available on a number of US cards may not help in these situations, such as unmanned toll booths and ticket machines. One of the few chip and pin options open to US residents is the Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTreak Visa Rewards Card, which I previously introduced though am not a cardholder. (Disclaimer: I have no financial relationship with Andrews FCU and will not receive any compensation if you open an account.)

Reader Joe Geohan generously shares his experience with the card, from the somewhat complicated application process through to his travels in Europe. Many thanks to Joe for this detailed report:

I have the Andrews GlobeTrek VISA. To clear up some misconceptions, it can be used as a normal swipe card (as is normal in the USA) or as a chip and signature/pin card (as is the common technology in place in Europe).

When using the chip technology, the AndrewsFCU is BOTH chip/signature and chip/pin. Which gets used is a function of how the machine in which you use is configured. Most (but certainly not all) in Europe are set to default to chip/signature which is why you still get the slip printed out to sign. If the machine is set to default to chip/pin, then you would be asked for your pin.

Don’t ask why the defaults are set this way. I have no idea, and only the owner of the card reading machine can tell you. The owner is most likely not the restaurant where you are using the card, but the banking or financial company that provided it with the machine. Most European issued cards are true chip/pin cards, so they never get the signature slip as it is not an option of their particular card.

(There are some who dispute this and say that the Andrews card is configured to default to chip/signature and only ask for a pin when the signature option is not available. If that’s true, the result is the still same – you will be asked for a signature unless that option is not available in which case you will be asked for a pin.)

I have successfully used the Andrews chip/pin option whenever I have needed to – at unattended gas stations, on French toll roads, and at unattended train and Paris Metro ticket dispensers. It works (whereas a USA swipe card would not), but only rarely I have been actually asked to input the pin number.

If in Europe an establishment swipes your card rather than inserting into a card reading machine, then it is ALWAYS using the swipe technology which absolutely requires a signature slip. Europeans have become used to swiping cards of obviously American travelers since they never expect to see a chip/pin card from them.

Then there is the problem of using the card at some French gas stations (notably Intermarché, but others as well, I’m sure). These gas chains apparently are slowly but surely changing their gas pumps to only accept FRENCH credit cards. If they have done this, then your USA issued Andrews chip/pin card is not going to work. My card has not been rejected anywhere yet, but I have heard of people who have encountered this problem.

Ah, how to get an Andrews card. If you are not within their very limited conditions for membership, mainly military, you CAN still get a card. Just join the America Consumer Council and you instantly become eligible. Joining the AAC is free. I joined and got a certificate of membership with a membership number.

Then using that membership number, I filled out an application to become a member of Andrews Federal Credit Union. I applied on-line and got a confirmation and a confirmation number. Then I heard nothing for three days.

So I called AndrewsFCU customer service and dealt with a very helpful representative. He helped me fulfill several more requirements:

1. I had to fill out a password request form and return it to them. This password is ONLY for on-site branch banking or telephone banking – it is not for on-line access).

2. I had to fill out and return a signature card for the account.

3. I had to provide two federally recognized forms of identification with my picture on them.

The signature card has to be mailed to them as electronic signatures are not allowed in their records. The password request and scans of both sides of my AZ drivers license and my passport could be emailed to them.

To open the account he used a credit card that I provided him for a $10 advance to be used to open a savings account.

At the same time I was talking to this rep, I asked about getting a GlobeTrek VISA Card as that was my only real interest in becoming an AmdrewsFCU member. He initiated the application for the credit card for me, filling out what was needed while I was on the phone with him. He stated I would need to provide proof of my income for the application to be approved. After discussion, he instructed me to send copies of my monthly pension disbursement statement and my start-of-year social security payment statement to them. He said that scanned copies would be fine and to include them with the above documents and he would forward them to the credit card approval people. He gave me a confirmation number for the loan application (as the credit card is actually considered a loan by Andrews).

Within minutes I sent him all the stuff he required in one email and immediately dispatched the signature card to them by priority mail. In a couple of days the $10 advance showed up on my on-line credit card statement. Lo and behold, about a week later I got a form letter welcoming me to the AndrewsFCU family. I was in!

Another week went by and I heard nothing about the GlobeTrek credit card, so I again called customer service. (There has always been a very short wait to actually speak to someone.) I was shuttled to three different people, the third of whom was very helpful. She checked with the loan approval people and said they had not received the proof of income (that I had included in my original email above). She said they could check on those the next day, but that it would most likely expedite matters if I sent those documents directly to the loan people and she provided me with another email address. I immediately sent that email off.

A day or two later I got an email stating my loan (i.e., credit card) request had been approved and now required some electronically signed documents to be completed, copies of which were attached. I went through the slightly arcane process of signing the papers electronically. The following day I got another email stating the documents had been successfully processed.

I had heard that the AndrewsFCU GlobeTrek VISA cards are made in Canada and that it would take 10-14 days for me to receive mine. Indeed, about 10 days later I got the GlobeTrek card in the mail. The four-digit pin number arrived in a separate mailing the same day. (This number is stored on the chip and cannot be changed.) All that was left to do was go through the normal credit card activation process which was all done without human intervention from my home phone. It must be done from the home phone of record for the account.

Since then it has be clear sailing!

Oh, on-line access to the savings account and to the VISA account are separate log-ins, there is an automated process to get. You can link other bank accounts to your AndrewsFCU savings account for transfer purposes, but not until 90 days have passed since opening the Andrews account.

Oh, and yes, using the Andrews GlobeTrek VISA outside the US does result in a 1% foreign transaction fee, so large foreign purchases still go on my Capitol One VISA (which has no foreign tx fee). But having the GlobeTrek card is a wonderful resource when using French toll roads, automated ticket kiosks on the Metro in Paris and at French and UK train stations, and, so far at least, for buying gas at unattended pumps in France, the UK, and Ireland.

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  • Canadian cards are all chip and pin. 😉

  • @Jeff – I guess that’s why they have to order the cards in from Canada, maybe US can bring in chip and pin and Canada bring in US-style big sign-up bonuses? 😉

  • david

    My new Marriott Visa has the chip and signature arrangement. I received a pin for use in ATM’s. Does this make it a chip and pin card for the purpsoe of automatic kiosks in Europe?

  • @david – it not true chip and pin. Some machines will work, some will not. Technically according to the terms, a use of the pin would incur cash advance charges, which I initially worried about, but in using that and other chip and signature Chase cards I have never been asked for the pin, either the charge is accepted as signature or rejected.

  • Muerl

    From the website : http://www.andrewsfcu.org/credit_cards_and_loans/credit_cards/globetrek_rewards.html

    /// No balance transfer fees
    /// No annual fees
    /// No cash advance fees
    /// No International/Foreign Transaction fee
    /// 5,000 points with your first purchase
    /// and MORE!

    So, No Foreign Transaction Fee atleast they claim.

  • @Muerl – this must be a new, positive change, in the past the card definitely had a 1% foreign transaction fee, great to see it get even better!

  • Joe Geohan

    @Muerl:
    Yes, Andrews has eliminated the 1% fee on foreign tx. That was not the case when I got the card and I had forgotten that they told me so.

    @david
    I had the marriott card, but got rid of it. It definitely does not work on toll roads or at automated ticket kiosks. The pin # is so that you make cash withdrawals at atms.

  • Jamie

    I don’t understand why so many American cc companies are coming out with chip-and-sig cards, rather than chip n pin. Its certainly better than the swipe cards (our chip n sig card certainly worked at SOME automated kiosks on our trip to uk/france), but why not go whole hog and get us chip n pin. Only thing I can think of is that people will forget their pin, get to a foreign country and then have a useless card. At least with signature it will work most places. ??

  • @Jamie – from what I have found, the main issue from the bank’s perspective is cost, despite the various arguments about customer preference and such that they employ. There are arguments that full chip and pin would not be beneficial to US consumers because of lower consumer protection and security concerns (both linked posts from View from the Wing).

  • Jamie

    We lived in England when the cc companies started blaming people for not protecting their PINs, so I understand that. I’m not saying I prefer the world to switch to chip n pin, but that Europe already has so it is nice to have a card that works fully there.
    It must be cost, as you say.
    One thing that people in the US may not understand is that if you have a chip n pin card and you don’t know the pin, it will be useless in Europe until you figure out the pin. At least in the UK they stopped letting you sign if you didn’t know the pin (rightfully so). So, even though you sign in the US, once you get to Europe you have to use that pin.

  • @Jamie – I wholeheartedly agree, I currently have a Diners Club card which is true chip and pin but with 3% exchange rate so I use it only when absolutely necessary. Incidentally, I will make my first trip to England next weekend, I have mostly treated UK/Europe as ‘my retirement plan,’ but I make some exceptions for conjugal harmony and there is so much I want to see in a weekend in London.

  • Oy Vega

    My experience in Zurich:

    1. At the train stations, no pin was required. Just inserting the card was enough to buy train tickets, passes etc. This was true of a non-EMV visa card as well.

    2. At grocery stores and restaurants, the machines printed out a signature slip.

    3. At one gas station (the one on the way to the car rental return at ZRH airport), the card was rejected at the pump, but accepted at the register.

    4. At the Migros store inside the airport, the card was rejected with an “invalid transaction” message.

    I was unable to test the chip-and-pin feature of the card, though in most cases was able to conclude the transaction (and get an excellent exchange rate as a result).

  • Spencer

    I just got my Andrews FCU card, after a process not unlike the one described here. Unfortunately it was rejected at the Paris metro ticket machine. One thing I did find out – the “information” desk at the metro station, which in principle is only for information and not transactions, actually CAN sell metro tickets if you have a swipe/sig credit card.

    I learned this by accident when the cash-accepting machine at our metro station was broken (and the Andrews card of course does not work as noted above). The info counter personnel had several times before pointed me at the machine as the only way to purchase tickets, but when I went back in frustration unable to buy with either cash or credit, and the agent saw me waving my card, he offered that he could in fact sell me tickets on my credit card (no need for chip), just not for cash.

  • Vincent

    The Andrews FCU card failed in every toll booth I tried (at least 5). It also failed at an unmanned Aire de Camping. In the latter case I was able to purchase a prepaid french pin card which worked. However, the toll booths failed with that as well. To be fair, the toll booths failed with every card I tried, Cap One swipe, Marriotts Chip & Signature, Andrews FCU chip & pin, french mastercard chip & pin prepaid. I have never been prompted for a pin in my 5 months of travel with this card.

  • @Vincent – thanks for this report. Seems there is no fool-proof US option, frustrating.

  • Joe Geohan

    Odd. I was back in France in October 2013, and my card worked at toll roads in northeast France. It didn’t ask for the pin but the unmanned machines accepted the card. I had heard that did not work at some toll roads in the south of France.

    And I used my card (and was asked for the pin #) at unmanned gas stations at both Casino and Carrefour supermarket chains in October too. And it worked (with pin) for a railroad ticket at an unmanned both in Brest.

    When there is a person using a French credit card reader (in restaurants, hotels, and gas stations) , I am always asked for a signature rather than the pin. The card default to signature rather than pin if a signature would be available.

  • David

    I just returned from Turkey, France and Spain. The Andrews Global Trek Visa “chip and pin” card only asked for a pin one time, when I got a cash advance (I was just testing it). Every other time it acted as chip and signature, even though I saw others in the same stores entering their pins into the machines. At an unattended car park in Paris it did not work (I didn’t know it was unattended until too late). Be careful.

  • I just applied for the Andrews FCU Globe Trek card. I was approved instantly, even though I have no militar background. NOTHING. Pure civilian.

    In the benefits it says No Cash Advance fees. Does this mean ATM withdrawals without a fee?
    If any of you know, please advise. Thank you.

  • @Mstroh – interesting. For ATM access it is best to contact Andrews directly to confirm any fees. I do not have the card so can’t report from experience, and have not encountered other cards touting no cash advance fees. That may be an added great feature, please report back your experience.

  • Thank you.
    Upon my return I will write about my experience with this card.

  • Ray

    Great information and tips. I just received my Andrews FCU GlobalTrek Visa Chip and Pin card. Also signed up for a Charles Schwab account with reimbursement on atm fees. Didn’t want to carry cash on this trip. I’ll be in London and Germany. Hopefully I’m prepared enough and no money issue hassles. BTW I’m also heading to. Hong Kong and Toyko. Does anyone know if they use chip and pin or signature credit card transactions?

  • @Ray – not needed in Hong Kong or Tokyo, however Japan is hit or miss for foreign cards in general, at many vendors the transactions don’t go through so always have cash. If you have a Discover card, they partner with JCB and in theory are accepted throughout Japan but not 100% success either. Relatively few Japan ATMs take foreign cards, most reliable are the ATMs in 7-11 stores. Also Japan Post Bank often have foreign card ATMs but might only be accessible during business hours. In contrast, just about everything works everywhere in Hong Kong. Sounds like some great travel!

  • France Traveler

    2 weeks in France/Germany this month using the GlobalTrek. It worked occasionally with and without a pin on most toll roads, all gas stations, and all metro stations. It was flat out refused in the parking lot at Versailles (told had to be a French credit card) and at one toll booth (which fortunately there was an attendant given the amount of the toll! — explanation was that toll booths are operated by different companies so may be configured for different cards). All restaurants, shops, etc ended up printing out a signature slip whether swiped or inserted in machine. Many machines wouldn’t take a regular US card but would take and print a signature slip from the GlobalTrek — so not perfect but really worked well and was so much more convenient than having just a regular US card.

  • @France Traveler – thanks for the detailed reporting, this seems like the best US option still.

  • Asia traveler

    I am a frequent traveler to Asia for business, and hold an AFC GlobalTrek card. So far it had failed to purchase train tickets from a few unattended ticketing machines in Tokyo. I tried to contact AFC over the email for help, but no luck so far.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Asia traveler – I wonder if this is not chip related, rather foreign card related. Depending on merchant, all foreign cards seem to have issues at times and it is hard to predict where they will work and not. Have you succeeded with any other cards on the same machines?

  • Asia traveler

    @Rapid Travel Chai – you might be correct. AFC got back to me that their Chip&Pin card is defaulted to be a Chip&Signature card as primary, and the C&P as second. The station I went may have older machines that does not go in to secondary read if the primary failed (Shinagawa, Tokyo). When I was in Shin Kobe station the next day, the card worked. So I assume it will be a hit and miss in the future, I am still planning extra half hour to purchase tickets in the future just in case.
    When can we get a real Chip&Pin card in the US?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Asia traveler – we are all waiting but I have not seen solid news of any true chip first card in the US, other than I think Diners Club, which is not open to new members.

  • Tim Good

    I have read all the blogs about the Andrews FCU chip and pin card and have recommended it to a number of colleagues and friends. Before I went to the UK and Sweden this summer for 6 weeks, I decided to get a US chip and pin card from Andrews to be used in Sweden for the most part as I have a true UK chip and pin card for the UK and didn’t want the foreign fees associated with using that in Sweden. In Sweden every manned or unmanned chip and pin machine made me sign or the unmanned just went through with the transaction due to them being small I presume. There was only one train ticket machine that asked me for my pin this entire visit in Sweden. I was very disappointed. When I got back to the UK I decided to try out the card in the UK at many manned and unmanned chip and pin machines. Everyone of them made me sign, if that was available, or when I got a tube ticket or mobile phone top of for under 20 pounds, it just processed it like my American Express chip and sign card would, without a pin. As a matter of fact, one automated vending machine said invalid card, must be a chip and pin card to us this machine. It is a real pain to use chip and sign cards in Europe, if you are not in a high traffic tourist area, most of the time it takes the merchant by surprise and they are stumbling around to find a pen. I bought a USB drive for 7 pounds at PC World in the UK and they had to also take a copy of my passport to keep on file as well as find a pen. I would not recommend this card at this point. The only benefit I see is the low foreign transaction fees, but I haven’t gotten my bill yet to verify. Good luck! If you are going to Europe and want to have a real chip and pin card, then there are many options when you get to your country to buy a pre-paid or pay as you go chip and pin visa/MC there, like Thomas Cook Cashpassport in the UK.

  • Europe Traveler

    We got the Adrews FCU GlobeTrek Rewards card before our two week Europe trip. Our experience was similar to what others have stated here:

    In London, Florence and Rome the card worked as if it were a chip and signature. This was no problem and all merchants seemed familiar with signing (being high tourist areas). I could have used a swipe and signature card in these cities as well since all the terminals appeared to have swipe slots. I did not use it at any unattended terminals in these cities.

    In and around Amsterdam it worked at some merchants as a chip and signature. I also used it at two unattended terminals: a gas station (Shell) and a self order kiosk at McDonald’s (Big Mac attack!) — in these cases it worked as a chip and PIN, yay! In two grocery stores the card did not work at all — we suspect that these stores only accepted debit cards (Maestro debit cards seemed to be the most commonly accepted). None of the terminals I encountered in the Netherlands supported swipe (the slots were blocked off), so a chip card of some form was definitely needed.

    In summary I was very thankful to have the card when filling up at the Shell station near Amsterdam, but otherwise could have gotten by with a chip and signature card. On the other hand the “No International/Foreign Transaction fee” is great.

  • AFCU Newbie

    I have just applied to Andrews FCU (AFCU) for the GlobeTrek card, and is confused about the application very much looking like a loan application. I realize that Rapid Travel Chai alluded to this in the original article. But, this is quite a departure from what I’m used to when applying for credit cards (CC). There were no CC terms mentioned at all like Min. payment, baln xfer fees, grace period & etc. When I called AFCU I was told that the terms would come later, that I’m signing to loan insurance protection.

    So, is this normal procedure for a credit union CC? This is my first credit union CC.

    What is it that I would be signing exactly? It’s still not exactly clear to me.

    If anyone can help it’d be greatly appreciated.

  • Paul

    I have had quite a discussion over the various details of this true chip and pin card with customer service via their secure message system (no chat available?!?). What I’ve finally got clarified:

    1. This credit card is a true chip and pin (but signature priority), so it should always work with online terminals with either swipe or chip, and, critically in Europe and many foreign countries, “offline” in those places like gas stations that may not have network connections. This is the ONLY USA OFFLINE chip and pin card I have found yet that has no fees. It still may not work in those places like Amsterdam and France that may require their country specific credit card (or debit card).

    2. Very recently, the pin stored on the chip is finally changeable without replacing the card. See very recently updated (due to my alert to customer service) FAQ about customizing the PIN on the main page hidden off the bottom of the screen since the clearly visible instructions for changing the pin at the top of the page lack critical details such as the pin won’t be updated until using a chip enabled terminal (swiping will not update the chip PIN). This means that the new pin will work for swipes immediately, but the old pin will continue to be required for offline chip terminals until the pin on the chip is updated by using a (may need to be online?) chip terminal/point of sale device.
    Only Walmart and perhaps a very few other places in the US have these terminals.

    3. Although the CREDIT card has no foreign transaction fee (1% absorbed by AFCU – THANK YOU!!!), that 1% fee is NOT absorbed by AFCU using the DEBIT card. Oddly, a work around might be to do cash advances using the CREDIT card (no fee – THANK YOU AFCU!!! but 8 to 18% interest rate so pay off the CREDIT card shortly thereafter to minimize interest). Also, always use bank operated (not private) foreign ATMs to hopefully avoid ATM operator fees (which may be passed through to you) and be much better protected when an issue comes up.

    In 6 months I will be in Europe and report back on stubborn places like Paris RER and Amsterdam train ticket machines (which have never worked with ANY prior credit or debit cards). Paris is especially a pain because the machines only take euro COINS or chip and pin cards, and the 10 customer service booths always have only 2 open, which cause typically an hour delay in getting RER tickets into Pairs – arghhh!

    TIP: You can sometimes give cash to someone with a chip and pin card and they can get the ticket at the machine, or, since the metro ticket machine DOES work with chip + signature (maybe even swipe cards) there is a 1.5 euro bus #93 to the end of the Bobigny #5 metro, so for 1/3 the cost (3 euro total) and about the same time (including 1 hour wait in RER ticket line) you can be in downtown Paris. TRAM T7 + Villejuif metro (3 euro vs 11 euro Orlyval train) is also now available from Orly airport south of the city (2x time).

    Hope this helps.

    Paul

  • Some hopefully helpful distinctions about possible reasons for the card being rejected at chip and pin terminals.

    Online = has active network access. Offline = no network access due to no physical infrastructure or network down OR terminal programmed to use offline pin validation.

    If you change the pin (online or via phone, etc), the chip can NOT be updated until you use the card at an ONLINE terminal (one that has network access). And, you may still have to use the old pin to access that terminal if the pin validation at that station uses offline validation (pin on the card that has yet to be updated). Thus, you may continue to have to use the old pin at OFFLINE stations like many train stations and toll booths in France and other countries, but must use the updated pin at ONLINE chip stations and swipe stations (including ATMs) until the chip has been updated via online terminal access.

    Because of this subtle pin change and validation behavior, offline vs online pin validation needs to be clearly identified at each bank card’s site, in blogs like this, and in the shared google and other charts.

  • Paul

    To be clear, to update the chip card pin, one must use the chip and pin slot in an ONLINE terminal (swipe won’t work since it has no access to the chip). I guess it might be possible to update a pin at an offline terminal after being validated using the old pin, but only if it is capable of doing that, which seems very unlikely.

    As others have mentioned, if the terminal supports only one validation method (doesn’t attempt additional methods) and it is set to the pin method, since this card lists chip and signature first, followed by chip and pin, that terminal probably will fail after detecting a signature as the primary method. It’s similar to not being able to access your savings account from the ATM because the ATM is not programmed to handle sub accounts (important consideration when funding ATM debit accounts for overseas use).

    Hope this helps.
    Paul

  • Paul

    Sorry … one last comment about chip and signature priority being the standard (so far in the US). Perhaps, because of the relatively long transaction time when using a chip and pin (no experience with online vs offline yet) vs using a chip and signature, and because signatures are what everyone expects here in the USA and is a way to tell a credit from a debit transaction in the US (very important to avoid normal stiff credit card cash advance fees (this card doesn’t have them which is VERY unusual), that might be why chip and signature is the default here.

    Cheers,
    Paul

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    Paul – your detailed reports on the Andrews FCU card are greatly appreciated.

  • Paul

    I recently discovered that even ATMs listed on their ATM locator may charge an ATM fee for cash advances (one didn’t, the next a few blocks away wanted $3!) ONLY for the CREDIT card (not the DEBIT card), and since Andrews does not reimburse ATM fees, this card seems not to be so good for ATM cash advances in the US.

    Anyone have experience with this credit card ATM fees for cash advances in Europe?

    I understand that debit cards do not typically get charged an ATM fee for cash withdrawals, but Andrews charges 1% FTF for debit (but not credit) card cash withdrawals overseas, so for short term cash advances, cash advance may make more sense since Andrews doesn’t charge a cash advance fee and has a reasonable cash advance interest rate.

    Cheers,
    Paul