I think I've said this somewhere before, but the problem is becoming more pervasive where American magnetic strip credit cards are getting denied. I don't think they're getting worse but that fewer merchants and restaurants etc know what to do with them.
I inadvertently found out the answer in Saint-Malo when four perfectly valid ($0 balance) cards were denied in a row. I was trying to buy some paintings, and the artist really wanted to sell them, but I didn't have the cash (plus I wanted reward points). Finally some other artist suggest he take it to a nearby restaurant when I said I'd used it other places. Voila! And I found out the reason and it's helped me every time I've encountered a problem since.
Magnetic strip cards have to be swiped quickly -- otherwise they come up invalid. Do it fast and it's fine. This happened at a restaurant at Fondamente Nove yesterday. When the waiter looked at me desolately I said "piu rapidamente". He did it, it worked, and it led to a fun conversation on how as an American I spoke Italian. (Such as it is.)
I thought it was really important for people to know because it's not only frustrating but could even be scary if you're at a restaurant without enough cash.
I will be the first to sign up when my cards offer it. It was only pure chance that I found out why my cards weren't working. I imagine areas with heavy American tourist populations know the trick, but having had to say 'piu rapidamente' more than 50% of the time in a place like Venice suggests that most people nowadays are just not used to our old-fashioned magnetic strip cards.
But that said, every time I've told them how to run it through each card has worked.
I had similar issues in Scotland which were solved by telling them where the stripe was and how to put it in the machine. The chip/pin cards usually go in the front of the machine, while stripe cards go on the side with the stripe facing the machine.
I had to show many of the merchants and restaurants how to do it and it always worked. They always appreciated the help, because they didn't want to have a problem either. We usually got a laugh about how our cards are so "old fashioned".
Where have you seen chip/pins being offered in the US? I see them at the airport currency places where they will sell you a loaded debit card, but I called Chase and even though they (surprisingly) knew what I was talking about they really had no plans to offer them. They were testing it on some high end card, but nothing other than that.
Eventually we will have to have them, but there seems to be no rush on our side of the pond.
All of the merchants/restaurant people here have been putting the cards in the right way -- they were just pulling them through too slowly. That is, in all but the most heavily touristed places.
Like you, all of my credit cards don't offer chip access despite reading that many issuers were planning to do so. I had called Chase and all they said was that they were considering it for the future.
Interesting info. Thanks. I spent two weeks, and probably too much money, in Italy in May, used my credit card pretty extensively, from restaurants, hotels, tickets, shopping, etc. with no issues. Probably would have been good had they denied me every now and then.
Also opened a separate account at another bank, to get a no fee atm, to use over there. Worked out well, with no links back to my primary bank.
On our next trip, will make sure they pull quickly.
In Italy I couldn't buy train tickets from kiosks.
It's going to be years before the U.S. catches up with Europe on this, and a few other features. Anyone that has traveled in Europe would have noticed that a lot of restaurants bring the credit card device to the table. This is a great way of doing it because the card is never out of its possessors sight.
When I got home from Europe I was curious as to why this hasn't caught on here and read about it, and as expected, it's related to cost. The article I read said that American restaurants gave Visa and Mastercard a hard time because they have to bear the cost of obtaining the equipment and wireless infrastructure. I guess in Europe the card issuers just tell merchants "this is the way it's going to be", but here in the U.S. the issuers are afraid of hurting their merchant's feelings.
Hi Mikieg and others,
One thing I did learn (for train kiosks no less) is that your debit card will likely work -- at least mine did -- even though your credit cards won't. You can use CC's at the ticket counters, but there are often endless lines as you wait to catch a train in five minutes.
I know Citibank has one coming for their AA card, I got that one in the mail the other day. They also have their "social" insiders type site where they have new stuff coming out listed @ https://communities.citi.com/community/innovation<</a>/p>
Sorry if someone already explained this, but, if you have the Chase Marriott Premier Rewards VISA card, all you have to do is call them up and they'll send you a replacement card - the new, heavier card with the Euro chip.
When I called in for mine, they told me that all Chase Marriott Premier Rewards VISA card holders would eventually get a new card with a chip, and the current plan is that you'll receive the new card shortly before your current card expires.
See here - Travel Rewards Credit Cards | Marriott Credit Card - you can see the card (on the left) has the chip.
p.s. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who upgraded to the Premier card to avoid the foreign transaction fees.
I received the new (chipped) card a few weeks before leaving for Belgium and it worked perfectly over there - not a single misread or issue. And in the US before and after the trip, it has performed admirably being swiped. Probably would be helpful if it were denied every now and then.
One other thing I noticed last week in London, that one must look out for:
The dining places add an automatic 12.5% onto the bill, and then have room for a "Gratuity"! I did not catch this at a few places and left a generous "Tip", not knowing, I was "Tipping on top of another tip"!
This is worth watching on your restaurant bill!
You will sometimes find this in Rome, especially around the Via Veneto and Piazza Navona. Normally a gratuity is included whether it shows on the bill or not but it is technically illegal in Italy to have a special section (or worse, at one hotel on the Via Veneto) have a special slip to give a tip. Those are the only places in Italy it has happened to me. Normally if you have had a good meal leave an extra euro coin; if it was a really good meal, 2 euros. Don't add 10-15% more.
I would add that all European countries tend to do this differently, though most include the gratuity in the bill. In England, it was usually the exception for me, where you added the tip yourself. Were you part of a large party? In that case, it always pretty common to add it automatically.
What I suggest never doing is asking whether the tip is included, especially in France. They will always say no, even when it is! Usually at the bottom of the menu it will tell you (prix net, compris in French; incluso o non e incluso in Italian).
Hope this helps. There is an excellent online tipping site for Europe that I'll try to find.
In France, adding the gratuity is almost always added automatically (it will say 'net' or 'compris' on the menu). If not it usually says (at the bottom of a menu 'non compris'. In Italy, they are not technically allowed to have a place for tips when you pay (I think they are actually 'baked into' the prices), but in highly touristed areas esp of Rome, you might be handed a separate paper asking if you choose to add one. This is technically illegal, but they're saying it's for some other purpose. Usually I've only had this problem at the Via Veneto. In Britain (correct me if I'm wrong since I know we have many Brits on this site) a gratuity is usually expected except at a pub.
Anywhere on the continent, if you've had an unusually fine meal, it is normally to add a euro or two on the table. On rare occasions, I've done up to 10. For a normal meal rounding up or a partial euro is ok.
I think part of the reason it is automatically added for large groups is that there is such a difference in tipping throughout Europe. The French, for example, have a reputation of not tipping -- but that is partially because it is almost always added to their bill when they are at home.
Here's a guide from Rick Steves:
Hope this helps!
My pleasure! Have a wonderful trip! And unless you're going to someplace a little sketchy I wouldn't take too much cash as long as you can access ATM machines. (They're everywhere. But pick wisely. Airports are usually very safe, as are real banks. Even so, I hold my hand over the keypad when I punch in my pin code, which I also do when I'm somewhere else in the US. But make sure to tell you're bank where you'll be traveling.)
Have some backup cash, but I try to use only credit cards and my ATM card (which requires a four numeral code in Europe). VISA and MC are most accepted, but if you are in large W. European cities like London, Paris, Rome, etc. Amex is accepted almost as often. I have never had a problem using credit cards even in countries where the economy is iffy, like Greece, Spain, etc. In general, you will never have a problem at hotels and restaurants, though check on the door or window of a restaurant to know for certain your card is accepted (you don't want to end up washing dishes!). The best thing about credit card use is you get the wholesale rate, and on Marriott Rew, Sapphire, and any CapitalOne cards there is no fee. Plus the points add up fast considering the euro!
Seriously there should be no problem. The only place I have ever had trouble getting cash from an ATM using my debit card was Istanbul, but I suspect it's not going to get a lot of visitors in the next few months. My bank told me that the greatest fraud problems are in Turkey.
Most of all, enjoy!
They have different size purses and backbacks (I got one of each) that has metal webbing inside (you can't see it) and on the straps; in addition, once you zip it shut there is a turn clamp at the end so that no one can get into your bag without probably assaulting you in the process.
I just looked it up and the handbag is
citysafe 200 gii anti-theft handbag
They also have a variety of sizes and styles as well as backpacks. The one I got is slung across the body (which I do anyway). There's plenty of room in this one, with special pockets for passports, phones etc. It should get a good test in southern Italy!
I have occasionally. It often depends whether you're in a big city or a town or countryside. My most famous instance was in St-Mâlo, where I wanted to buy two paintings from a street artist. He tried every card in my wallet (that's why I always carry extras) but held out the hand-held machine to show me each time it was not accepted. Since I had used these cards at my hotel and at restaurants and had plenty of credit, I couldn't imagine why. Turns out there is a method to the madness (sometimes) -- with swipe cards. He was about to lose a sale worth 100 euros and me paintings I really wanted. Finally he suggested we go to a nearby restaurant and see if they could help. Voilà. The word in France is vite! You swipe the card through the machine fast, not tentatively as the artist was doing.
So if you have a problem anywhere tell them how to do it .