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Alan L saved The Rapid Traveler’s bacon before his putting up a long-planned post suggesting the J.P. Morgan Select Visa Signature Card as the current best answer to US travelers’ woes in the chip and pin realm of Europe. Wikipedia’s entry provides a good explanation of the technology. The practical gist is that a whole lot of US travelers stranded in Europe during the Icelandic volcano chaos found their US-issued cards useless in automated ticket vending machines across Europe. As these machines blanket Europe, travel without a chip and pin card becomes increasingly inconvenient.
US card issuers have teased customers with intimations of introducing chip and pin cards but solid cards have been elusive. The Rapid Traveler thought the J.P. Morgan card was the answer, but Alan L wrote:
…the main ADVANTAGE of Diners Club for Americans is that new North American franchisee BMO will give their forthcoming cards chip and pin, essential for going overseas (and who doesn’t?). Apart from the limited-market United Nations Credit Union, the only U.S.-issued cards I can find that are offering any chip at all have only chip-and-signature, a half-measure alternative to the real deal. One of my favorite teachershad a sign on his blackboard that read, “Don’t Start Vast Projects with Half Vast Ideas.” Words to live by.A growing number of overseas merchants won’t take swipe cards at all, some take the opportunity to unleash vicious anti-American diatribes against unwary Yanks who wanted only to patronize these establishments, and I have no read yet on how automated kiosks will react to chip-and-signature cards. These kiosks have left untold legions of U.S. travelers stranded at docks and depots and such without tickets that could not be purchased from other sources or by other means. There is similar trouble with pay-at-the-pump at unmanned gas stations.So until the rest of the credit-card business enters the modern era (American Express told me in writing to forget about chip and pin, and carry cash instead!), get BMO’s new Diners Club card, and don’t leave home without it. Or just don’t leave home.
As Alan noted, the humble Diners Club under BMO may be poised for a comeback. The Rapid Traveler has earlier posted about the Diners Club’s quirky selection of airport lounge access and car rental primary collision damage waiver (CDW), and if they ever drop foreign transaction fees this could become a useful card to carry for these specialized purposes. It’s rewards program offers little value for everyday spend, though.