America’s Best EMV “Chip-with-Signature” Credit Cards
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. America is finally starting to amass a small collection of its own EMV cards, marketed primarily to international travelers. Here are the current American chip-with-signature EMV cards along with a few tips for making the right selection.
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NerdWallet’s pick: the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve not only offers an EMV chip and no F/X fee, it also gives a signup bonus of two free weekend nights at any category of hotels when you spend $2,500 in the first four months. That bonus is worth $650 if you redeem for a Category 7 stay. Plus, you’ll get a number of awesome perks, including:
- Complimentary Gold elite status no matter what
- Diamond elite status every year you spend $40,000 a year or more
- One free night’s stay (read: an extra $325) every year you spend $10,000
- 10 points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels, 5 per $1 on airfare and car rentals and 3 per $1 elsewhere
There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s easily made up for by the signup bonus, and if you spend $10k a year, your anniversary bonus will wipe out the fee with room to spare.
|Citi® Hilton HHonorsTM Reserve Card|
|Annual Fee||Signup Bonus||APR , Variable*||APR Promotions|
|$95*||Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in eligible purchases within 4 months of account opening*||15.24%* (Variable)||Purchase: N/A
List of American EMV Credit Cards
Current as of February 25th, 2013
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
- Andrews Federal Credit Union GlobeTrek Visa Rewards (Chip and PIN)
- Anyone can join with a donation to the American Consumer Council
- Bank of America (business cards)
- Bank of America Corporate One (business)
- Bank of America Community Bank cards (check and ATM)
- Bank of America Corporate Travel (business)
- Bank of America Executive One (business)
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards (personal)
- State Employees’ Credit Union SECU Visa Check (debit)
- 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
- Limited eligibility, mostly UN employees and affiliates (details)
- US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa
- Wells Fargo Platinum (being tested with a pilot group – not available to the general public)
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||# of EMV Cards||% of Cards w/ EMV||# of EMV Terminals||% of Terminals w/ EMV|
|Western Europe & Greenland||760 million||84.4%||11.9 million||94.4%|
|Eastern Europe, Central Asia & Russia||37.1 million||14.5%||611 thousand||68.1%|
|Canada, Latin American & the Carribbean||319 million||41.1%||4.4 million||76.7%|
|Africa & the Middle East||31.6 million||20.6%||462 thousand||75.9%|
|Asia Pacific||336 million||28.2%||4.6 million||51.45|
|Total||1.5 billion||44.7%||22 million||68.1%|
Source: EMVCo, reporting on Q4 of 2011.
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 f/x 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.
The ideal travel card according to benefits and overall acceptance? An EMV Visa Signature with no foreign transaction fee. AKA, the British Airways Visa.
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 Germany, Belgium, France, India, Chile, Bolivia, Australia or the Netherlands among others.
Antigua & Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Martin/ St. Maarten
St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Turks & Caicos
U.S. Virgin Islands