Looking back on the early days of EMV chip adoption in the U.S., many financial institutions began by issuing Visa chip cards to those cardholders best positioned to use them: international travelers. Back in 2011, frequent flyers were still the most likely to encounter chip-enabled terminals, which were already the norm among merchants overseas.
Fast-forward to 2015 and millions of Visa cardholders can take advantage of the enhanced security of chip card payments–whether they’re an ocean away or just a few blocks down the street. As of August 2015, nearly 142 million Visa chip cards have been issued in the United States, the most of any country in the word. And with many globetrotters in the mix, we’ve been tracking the data to understand chip use abroad and to resolve any unnecessary hiccups in the transaction process.
Our most recent findings show a significant improvement in the chip experience for U.S. cardholders transacting in other countries. In fact, travelers are far more likely to see their transaction approved if they are using a chip card rather than a traditional magnetic stripe cards.
A recent change in Visa’s acceptance rules has helped boost the approval rate for Visa chip transactions overseas, which currently stands at 96.9 percent. Visa now requires businesses with terminals unattended by a store employee to accept international chip cards without PINs or signatures. That means travelers can use their chip cards at train ticket kiosks, bike sharing stations, vending machines, and parking meters with convenience, security, and ease.
To ensure that the rule change is taking effect, we sent a team of secret shoppers to Europe in August with a stack of U.S. chip cards issued by various financial institutions. They inserted their cards at unattended terminals in Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The results? More than 90 percent of the transactions were approved, up from 63.5 percent in 2013. And in cases where chip cards were denied—almost always the result of merchant non-compliance with the new rule, as opposed to a problem with chip technology—Visa representatives are following up to make sure merchants are up to speed.
What’s more, Americans traveling abroad overwhelmingly report that their new chip cards are working well at the popular destinations, like airports, subway stations, gas stations, toll roads, and self-serve checkouts. So whether you’re powering through an overseas business trip or relaxing on an exotic vacation, your Visa chip card should help make your travels smooth and worry-free.