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Bank Card


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Just curious. In 2008 my bank card worked fine. I am wondering about now as my bank (credit union actually) has not yet switched over to "chip" enhanced bank cards. They may do so before I travel but they don't know for sure.

Can anyone tell me if they older bank cards (non-chip) still work fine?

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In Spain they are just starting to use the "chip-card"... most cards are still the old "Swipe" cards... so it should be no problems..

Greetings from a rainy and windy Santiago,
I contacted by credit union AND visa about using my non chip card in Spain and was assured that generally (my emphasis) there would be no problem. I emphasize the term generally, because neither could adequately answer it the non chip cards would work in certain rail and airline kiosks.
Thanks for the information and the reassurance. I'm usually careful to re-stock with cash before I need it so I should be fine. In this kind of changeover I will probably not be the only one with an older swipe card.


I'm spending winter in Spain (three months in the Alicante area).
Although I'm travelling with a ''chip'' card, most of the places where I use it still swipe it and require my signature.

Go with peace of mind!

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One important thing, if you have a need to remember you pin!

..but all terminals in Spain (at least in stores) take both chip and non-chip cards.

your help please
i have been advised that you need to have a positive balance in your credit card to be able to draw cash
i intended having a zero balance and drawing from cash machines as i went
is this possible
and will it make a difference if im on the via de la plata
other suggestions also welcome
Hike 30 miles on California’s Santa Catalina Island as part of the Catalina Camino

A credit card is for credit, whether through store purchases or cash advances. I've never heard of a card company refusing to give credit for cash advances, but I don't have first hand experience (like John, I use my bank debit card). A quick phone call to your card issuer should determine their policy and get it off your "worry list".

John and other,
I also use a credit union debit card. A word of precaution. Check the expiry date on your debit card. The machines may not accept them if they are within 6 months of their expiry date. I once found myself in Spain and France with a debit card that was exactly 6 months from expiry (at that point I didn't even know debit cards had an expiry date). Anyway - I couldn't use it anywhere and had no idea why since that was where I had put my trip money. And three different tellers couldn't explain it when I got back either until some smart guy finally figured out what the problem was.
So go into your credit union and get them to check just to make sure.
Hi DocRobert

If you still have the swipe card without chip, you can get cash. No worries.

I was in Spain in May of 2010 and had no problem withdrawing cash from the Automatic Teller machines outside of banks.

I used a debit card and had to enter my secret PIN (Personal Identification Number)
Withdrawing Euros and having my account debited in dollars at a favorable exchange rate was easy.

The Automatic Teller Machine asks you in written Spanish, "How much money do you want?" and prompts you to enter your Personal Identification Number. The one time I had difficulty, I just walked into the bank and a teller helped me. I didn't speak Spanish, and she didn't speak English, but we worked it out.

Talk to your bank or credit union at home if you still have any questions.

No worries,
David, Victoria, Canada
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There are two separate card issues going on here - let me explain.

The bank/credit union/(possibly credit card) cash withdrawal at an ATM. You need a 4-digit, non-alpha PIN (your financial institution will provide you with one that meets these parameters if you contact them). Your withdrawal limits will reflect the currency exchange (just because you can pull USD300 at home does not mean you can pull EUR300). Many overseas banks have relationships with European banks, which will reduce or eliminate the foreign-institution service charges. There are service charges by both your bank and the ATM bank, but it's still cheaper than the old travelers check fees. ATMs are frequently, but not universally, available in the small towns along the Camino. Comments elsewhere in this forum warn against making withdrawals during non-banking hours, in the event the ATM is hungry and eats your card - as it means you will have to remain in town until the bank reopens to recover it.

The credit card format is an entirely different issue. No US bank currently issues, or has plans to issue, the (chip + PIN) format credit cards commonly used in Europe. The US (mag strip + swipe) cards will work everywhere there are credit transactions attended by humans (hotels and restaurants that take credit cards). The problem arises where there are only automated kiosks (parking, road tolls, rail and bus stations). Unless there is a human at a nearby window, Americans have been out of luck. Fortunately, the Travelex ( people are now offering pre-paid cards in the European format at their airport currency booths here in the US. You can get these in GBP or EUR denominations, load up as much as you like, and top it off later on. I don't know the situation with Canadian bank cards, but I suspect they use the US card format.
Chip debit and credit cards were introduced in Canada in 2008, but as posted earlier, the magnetic strip swipe (and signature instead of PIN with credit cards) are still usable because

a) there are still some Canadian businesses who have not switched their hardware to accommodate the chip, and
b) not all countries have the chip, or plan to switch to the chip

We generally use our debit card in Spanish ATMs, rarely our credit card, and have never had a problem in 5 caminos. The few times we used a credit card ended up being much more expensive than debit.

In my experience of living in Spain six months of the year, Canadian debit and credit cards work everywhere all the time, whether you have a chip or a stripe. In fact, the new cards being issued have both the chip and the stripe to cater to all situations.

I have never had any problems in stores, restaurants, ATM or the likes.

The only caveat is to have a four digit PIN.

Spend freely,
Just a quick note to add that there are bank machines that are not set up for North American cards or perhaps I have it wrong, not set up for the chip. I did experience a few time a bank machine that would not work for my card. If that happens, just go down the street and find the next one. It likely will.

Bev from Canada

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