“Like many Americans who have tried to use their credit cards in Europe, Elliot E. Porter, a historian from San Francisco, has encountered his share of payment headaches. Perhaps the most aggravating occurred a few months ago at Amsterdam Central Station, where he learned only after waiting in line to purchase train tickets that none of his credit cards, which include a MasterCard, Visa and American Express, would be accepted. The problem? They rely on magnetic-strip technology rather than embedded microprocessor chips, which are becoming increasingly common outside the United States.” - (Link)
Every time that I go to Europe, I encounter the exact same frustrating problem. When I tried to buy a ticket in Amsterdam for a train to Paris, the ticket kiosk refused to accept any of my credit or debit cards. Instead, I had to wait an hour an a half (missing several trains) for an information desk to open. In Paris, I couldn’t rent a nifty Vélib‘ bicycle from its kiosk to zoom around the city. Only a handful of ATMs in Paris accepted my debit card, and I heard horror stories of Americans having their magnetic strip cards nommed by unfriendly ATMs.
For a year, I’ve searched for a reasonable way to get an EMV (chip and pin) card. I had a terrible experience with Travelex, a prepaid chip and pin card with obscene exchange rates, that left me stranded without any money and no way to refill the card. I’ve looked into European bank accounts, offshore accounts, etc. All options seemed to carry heavy monthly fees and/or heavy international transaction fees. Last week, I stumbled onto a pilot’s forum on the subject of EMV cards, and finally found it.
Andrews Federal Credit Union in Maryland serves civilian personnel at Andrews Air Force Base, many of whom become stationed overseas where an EMV card is a requirement for everyday use. I love that this program is offered by a credit union. I love my credit union. Unlike major banks, credit unions are considerably less likely to screw you. And Andrews FCU has a shared branch agreement with my credit union, so that I can do all of my Andrews banking through my bank!
While all credit unions are member-only, Andrews FCU makes it unbelievably easy for any American to join.
Here’s how to get your EMV card:
2. Click “Open an Account”.
3. Another window or tab will open with an application form. If it doesn’t, check to see if your pop-up blocker is disabled.
4. Click “Continue”.
5. Click “Association” and choose, “I am interested in joining ACC so I will be eligible for membership at Andrews Federal Credit Union.”
5. Click “Click here to join!”
6. Another new window or tab will open. Fill out the form to become a member of ACC for free. Click “Submit”. Becoming a member of ACC makes you eligible to be a member of Andrews FCU.
7. Click submit and follow these instructions on the next page: ”Thank you for joining the American Consumer Council (ACC). To open your Andrews Federal membership, please close this window and click ‘Continue’ on the Online Account Opening page.”
8. Finish your Andrews FCU application and put $5 in your savings account.
9. You now have a new bank account with Andrews FCU, go you! Don’t forget to mail in the printed application. In a few minutes, you will receive an email with your account number.
10. Call Andrews FCU at (800) 487-5500.
11. Press 2 for loan information.
12. Press 1 to apply for/check the status of a loan.
13. Press 1 to apply for a loan.
14. When you talk to a loan officer, ask to apply for a Visa GlobeTrek credit card. The loan officer will take all of your application information over the phone. She will tell you that she will call you back in a few hours to tell you whether or not your application has been approved. She won’t.
15. In a few hours, repeat steps 10-12, and then press 2 to check the status of a loan. Ask if your credit card application has been accepted and follow any additional directions. (I had to email my 2011 W2 and most recent paycheck stub.)
16. Keep repeating step 15 until you receive an email like the one below. Click “Review Documents”.
17. Another tab or window will open up with the DocuSign program. E-sign where indicated and submit the document.
18. Repeat step 15 to call and verify that Andrews FCU has received your DocuSign.
19. YOUR CHIP AND PIN CARD WILL BE MAILED TO YOU! OH BOY!
In a few weeks, I hope to visit Europe again. I will definitely be testing out my new chip and pin card, and I’ll blog about my results when I return!
Sorry I’ve been MIA since my post. My airline went bankrupt and I’ve been busy applying to every airline that I could think of, training, and being on reserve. But, I did spend three days in London earlier this month and so I finally had the chance to thoroughly test my The GlobeTrek Visa® Rewards Card… and it worked like a charm! As Jason posted in the comments below, all automated kiosks asked for the pin and all transactions with people took my signature. It seemed that every waiter was shocked that I, an American, actually had a chip-and-pin card to pay for my meals!
I have one big complaint, which is that you can only pay off the chip-and-pin card online by using your Andrews FCU checking account. Of course, you can mail in a check when the bill arrives via snail mail, but that’s not very convenient for a flight attendant. I’ve begun the process of linking my primary credit union account to my Andrews FCU account, which should take a few weeks (because of my primary credit union, not Andrews FCU).
In the meantime, I have linked my Andrews FCU checking account to a PayPal account. I send myself money from my primary credit union to my PayPal account, and then withdraw the money from PayPal to my Andrews FCU checking account. I then pay off my credit card online using my Andrews FCU checking account. Tedious, but it works!
Overall, I’m loving my Andrews FCU chip-and-pin card and recommending it to all frequent flyers. It’s just such a relief to not have to worry about accessing my money abroad, and I feel confident that Andrews FCU will streamline their infrastructure as the card becomes more popular.