Chip-and-PIN Credit Card Technology Introduced In the US

If you’re a frequent international traveller, you’re likely familiar with, or may have even experienced, difficulty making a purchase with your US credit card while travelling abroad.

That’s because over the last several years many countries outside of the US have switched from magnetic swipe cards to chip and pin credit cards. Instead of swiping and signing for a purchase, the new technology reads a chip in the card and the customer then enters a PIN to verify and complete the transaction.

If this has been a source of frustration, then you may be in luck. Two US banks have announced they’re getting into the chip and pin credit card game.Most of Europe has adopted chip-and-pin technology, as have many countries in Asia and South America, also Canada is converting over. And now Wells Fargo and Chase, in the US, are beginning programs for cards that are both chip and swipe capable and targeting heavy international travellers as the early recipients, albeit on a limited basis to begin.

USA Today reports that Chase and Wells Fargo are issuing cards that provide overseas travellers with a solution to ease the increasing difficulty when trying to make a purchase with a standard US credit card at a merchant abroad that no longer accepts the magnetic swipe technology. Folks who hold the “Palladium” card from Chase, or are invited into the Wells Fargo’s program, will be alleviated from the problem.

Wells Fargo’s is targeting 15,000 customers they’ve identified as heavy international travellers to trial their chip and pin card, with no surcharge or fee. Depending on their read of the test, Wells Fargo could roll out more cards. Unfortunately, until then, your only chance is to be selected as part of their pilot program.

It’s true that US cards issued by Amex, MasterCard and Visa are required to be accepted worldwide, according to the contracts they have with merchants. But, even at hotels and restaurants with major credit card contracts, it can sometimes be a nuisance finding a person that can process magnetic swipe cards. The situation while travelling is exacerbated at places that use ticket machines, such as train, transit or gas stations.

Magnetic swipe cards are becoming, and will increasingly be, hard to use as adoption of the chip technology continues across the world, which is why this move is so important.

Wells Fargo isn’t exactly known as a travel rewards card provider so it will be interesting to see how they move forward. Will Chase and Wells Fargo set a trend to kick off broader US bank adoption of the chip and PIN technology, or will this be another “metric system” case?