Using your credit card in foreign countries

Could credit cards go the way of the dodo? Many of the industrialized nations around the globe are moving away from traditional credit cards with magnetic strips in favor of embedded microprocessor chips, because they may cut down on fraud. The chip-and-PIN method is the newest smartcard technology, where a microchip is embedded in the credit or debit card. When the customer pays for goods, the card is placed into a “PIN pad” terminal or modified swipe-card reader, which reads and authenticates the chip. The customer then enters a 4-digit PIN that must match what is on the smartcard.

If you’ll be traveling abroad but do not own a smartcard, you may need to depend on ATM machines. Carrying extra credit cards and cash is also recommended. And if you want to use a chip-embedded debit card, you can obtain one for free, but exchange rates are not stellar. Last but not least, notify your bank about your travel plans as some credit companies will freeze your card for charges deemed suspicious or out of the norm.

The chip-and-PIN technology is becoming the standard in Asia, Latin America, and Canada. While the U.S. lags behind, some banks including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and U.S. Bank are starting to offer the cards to their customers on small scales.