Credit cards and ATM’s are usually the cheapest way to pay for your trip to Europe. However, Europe is changing their credit card system from the magnetic strip with which we Americans are all familiar to a new EMV (Europay-MasterCard-Visa) or chip and pin system. These new chip & pin credit cards have a small microchip embedded and a pin number is required to process the transaction. Many restaurants, shops and train stations in Europe are using these systems potentially causing trouble for US travelers. Waiters now bring a handheld device to your table where they slide in the card and you enter your pin number. But these machines may not accept the magnetic striped cards. We found most locations would accept our card after we indicated that it was a US based credit card which may need to be processed on another machine or by swiping the card rather than inserting it.
If you are a frequent traveler you may want to consider getting a card with both the strip and the chip. A few US banks are beginning to incorporate this new technology, but you will have to ask for a new card to be sent to you with the chip. You will need to do research if you want one of these cards since many customer service agents at the banks do not know about the technology yet. Some banks only have the chip in certain cards directed toward travelers. After doing some calling around we found that Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America do have this technology. I found Citibank to be the most knowledgable and provided many of their cards with the chip.