America’s Best EMV ‘Chip-with-Signature’ Credit Cards
Attention globetrotters and gadabouts! Vagabonds and voyagers! Wanderers and wayfarers! Don’t let your incompatible 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.
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NerdWallet’s top pick: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® features an EMV chip with PIN capability for wider acceptance overseas (most EMV cards in the U.S. are solely chip-and-signature). It offers 2x miles on every $1 spent, which can be redeemed for travel purchases made anywhere. If you redeem your rewards for statement credit on travel purchases, you’ll receive 10% miles back. On top of that, it rewards you with an awesome signup bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has no foreign transaction fees and gives you online access to your FICO score. It’s a fantastic card for the traveler who wants to book travel on his or her own terms and wants the PIN option for overseas trips.
The runner up: BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® 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 toward 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!
Honorable mention: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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 $4,000 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 spent 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 traveler, the Sapphire Preferred offers a solid value on every travel purchase and flexibility in redemption.
We give the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the honorable mention because, while it’s a fantastic card, it only has chip-and-signature capability. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has PIN-support for the EMV chip, giving it a competitive edge over the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, as chip-and-PIN cards are the standard in many countries around the world. Check out our head-to-head comparison of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® to decide which is best for you.
List of American EMV Credit Cards
Current as of Sept. 25, 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!
- American Express Platinum and Business Platinum (by request) and many co-branded Delta AmEx cards
- American Express EveryDay and EveryDay Preferred
- Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa Rewards (Chip and PIN)
- Anyone can join with a donation to the American Consumer Council
- Bank of America
- Sam’s Club MasterCard
- State Employees’ Credit Union SECU Visa Check (debit, chip and PIN)
- Limited eligibility, mostly North Carolina current and former state employees (details)
- Silicon Valley Bank World Elite MasterCard for Business
- State Department Federal Credit Union
- Anyone can join with a donation to the American Consumer Council
- Travelex Cash Passport (prepaid)
- United Nations Federal Credit Union Visa Elite (chip and PIN)
- Limited eligibility, mostly UN employees and affiliates (details)
- US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa
- USAA (they actually offer chip and PIN, but you need to be affiliated with the military to be eligible)
- Wells Fargo Visa cards
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|
|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 shun 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|