Why you need a smart chip credit card when travelling abroad

Brittany Jones Cooper
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Why you need a smart chip credit card when travelling abroad

These cards will be a common sight. Photo: iStock

Have you ever seen that little chip on the front of a credit card?

It’s mysterious right? It’s there, it’s staring at me, but no one ever uses it.

Well, actually that little chip is there for a pretty big reason, and if you’re travelling abroad, it’s something you need to know about.

The official name for cards with a chip is EMV which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa. And by October, many U.S. banks will be issuing them to their customers.

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These chip cards have two major benefits:

1. They are accepted in more places

You rarely see these cards in the US, but they are widely used in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Asia and South America. In fact, some countries won’t accept credit cards that only have a magnetic swipe.

2. They’re safer

The chip encrypts your card information and protects it from fraud. Abroad, they use “Chip and PIN” cards that take it one stop further and require you to enter a PIN number to protect your information.

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“Chip & PIN” vs. “Chip and Sign”

The fact that chip credit cards are still gaining popularity in the U.S. means that many banks don’t currently offer “Chip and Pin” cards which are popular everywhere else in the world. Instead, those cards in the U.S. with chip technology are “Chip and Sign” cards that require a signature instead of a PIN number. These cards work great, but they aren’t always accepted in other countries.

I have a Chase Preferred Sapphire card that is enabled with chip technology, and frankly, I haven’t had any major issues using it overseas at restaurants etc. If I’m using my card at an ATM, ticket kiosk, parking lot or gas station, it may ask for a PIN number. Sometimes you can just cancel the pin prompt by pushing “enter” and complete the transaction like normal. If that doesn’t work, I always make sure that I have some local currency for things like unmanned kiosks.

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“Chip & Pin” Options

There are currently a few cards that are enable with Chip and PIN technology. Some of the more popular cards are:

  • The Wells Fargo Propel World American Express Card
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
  • Diners Club Premier Card

All have no foreign currency conversion fees and let you earn points when you use it for food and travel.

So that’s the dish on those chip credit cards. I urge you to do some research to find the card that’s best for you.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.