Credit cards haven’t had a makeover in years, but all that changed with the introduction of EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) technology. EMV offers a much more secure shopping experience in that every time the card is inserted into a chip-enabled checkout device, the purchase generates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again.
There is an important difference between chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature transactions, both of which are offered with EMV. Most of us will continue to have to sign for purchases with our chip cards, as memorizing a PIN for your purchases, the other option, isn’t very popular yet in the US. Since most of Europe requires you to have a PIN with your chip-enabled card, however, it’s wise to have at least one in your wallet for international travel.
Let’s take a look at some of the top chip-and-PIN credit cards here in the United States (none of which have any foreign transaction fees!), or skip ahead to the best chip-and-signature cards.
1. Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
This card has no balance transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no cash advance fees – only a small annual fee of $49. Earn 3x points on travel and 2x points on everything else. Enjoy worldwide automatic travel accident insurance as well as travel and emergency assistance. Learn more here.
2. AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
Cardholders can earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. Earn 2x miles for every dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x AAdvantage® miles for every dollar spent on all other purchases. If you frequent American Airlines, learn more here.
3. PenFed Power Cash Rewards VISA Signature® Card
With no limit to the points you can earn and no expiration dates, this is a fairly flexible card with no annual fee. You’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, or 2% cash back if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage Member. Apply for the PenFed Power Cash Rewards card here.
4. BankAmericard Travel Rewards
This card allows users to continue using their signature, but also has the option to set a PIN for those international purchases. No annual or transaction fees make this card a popular choice for travelers, especially since rewards can be redeemed with no blackout dates. Apply for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card here.
5. Diners Club Card Premiere
This card is invite-only, so look for the offer to arrive in your mail. With Club Cash access, complimentary airport lounge admission, superior concierge service, and discounts on all kinds of travel, it’s a fantastic option for the discerning traveler. Learn more at the Diners Club website.
6. Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card
Loyal guests of the Wyndham hotel family will love that this card offers perks for stays, requires no annual fee, and gives frequent bonus offers for promotional purchase periods. Cardholders have over 25,000 Wyndham properties worldwide to stay at and earn points, including Wingate, Ramada, and others. Get more info on this card here.
7. Priceline Rewards Visa from Barclays
Here’s another Barclays credit card for those who like to save money on travel! Thanks to its partnership with Priceline, super-users of the discount site can get an additional 10% on the value of points when they redeem them for Priceline.com purchases. Learn more about this Visa card here.
8. Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®
If you’re keen on traveling to someplace warm, a trip to Hawaii may be in your future! Consider getting more miles from your trip with a chip-and-PIN card from Hawaiian Airlines. This card features the same perks as the Barclays travel cards, plus extra incentives for those who visit the islands frequently. Apply for this MasterCard here.
9. USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
This card is a decent cash-back option for those who don’t want to pay an annual fee and need flexibility for their loyalty rewards. No penalty APR and unlimited cash-back earning make it an attractive chip-and-PIN choice for those with good to excellent credit. If you are an eligible USAA member (or want to be), you can sign up for this card here.
10. Sam’s Club® MasterCard®
You don’t only have to shop at Sam’s Club to take advantage of this card’s perks! Get 5% back on gas for the first $6,000 in purchases a year, as well as 3% on dining and travel. Rewards are capped at $5,000 per year, but there is no annual fee for the card. Learn more about this and the business version of the card at the Sam’s Club website.
11. U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Select+ American Express® Card
If you need an American Express card with chip-and-PIN technology, you’ll find your options to be pretty limited. This card offers it, although you’ll need to specifically enable the option. It also gives you all the American Express benefits cardholders are entitled to, in addition to no annual fee. Get more info on the card at the U.S. Bank website.
12. Fargo Advisors Premium Rewards Visa Signature®
Here’s another Wells Fargo product with no annual fee. Those who use the services of a Wells Fargo Advisor are eligible. Earn modest rewards and get access to exclusive VISA VIP travel perks, including their Luxury Hotel Collection, Visa Signature Concierge Service, and VIP access to events. Learn more here.
The Best Chip-and-Signature Cards
Chip-and-Signature is still the prevailing technology among credit cards, especially for those based in the US. Until consumers get accustomed to skipping the swipe and become more familiar with the convenience and security of chip cards, expect these cards to be among the most likely to be offered by your bank. These cards offer excellent customer service, travel-friendly perk packages, and no foreign transaction fees!
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
at Chase'ssecure website
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
- $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
- Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
- Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
- Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR after that
0% for 12 months
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
- One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 16.24%-26.24% variable APR after that
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 16.24%-26.24% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
- Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
With TSA-lines, passport updates, hotel reservations, and flight changes to worry about, you’ll need peace of mind that your credit card has your back. Many travelers see their card as an ally in their adventures. They should be able to depend on it, not only for purchasing power, but as a lifeline to customer service teams that can help them troubleshoot any travel glitches that may arise during their trip.
Don’t Pay for Convenience
While foreign transaction fees may allow global travelers to be able to shop wherever they go, they are not something most cardholders should settle for paying. With all the competition among chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature card issuers, most will be working hard to get your business — this includes skipping the foreign transaction fees altogether.
If your bank insists you pay for the privilege of shopping where your wanderlust takes you, it may be time to consider an account with a more customer-minded issuer.