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LIKE many Americans who have tried to use their credit cards inEurope, 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 Centraal 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.

“This is a big deal when traveling,” said Mr. Porter, who trekked back to his hotel to get cash, which he then had to exchange for local currency before returning to the train station to wait in a long line to pay for his tickets. He encountered similar problems at train stations in Belgium and Britain. “It just got super frustrating,” he said.

A few banks have begun testing cards with the newer chip technology, known as E.M.V. (for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) and are beginning to offer the cards to select customers. Wells Fargo has issued cards with the embedded chips to about 15,000 United States-based clients who travel internationally, in a trial program. JPMorgan Chase is offering the cards to some of its high-net-worth customers this month. Meanwhile, Travelex, a major currency exchange company, began selling a preloaded E.M.V.-enabled debit card last year. Some credit unions have also begun offering credit or debit cards with chips, including the State Employees’ Credit Union of Raleigh, N.C., and the United Nations Federal Credit Union in New York.

But the United States has been slow to adopt the technology, mainly because of the expense merchants and banks would have to take on to convert to E.M.V.-enabled cards and cash registers.


Since the cards being tested by Chase and Wells Fargo are being offered only to a limited number of mostly high-end customers, the best option for the rest of us is to carry a couple of cards in our wallets and politely insist that the cashier keep trying to swipe each credit card, as the card reader may be able to recognize the magnetic strip and approve the purchase.

That’s what Richard Brill, a public relations executive from Wilmette, Ill., learned last month while on vacation in Portugal. “In some cases they’d redo it,” he said, referring to the merchants who were able to get their machines to accept his Visa card. When such attempts failed, he tried using his American Express card, which was accepted a number of times, even though it also lacked the special chip. (more)

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Article by MICHELLE HIGGINS, New York Times | Read full article here