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
Apply Now

on Bank of America's
secure website

starstarstarhalfstar
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 on every purchase, every time with no annual fee
  • 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
  • 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
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 14.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
  • No foreign transaction fee
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
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  • HR

    EMV is the group that came up with the chip card 15 years ago, it stands
    for Europay Mastercard Visa. These cards are also known as Chip and
    Pin and another version is Chip and Signature. Chip and Pin is a much
    better option! A Pin is much harder to guess than using a fake
    signature. I have had credit cards for many years and have NEVER had a
    merchant check my signature with the one on my card! The problem in
    the US is the chicken and the egg. The chip cards cost $1.10 and stripe
    cards cost ten cents. Credit card company’s don’t want to buy these
    new cards until merchants have the terminals to process the chip cards.
    The merchant has to purchase new credit card terminals which are more
    expensive. Hopefully after the Target/Neiman Marcus disaster this more
    secure system will start to be implemented. We can all help to get this
    rolling by calling our credit card company’s and requesting Chip and
    Pin (or EMV cards), and then requesting that merchants upgrade their
    terminals. The new US issued EMV cards also have magnetic strips so they
    will work with both technologies. A bonus is that you will then have
    world credit cards that will work in Europe and many other places.

    • Bruno Schwartz

      Liability shifts starting in 2015 will gradually force merchants over to the EMV system. But, you will not see widescale adoption of Chip and Pin by U.S. merchants or issuers. The ball is already rolling for U.S. EMV deployment and that system is built around Chip and Signature.

  • Locke42

    Is there anyway to change a card over from Chip and Signature to Chip and PIN?

    • Bruno Schwartz

      No. The only way to get a true chip and pin card is through one of the very few U.S. issuers (e.g. United Nations Credit Union) or through a foreign account.

  • Gary Krysta

    Lets pretend I am a small business owner of convenience stores and gas stations. The lease on my card readers is up for renewal on Oct of 2014. I don’t want to upgrade the old system until the new readers are available. Where can I currently buy or lease the new EMV credit card readers?

    • C2C Enterprises, LLC

      You should not be leasing equipment in the 1st place – you are paying for that equipment 6 times over!!!

      Email me – I’ll walk you through the best channels

  • Lonr Lonr

    What companies make these chips and the software?

  • BocaNY

    I called Citibank about this when I realized that my debit card would not work in half of the atms in the country I was in and everyone else’s did. They said that for some reason mastercard would not give them the go ahead to add a chip to debit cards. But then he said something about being able to get a chip, I think a paypal thing or something, but that it would only work in the US. Either way I was left frustrated and confused. I was without money in a town in the mountains that had only 2 atms and neither would read my card because it didn’t have a chip. I had to borrow money from someone I had just met to get back. America needs to catch up.

  • Drew

    I tried using Discover in the Dominican Republic. They asked what is this. No one accepted it. Shame since their is no FTF. Discover is still hit and miss.

  • H Bosch

    US issued EMV cards (all) have signature over pin priority. What this
    means in practice when you are in Europe for example is that places with
    a card reader that expect you to punch in your PIN because they see the
    chip on your card become flummoxed when they wait and wait and then it
    says ‘get signature’, meanwhile people behind you in line are getting
    antsy. They claim that you can use the PIN at unattended card readers at
    gas stations and toll booths. This is abjectly false. 10/10 tries to do
    that this month resulted in failure. The EMV cards issued are useless,
    maybe worse. Choosing the signature over PIN neuters the card, and card
    companies are stupid for issuing them.

    • msupp

      Agreed – I have the Chase BA card and live in the UK. Even at self-checkout in grocery stores, I always have to summon an employee to check my signature and do everything manually. Its very frustrating.

    • jdoe

      Agree. I had the exact same experience recently with the Barclay Arrival Plus Card. Chip with signature is the default and was unable to use it at unattended kiosks. And everywhere else, they cashier is confused that it has a chip but then requires a signature.
      What is even more aggrevating is that I have a corporate Visa card from Bank of America that is true chip and pin (have never had to sign for a transaction in europe) but B of A does not (won’t) offer this technology on a consummer card.

  • Beatrice

    Hello, I am moving to France for work for one year and am trying to determine what will be the best card to use both in France and abroad. My top considerations are a card with no foreign transaction fees, EMV technology and the best possible rewards. Your lists have been extremely helpful in narrowing down the choices but was wondering if you could offer your opinion for what you think is the best choice? Thanks!!!

    • Garrett

      In France, a lot of times, a card with a chip which requires a signature (chip-and-signature) isn’t sufficient. I was regularly declined on automated transactions (trains, kiosks, etc…) because I didn’t have a pin number to enter after you insert the card. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a pin number, as well as waived foreign transaction fees, and 2.2% cash back in the form of miles redeemable for travel expenses (as well as other things at a significantly diminished rate of return). Chase Sapphire Preferred is supposed to come with a pin later this year. I would go with either or both. Amex is kind of useless in my experience (though I have a few for other reasons).

      • Beatrice

        I went with the Barclay Arrival Plus card – it seems to be the best overall choice. Thanks so much for your advice!!!

        • Garrett

          Great! I think you’ll be happy with it. I am. Just a heads up, when you redeem for travel expenses, you can only apply a redemption once per transaction. So if you bought a plane ticket for $2000, and you apply the equivalent of $500 credit, you can only do that once. You can’t build up more points and apply another mileage credit to that same flight. Their customer service is also really great. Good luck!

        • Garrett

          …oh, and you might consider adding the Chase Sapphire Preferred as well. The bonus points that you get are really valuable, and can be transferred to Hyatt, which is (arguably) the best way to get good value out of them.

  • Kara

    My fiance and I will be moving to China for a year and we want a travel rewards card to buy our tickets and use in China. We are looking at the Capital One Venture Card, Barclay Arrival Plus card, and Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Capital One is our top choice, but doesn’t have the EMV chip. How important is the chip for transactions in Asia? Thanks!

    • DC

      not needed in asia.

  • jrlevine

    HSBC now puts chips in their high end Premier, Advance, and Platinum cards. The flyer they sent claim they’re chip+pin outside the US. I’ll find out on a trip next week.