A Rant

Robin: I am so tired of seeing this:



Why doesn’t the U.S. have chip cards?! Last time I checked, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express were all American companies. So why don’t they offer chip cards on a regular basis to American customers? Chip cards have been available in Europe for years, yet back home they are just getting ready to roll out the technology to a select group of customers. Pierre called Wells Fargo to see if they would issue him one of these new-fangled cards, and they didn’t even know what he was talking about.

I use my credit card a lot, and every time I present it to someone in Europe, I have to explain sheepishly that, no, I don’t have a chip on my card. Some Europeans don’t even understand how to swipe the thing, it’s that unusual. And in many instances, our lack of a chip card has cost us extra time and money. Lots of ticket machines in train stations (like the one pictured), for instance, only take chip cards — no cash, not even coins. So instead of buying a ticket from the machine and being on our way, we have to wait in line to talk to a real person, an inconvenience for which train companies often impose a surcharge. When we rented a car here in France, we avoided highways because we’ve heard the toll collection booths only take chip cards. And finding a gas station where we could actually pay for the gas was a nightmare.

As annoyed as I am with the U.S. for not having this technology, I also don’t get why Europe has become so intolerant of any other form of payment. No cash? Really? It’s not just trains: a bakery we visited in Amsterdam was completely cash-free (luckily, they accepted non-chip cards).

Fortunately, Pierre and I will soon be moving on to countries where paying with cash is perfectly acceptable. Until the U.S. gets with the program and adopts this craaaazy new chip-card technology, that’s about as much relief as American travelers can expect.

UPDATE (March 9, 2012)

Pierre: While on the road, I tried to figure out a way to get a hold of a bank card with Chip + PIN technology. I failed miserably. I contacted American Express, Wells Fargo (my bank), Capital One, etc. I didn’t get anywhere with any of these companies. Most customer service representatives had never heard of the technology even though, in American Express’ case, they already issue cards with the technology in Europe.

I finally wrote an e-mail to John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo, because I was aware of a pilot program in progress at the bank. But I failed miserably again. See the response below for more detail. Now, several months later, nothing seems to have changed…

My response from Wells Fargo re: a Chip + PIN card

My response from Wells Fargo re: a Chip + PIN card. Apparently I don't travel enough to qualify for the pilot program. Who does? That George Clooney character from "Up in the Air"?

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