Chip & PIN cards are a type of credit card that holds some advantages over traditional magnetic stripe cards and even over chip & signature cards, the latter two of which make up the vast majority of credit cards in the US. The biggest advantage it has is it is a much higher level of secure protection over credit card fraud than the other options, and with the recent massive credit card debacle at Target, is more visible than ever before. The EMV chip embedded in these cards has encrypted your credit card data, making it very difficult to purloin. Some chip & PIN cards in Europe don’t actually have the magnetic strips on the back, as they can be easy to reproduce; they only have the chip & PIN function.

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Gizmodo has an article breaking down in greater detail the exact details of Chip & PIN cards and technology. Gary over at View from the Wing also has a great article on them, and why he is not in favor of them coming to the US.

Whether or not you want them here, they can definitely be beneficial to you should you happen to travel to a place where they only accept Chip & PIN cards, such as certain stores and restaurants in Europe. On my recent trip to Milan, I stopped to get gas for my Fiat 500, using my Arrival card (w/ chip & signature), and was asked for a PIN. I’d never set a PIN, so tried several things including 0000, but none worked, so I had to go to another station. However, up until a couple of days ago I was unsuccessful at finding any US-based credit card providers who offered Chip & PIN cards; they were all magnetic strip only or Chip & signature.

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Here is a guide, via, on current world EMV adoption rates.

One of our readers, @Ben, recently told me that USAA, a bank that I truly love (I bet you don’t hear many people saying that about their bank), offers a Chip & PIN card! It appears as though it can function as a Chip & PIN, but also with a magnetic strip, so not as secure as it could be, but will function in Chip & PIN-only transactions.


Here is a PDF with some FAQs about the USAA World Mastercard w/ Chip & PIN. What happens is you apply for the regular card, and then once you get it and activate it, you can call in and request your Chip & PIN card, at which time you’ll set your PIN. UPDATE: I just called this morning, and they said because of the surge of requests secondary to the Target breach, they won’t be offering them again until mid-March. Mine will be mailing out in mid-March.

Here is the application page. You do need to be a USAA member to get one.

There is bad news though – this card, although it doesn’t have an annual fee, it does have a 1% foreign transaction fee.

This will be a great card to add to my armamentarium when I go overseas, but because of the foreign transaction fee, I won’t be using it unless I have to.


Posted by glenn | 12 Comments

12 responses to “How to get a Chip & PIN card in the US”

  1. FYD says:

    Good to know about this option, but there is a better choice: GlobeTrek Rewards card from AndrewsFCU. Chip & PIN, no annual fee, no FX fee, rewards for all purchases and anybody can get it!

  2. Ben says:

    So if you look back at your post from about a month ago, I made the same observation about USAA’s card…..

  3. Shannon says:

    Actually Bank of America Travel Rewards card has the chip and PIN, no annual fee AND no foreign transaction fee + rewards. I’m living in Germany and have used it all over the EU.

  4. Angelo says:

    I am currently deployed in Bahrain since and requested USAA replace my card with the chip & PIN prior to arrival. I also asked if they could waive the foreign transaction fees while deployed and they did!!! Maybe others can request and get this same benefit…

    I also have used the Andrews FCU and Bank of America Travel Rewards “chip & PIN card” in multiple foreign countries and they both seem to go through as a chip and signature card, since no one has ever asked for a PIN when I used these cards. With the USAA chip and PIN card, even if a merchant with a EMV reader tries to use the magnetic stripe, the machine will require the EMV chip to be used and the PIN to be entered. Of the cards I’ve seen, the USAA card so far has been the most secure of the chip and PIN cards issued by a USA-based bank.

  5. Andy says:

    @FYD – good to know, I’ll have to check it out!
    @Ben – indeed you did! I just checked it out now. That article was written by the COL, so I didn’t see your comment (this is Andy). I’ll update the article to reflect the attribution.
    @Shannon – Also good to know; I didn’t know about this or about the Globetrek Rewards card (above). I’ll have to check them both out and write a follow up article.

  6. Bill says:

    I believe Chase just announced that a few of their cards will be chip and pin by year end including Sapphire and Marriott

  7. Charles says:

    You can request a chip-and-pin version of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Promise Visa at no extra cost. It does still have a magnetic strip to facilitate use in the United States.

    Benefits include:
    No annual fee
    No foreign transaction fee
    No balance transfer fee
    No cash advance fee
    No late fee
    No over credit limit fee
    No penalty APR

  8. Ben says:

    Glad I could be of service! PS… If you’re looking for a picture of the USAA Chip & PIN, here it is (not my image):

  9. DaninSTL says:

    So it looks like the only USA version to get (unless your a CU or Military member) is the BofA card?

  10. Andy says:

    @Bill – I’ve heard that as well, looking forward to it! I think once they give the CSP an EMV chip, that’ll be my go-to in foreign countries.
    @Charles – that’s why I love writing this blog – I have the best readers, and they’re often teaching me stuff instead of vice versa!
    @Ben – Thanks!
    @DaninSTL – it sounds that way yes

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