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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.