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America’s Best EMV “Chip-with-Signature” Credit Cards

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Attention globetrotters and gadabouts! Vagabonds and voyagers! Wanderers and wayfarers! Don’t let your incompatible, incompetent, and all around inferior American magstripe credit card hinder your international travels. For purchases outside the States, you’ll often need an EMV chip-with-signature credit card to make purchases and pay for services.

EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) cards are nearly identical to the typical American credit card, but they contain a secure microchip for transmitting data. EMV cards offer a higher level of security and have become the standard in many parts of Western Europe – to the point where some merchants don’t accept our antiquated magnetic stripe technology. Here are the current American chip-with-signature EMV cards along with a few tips for making the right selection. Be sure to check out our list of no foreign transaction fee credit cards to save big on international travel.

Table of Contents

NerdWallet’s top pick:  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred not only offers an EMV chip and no foreign transaction fee, it also provides a killer signup bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.  This bonus is worth 25% more when you redeem for travel booked through Chase. Moreover, it earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining in restaurants and 1 point per $1 elsewhere, also eligible for the 25% points boost. That boosts your rewards rate to up to 2.50% on dining and travel and 1.25% elsewhere. For a frequent jetsetter, the Sapphire Preferred offers a solid value on every travel purchase and flexibility in redemption.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

starstarstarstarstar
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate RewardsSM.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus Chip and Signature enabled for international travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value — that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
thumbsupPros
  • No foreign transaction fee
thumbsdownCons
  • Has annual fee
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. 15.99% (Variable) Purchase: None
Transfer: None

The runner up:  BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Sapphire Preferred is a great card, but the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card is nothing to sneeze at, either. It provides a rare “triple crown” of benefits for the fee-conscious, international traveler – no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and chip technology. That’s tough to beat! Plus, it offers a generous rewards rate: You’ll earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend on purchases – no gimmicks, no complications.

When it comes time to redeem your points, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card makes it easy to get the most out of your rewards. This is because all you have to do is book your travel as you normally would, then go online to the Bank of America travel rewards website and redeem your points for a statement credit towards those travel purchases. As few as 2,500 points can be redeemed for air travel, hotel bookings, rental cars, cruises – even baggage fees. Also, if you don’t have enough points to pay for the whole amount of your plane ticket or hotel stay, that’s fine – you can redeem your available points for a partial travel credit.

All in all, this card is a great choice!

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
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on Bank of America's
secure website

starstarstarhalfstar
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 on every purchase, every time with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Online exclusive 10,000 bonus points if you make at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be $100 towards travel purchases
  • Book travel as you normally would and go online or call to redeem your points for a statement credit toward all or part of your travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no blackout dates
  • No limit to the total number of points you can earn and points don't expire
  • Bank of America customers: Get an annual 10% customer points bonus on your total purchases when you have a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 14.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
$0 Online exclusive 10,000 bonus points if you make at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days- that can be $100 towards travel purchases. 14.99% - 22.99% Variable* on purchases & balance transfers 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles.

List of American EMV Credit Cards

Current as of June 9, 2014

Below is a comprehensive list of all the American credit, debit and prepaid cards with EMV compatibility. Are we missing any? Let us know in the comments below!

Worldwide EMV adoption rates by region

Not entirely sure you need an EMV credit card? Here are EMV adoption numbers for regions around the world. As the data demonstrates, the EMV system has the strongest presence in western Europe, which includes the likes of Germany, Spain, France, Italy and England. While useful for adventures anywhere around the globe, chip-with-signature cards are absolutely vital to the success of Europe-bound travelers.

Region EMV Credit Cards EMV Terminals
Number Percent Number Percent
Western Europe & Greenland 794 million 81.6% 12.2 million 99.9%
Eastern Europe, Central Asia & Russia 84 million 24.4% 1.4 million 91.2%
Canada, Latin America & the Carribbean 741 million 54.4% 7.1 million 84.7%
Africa & the Middle East 77 million 38.9% 699 thousand 86.3%
Asia Pacific 942 million 17.4% 15.6 million 71.7%
Total 2.64 billion 45% 37 million 76%

Source (EMV cards and terminals by region): EMVCo, reporting on Q4 of 2013

Source (percent EMV cards and terminals): The Economist, data current as of 2012

Worldwide acceptance: Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express?

Visa or MasterCard? In all honesty, it makes little difference. Visa is the world’s most widely accepted payment network, but MasterCard follows in a close second. Most travelers won’t perceive a difference. Discover and American Express are another story. They are accepted by fewer merchants in fewer countries. Fun fact, though: Discover is generally regarded as the best option for travel to China. Due to a contract with UnionPay (China’s only domestic bank card organization), Discover is the most prevalent payment network in the country.

Acceptance rate isn’t the only factor to consider, however. Foreign transaction fees can make a huge difference. Usually, these fees charge an additional 3% on every international purchase. MasterCard, Visa and American Express all offer cards with or without these fees (always read the fine print). Discover generously waives the fee altogether, making it the only network to abstain from foreign transaction fees altogether.

Each network offers its own unique collection of travel benefits. These are perks like purchase protection, roadside assistance and rental car insurance. Visa and MasterCard offer similar packages, though Visa offers wider return protection and better “Loss of Use” coverage on car rental insurance. For even more perks, look into getting a Visa Signature card. American Express is definitely the leader when it comes to bonus benefits with superior purchase and return protection. Of the four networks, Discover comes in last–no loss of use coverage on rental cars, no concierge service and no purchase or return protection.

List of countries that accept Discover

International travelers will almost always do do better with Visa or MasterCard, but if you’re stuck with Discover, you can still survive in a fair number of countries. Keep in mind, these countries do not necessarily have a high acceptance rate. These are merely nations that accept Discover in any capacity.

Notice the list does not include Belgium, France, India, Chile, Bolivia, Australia or the Netherlands among others.

Countries Currently Accepting Discover
North America
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • USA
South America
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
Central America
  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
Europe
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
Asia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Mainland China
  • Japan
The Caribbean
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bonaire
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Curacao
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • Puerto Rico
  • Saba
  • St. Eustatius
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Martin/ St. Maarten
  • St. Vincent & The Grenadines
  • Turks & Caicos
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
Other
  • Israel
  • Russia
  • New Zealand
  • Morocco
  • South Africa
We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet's official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
  • Steve Thomas

    If the banks were forced to pay the person who’s card was hacked 500.00 dollars for their in-convience and wasted time they would probably change over to the chip faster

  • Bloemberg

    For real security, at least as far as the cardholder is concerned, the only thing that makes sense is an EMV card with the PIN feature rather than signature. That’s not so much because signatures can be forged. In the USA, since no cashier even looks for a signature on the back of the card anymore, let alone comparing the card signature with the charge slip signature. All the cashier cares for is ensuring that the charge slip is signed. In Europe, almost every place where I tried to use my EMV card refused to accept it because they were set up only for PINs. As a result, their sales are handled much faster at their cashier terminals than in the U.S., with enhanced security for the customer. In many places, and not only at gas pumps, there were no cashiers at all – you simply scan your purchases, swipe your card, enter your PIN, and you are done.

    After returning home, I discovered that most of the U.S. banks did not want the hassle (and especially the expense) of replacing merchants’ card machines with updated versions that have PIN keypads for customer entry. Maybe the EMV cards with signatures protect the merchants and the banks, but for us consumers they are no more secure than our existing magnetic cards.

    The so-called PIN numbers that have always been available for use with existing charge cards are not EMV-type PINs. They are only for purposes of using charge cards to borrow cash – at exorbitant interest rates. They make no sense for most of us who have ATM or bank debit cards.

    • Donald Wilson

      It’s misleading to assert that EMV cards are no more secure than existing cards. Yes, during the ramp up to an upgraded system where EMV will be ubiquitous there are similar risks as non-EMV cards. But as the deployment speeds up and more consumers use the EMV method, they will become safer. Just like Debit transactions, the EMV card is useless if the pin is not known. This is far safer than swipe transactions where anyone can draw a squiggle on a terminal assuming the transaction is higher than some no-signature-required threshold. Because of this, when I travel abroad the only card I carry is my EMV enabled USAA MasterCard.

      Only in the USA are the banks on the hook for fraud. Everywhere else in the world it’s the consumer or the merchant depending on who’s at fault. 99% of the merchants outside of the US will not accept a swipe transaction because of this. EMV transactions are WAY safer than standard US swipe transactions.

      • Carmen Leung

        Or they can accept it but require you to produce id everytime you use the card.

  • rconnor

    By the way, the Andrews Federal Credit Union card does have a chip and does have a PIN, however, the default will still be for chip and signature. I learned this at a grocery store in Denmark that will not accept signatures (I have been here before and knew what to expect, so I went through with the steps to get this chip and PIN card). Unfortunately, it still doesn’t appear to work like the European cards do – at coffee shops and restaurants, a receipt is printed after you stick the chip into the handheld machine. Thankfully some places do accept signatures (and if you call Visa or Mastercard they will tell you every merchant has to accept signatures, and maybe in theory, but of course not in practice). As it was explained to me from the representative from AFCU, the transaction has to be run as debit (I assume this would be considered “online” by American terms). I have asked the cashiers if they are able to run as debit, but they said they have no control over the transaction type. Any solutions to this? Or any new information @disqus_fnrOyK5D58:disqus, @disqus_SxQF5kONUE:disqus, or @msupp:disqus?

  • michael

    Both Chase Freedom Visa and Amex Blue Cash Everyday has chip + signature by request.