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Traveling Overseas? Your Credit Card May Not Work Abroad

When you watch American credit card commercials, "universal coverage" is a common theme. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have your back under any and all circumstances. Visa even has a catchy tagline — "Everywhere you want to be."

It's clever marketing. But the reality is very different. The majority of tourist destinations around the world no longer accept traditional swipe-and-sign credit cards (i.e. the ones with magnetic strips on the back).

Instead, they now use Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) credit cards that offer fraud protection in the form of embedded chips. These more secure EMVs are already mandatory throughout most of Asia and nearly all of Europe. They've even become the standard in Canada.

In fact, the U.S. is the last major retail market that still relies on swipe-and-sign credit cards.

Interestingly, international travelers coming to our shores usually have no problem making purchases with their EMV cards. Older credit card terminals are capable of reading both types of payment options (chip-enabled and swipe-and-sign). Unfortunately, the reverse isn't true — as many American travelers are shocked to discover when they are miles away on vacation.

American Retailers and Banks Increasingly Switching to the EMV Standard

A handful of American banks (and retailers) have already begun embracing EMV technology. Chase was one of the first major banks to begin offering chip-enabled cards to its customers (U.S. travelers with Chase’s older chip & signature cards often face unexpected frustrations since many EMV readers around the globe only accept the more secure chip & PIN standard – see how they differ here).

But the landscape is quickly changing as credit card fraud continues to plague retailers — and payment lockouts continue angering Americans who travel or live overseas.

The transition might even happen sooner than 2018, when experts predict EMV cards will become standard in the U.S. — especially as shifting liability laws place greater responsibilities on merchants and banks who don't adopt EMV protocols. When credit card fraud happens, retailers and card issuers often have to cover any subsequent losses.

  • If your retail store receives a lot of international traffic, it's worth investing in EMV readers ASAP. Doing so minimizes your risk of exposure.
  • If you have some upcoming travel planned, consider contacting your bank to see if it offers EMV credit cards — especially chip & PIN plastic.

As a Retailer or Traveler, Are You Ready to Embrace EMVs?

More secure and universally accepted, EMV credit cards offer a lot of important advantages for retailers, shoppers and international travelers. If you're ready to begin exploring your EMV options today, use the free resources below:

  • To learn more about EMV credit cards and terminals, click here.
  • To learn more about credit card processing at BluePay, click here.

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