• Chip and Pin FTW

    Posted on March 12, 2012 by Victoria Hawkins in Travel Tips.

    “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!

    Andrews FCU offers the The GlobeTrek Visa® Rewards Card. Here are the card’s FAQS.

    • No annual fee.
    • 1% foreign exchange fee. (I wish it were free, but 1% isn’t bad.)
    • No cash advance fees.
    • No balance transfer fees.
    • 5,000 rewards points with your first purchase. One point is earned for every U.S. dollar spent. Some transactions outside the U.S. will result in additional or less points than expected as foreign exchange rates are already calculated with the purchase. (I could care less about rewards points, I just want an EMV card!)
    • Low interest rate.

    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:

    1. Go to http://www.andrewsfcu.org/page.php?page=330

    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.


    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!

    EDIT 8/16/12: 

    Hi everyone!

    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. 

19 Responsesso far.

  1. [...] through and explained the detailed process of getting one step-by-step with screenshots and all: http://victoria-hawkins.com/archives/744 __________________ Wishing the US had more high-speed [...]

  2. edweird says:

    The Travelex chip and pin Euro card I got in March would NOT work in the automated train ticket kiosk in the AMS airport.

    Of course I got this card in advance because I knew from previous trips that my regular US cards won’t work.

    I had Travelex check the card when I returned, and they claim it’s OK, but I have zero trust in it now.

    • I bought my Travelex card in the US right before a flight to Paris. I drained the card almost immediately due to unanticipated costs. I tried to refill my Travelex card online but the Travelex website claimed that, because my Travelex card was less than 24 hours old, my card wasn’t in their online system. I called the toll-free French number from a pay phone and waited on hold for twenty minutes before it hung up on me… TWICE! I found a French Travelex station, where I was told that they couldn’t refill Travelex cards that were bought outside of France. Terrible experience!

  3. [...] step-by-step instructions on the process of obtaining the Andrews FCU Globetrek Rewards card http://victoria-hawkins.com/archives/744 __________________ Wishing the US had more high-speed [...]

  4. askmrlee says:

    The NS railways (Dutch National Railways) ticket kiosks are notorious for accepting only Dutch CHIP+PIN cards (yellow and blue logo) which is not the same as the MasterCard or Visa Chip and PIN card.

    It’s not surprising that a Euro MC or Visa prepaid debit card did not work on these machines, even at “tourist” stations like Schiphol or Amsterdam Centraal

  5. Bob Rossi says:

    How long after you received your Andrews card did you get your PIN? I got my card in the mail today, and I leave in 11 days.

  6. ruanda says:


    Have you used your AFCU PIN & CHIP card in Europe yet? Just wanted to know if you had any problems with it?

  7. Barnelli Jones says:

    Thank you, Victoria, for the helpful details and application instructions for the Andrews FCU card. After submitting the application, how long did it take for you to receive your card? I understand that the delivery time may differ, but I’d like a rough idea of what to expect. Thanks again.

    • Victoria Hawkins says:

      It took about two weeks. The envelope with the pin came about two days before the envelope with the actual card.

  8. Grant says:

    Thank you so much for this! I hope it works. One thing I’ve read is that they never call you; you have to call them CONSTANTLY to keep things moving.

  9. Jason says:

    Thanks for posting this info.

    After I opened my account, I was offered an “Apply for a Loan” button, and one of the loan types was “GlobeTrek Visa® Rewards Card.” I was therefore able to fill out the loan application online as well. I have a loan #, so now begins the follow up to keep things moving.

  10. PatK says:

    Yes, I just got approved and emailed signature card and id proof. They said I was approved for $15k. Got banking access password. Now hoping to get cards Whew! So many steps. I really hope this works overseas!

  11. Matt says:

    Thanks for the guidance. I followed the instructions, starting July 2, and our cards and PINs arrived August 4. A few days delay were our fault, but it’s still a protracted process and a timely prod here and there is useful to keep things moving along.

  12. Jason says:

    Just back from 15 days in France with our Andrews GlobeTrek Visa. Before we left, I found this thread at Flyertalk.com which includes some detailed explanations of how the Andrews card works.

    As I understand it, a “true” chip-and-pin card is a debit card — you push it in a machine and type your pin and it debits your account just like a US debit card would. A “chip-and-signature” card is a credit card with your signature presumably amounting to your promise to honor the debt. The Andrews GlobeTrek card is a hybrid — it will work as a chip-and-pin when there’s no human (and therefore no possibility of getting a signature). This means it does work at the machine at the metro station or the Velib bike rental. When there is a human (restaurants, grocery stores, etc.) then the card goes into chip-and-signature mode and the waiter/cashier presents you with a slip to sign. And of course, it also works as a plain old magnetic stripe card when you’re in the US.

    Our experience is that the card worked everywhere, although it took a couple of tries to get it to work as chip-and-pin in the automated ticket machine at the train station the first time. (After that, it worked on the first try every time.) Also, it seemed like cashiers/waiters were a tiny bit surprised when the screen displayed “signature” — I guess the vast majority of transactions are chip-and-pin. It wasn’t a problem — even the little handheld machines all had the ability to print out the tape and they always had a pen handy.

    Overall, I was glad that we had it — particularly for the ticket kiosks which at some stations were the only option.

    • Victoria Hawkins says:

      Thank you for commenting on your experience with the card and I’m glad it worked out for you!

    • othermike27 says:

      Whether it’s chip+pin or chip+signature, it’s still a credit card – not a debit. Your PIN or your signature is used to verify that you really are the person who promised to pay all the charges run up on your account.

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