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The Only Travel Card That Lets You Pay Like a Local

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All travel cards offer sign-up bonuses, points, and free foreign transactions. But just one reigns supreme with the chip-and-PIN technology that’s so often required abroad. It’s the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.


The Issue


In dozens of locations in Europe, you’ll attempt to pay with a credit card and fail (especially at unattended registers, such as ticket machines in train stations). But don’t give up and use cash. We’ve shown very clearly that currency-exchange is a scam (and an expensive one at that).


The reason you’ll struggle to pay is that much of Europe depends on chip-and-PIN cards, while Americans overwhelmingly hold chip-and-signature versions. In America, we swipe/insert our chip-enabled cards, sign, and go on our merry way. Europeans find this bizarre: unlike their American counterparts, European waiters don’t take your card off to the register in the back while you finish your meal; they bring a handheld card reader to your table, where you enter your PIN.


In many instances, you’ll be fine: the machine will spit out a receipt for you to sign. But when swiping a machine that utilizes “offline verification,” you’ll be unable to sign and need the pin. This is frustrating at Dutch ticket machines, for example, and especially dangerous for drivers. You don’t want to be low on gas or on the highway and be unable to fill up your tank or pay a toll.


Solution: the Barclaycard Arrival Plus


So the wonderful Chase Saphire cards, your airline co-branded cards, and your Capital One Venture card won’t work. You need a chip-enabled, PIN-enabled credit card. Here’s what we use: the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. It’s a decent card with a great sign-up bonus and no annual fee for the first year. After that, it’s $89.

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The current sign-up bonus is: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. That’s worth $500 against travel purchases made on the card. Every time you redeem miles (you must redeem for travel costs of at least $100), you’ll get 5% back. Redeem 50,000 miles, get 2,5000 miles back. Easy. Every purchase in every category earns 2 miles for every dollar spent.


There ain’t a whole lot wrong with getting this card before your trip and canceling it before the fee kicks in. However, it comes with some good perks: travel accident and trip cancellation insurance, $0 fraud liability, no foreign transaction fee, free online FICO score access and monitoring, and a travel concierge, to name a few.  The sign-up bonus alone will get you through the first 6 years without paying anything extra to Barclays, and earning a sign-up bonus is usually much easier than it sounds.


Once you have this card, make your money last longer on your trips to dozens of international destinations!


Final Thoughts


We originally intended to provide you with options in this article- maybe three credit cards that would work. However, it seems that this is an essential but seldom-discussed topic. And there just aren’t any real competitors to the Barclaycard. Wells Fargo has something, but you need to be a client of theirs to apply online- otherwise, visit a brick-and-mortar branch.


Rick Steves seems to be the only travel writer talking about the chip-and-PIN issue, here’s his article on the subject.


Want to travel farther and spend less money to do so? 


How I Paid $8 for a 4-Day Getaway to Amsterdam


WLI’s Guide to Saving Money When Traveling


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