ATM machines and credit cards in Europe
18.06.1996 - 07.06.2017
If you are traveling from the United States of America, your credit cards probably do not contain the microchip that is in all European credit cards. You will encounter a few problems but they are not insurmountable. We use debit cards for cash and credit cards for purchases and it works very well. Check your bank to see what their charges are. You may want to look at another credit card company for lower or no charges. The exchange rate changes daily so that is beyond your control and you must factor it into your budget. Find the Exchange Rate[b][/b]
First, you can use your cards in European ATM machines so you can get money. I highly recommend you use only bank ATM machines during banking hours. If your card is eaten or damaged by the machine, you can go inside the bank and get it back. We've had this happen twice and once had to wait through the ending of lunch for the bank to reopen so we could get our card back. We also had a card damaged by a credit card machine in a business so it's a good idea to take at least two cards with you just in case.
Ticket machines are a problem. Most will not accept American credit cards, even the newer ones with chips because most American chip cards still require a signature. This means you can't use automated ticket machines at railroads and subways. In this case, there is nearly always a nearby ticket window with a real live person. They can take your American credit card so get in line and buy your ticket at the window.
Gas stations are another problem. Self-serve gas at hypermarches is cheapest but the pumps won't take your card. Look around because most stations have an attendant. They can take your card but there is often only one gas pump for this transaction. It will be marked so look for it. If you go outside of normal business hours, you have to go to a regular gas station with an attendant, not the supermarket stations that are cheaper.
How do attendants take your card if the machines can't? If you remember the machines at home, you slide your card into them and it is read by the gas pump or ATM or whatever. This is where you need the chip in Europe. In businesses like stores and restaurants, the checkout person (or waiter) will have a hand-carried machine that comes to the table. This machine takes both kinds of cards, with chips and without chips. The Europeans slide their chipped cards into the bottom front of the machine. The joy here is that there is a nearly invisible slot on the side (beside the numbers) that works with the American cards. The checkout person must slide your card through the side and it works just like it does at home. The only problem we've had is in very rural areas without many tourists, checkout people don't know this slot exists. We have had to show them how to slide the card (in French the word is glisser), and then it was just fine. If you don't speak the local language, just make a sliding motion with the card and they'll get the idea. If that doesn't work, just show them. There is nearly always someone around who can help you so don't worry about it and don't carry large amounts of cash.
Before you leave home, call your bank and credit card companies and tell them where you will be and when so your card is not refused while you are traveling. They track these things and are trying to keep you safe from identity theft so let them know where you'll be. They will thank you and you will save yourself a little hassle while traveling.