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 pick: the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred not only offers an EMV chip and no foreign transaction fee, it also gives a signup bonus of Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months., worth 25% more when you redeem for travel booked through Chase. Moreover, it earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 per $1 elsewhere, also eligible for the 25% points boost. Finally, it gives a 7% points dividend on every rewards point earned that year, spent or unspent. That boosts your rewards rate to up to 2.68% on dining and travel and 1.34% 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 additional 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 participating 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
  • High rewards rate
  • 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

List of American EMV Credit Cards

Current as of November 6th, 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 America
    • Includes most credit cards, except affinity cards like the MLB or charity credit cards
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • 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 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 EMV Credit Cards EMV Terminals
Number Percent Number Percent
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.

North AmericaCanada
Mexico
USASouth AmericaArgentina
Brazil
Ecuador
Paraguay
Peru
UruguayAsia

Japan
Mainland China
Phillippines
Singapore
South Korea
Taiwan
Thailand

Other
South Africa
Russia
New Zealand

EuropeAustria
Bulgaria
Czech Republic
Estonia
Iceland
Italy
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
United Kingdom
The CaribbeanAnguilla
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
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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.