Friday, June 27, 2014

Chip In or Else

These days, you don't need a chip on your shoulder to travel, but you had better have one in your wallet when visiting many countries. When we were in Cambodia in 2008, we went to a lovely restaurant that took credit cards

After an outstanding, but still relatively inexpensive meal, I whipped out my credit card to pay the bill. I had not visited an ATM, so we were cash poor at the moment, but credit rich. The server took the credit card only to return moments later to say the card would not work. Assuming the company did not read the memo that we were traveling, I just handed over another card. Without leaving the table, the server said "This card will not work either." Not sure if we had met a Cambodian fortuneteller or what the story was, I asked innocently "How do you know this?" 

It seems Cambodia, back in 2008, had changed over the credit card system to the microchip embedded cards. Their machine was only capable of reading the chip. Swiping the card was not an option. 

Having read about this issue occurring in Europe, the thought that it would happen in Cambodia never surfaced in my wildest dreams. Still, what I had read was to tell the creditor to call in for authorization. There was no getting around this issue; the restaurant people were not willing to comprise on our using our credit card. When they finally accepted the fact that we did not have enough cash between us, they suggested we return the next day with the full amount owed. Refusing even partial payment, they sent us on our way.

The next day, we arrived around noon to pay our debt; we had to get to the airport. They were closed, even with the hours showing a lunch service was possible. We left the money with the business next door, hoping for the best. 

Now in 2014, I just read the article Don’t be a chip-and-pinhead! by Christopher Elliott where he had problems on a motorway when approaching the Europabrücke or Europe Bridge. When he went to pay the toll, the machine would not accept his non-chip US credit card.

This made me check my credit cards. I have a Citibank Visa, CapitolOne MC, and 3 different Amex cards, but the only card with a chip is the Diners Club/Mastercard. I never leave home without it, because it gives me access to Diners Club lounges in airports around the world. There are some really unexpected places where they have fabulous lounges. The $95 membership fee pays for itself, plus I get airline miles for any purchases. When we are at home, I keep it for emergencies. 

Check for chips before leaving home. More and more places here are using the chip cards and much of the rest of Europe is too.

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