Travel Tip for Biking In France: Get a Chip Credit Card

By Maggie LaCoste

If you are planning a bicycling trip to France or anywhere in Europe this summer, simplify your travel by getting a credit card with a chip.  Often referred to as smart cards, this type of credit card has been in widespread use in Europe for several years.  Unknowing Americans often miss trains, are unable to pay for gas at the pump, and cannot rent bikes at public kiosks all because the machines do not accept credit cards without a chip.  Sometimes the problem causes an inconvenience, sometimes it can result in a major disruption to a trip.  Missing a train because you cannot retrieve or purchase a ticket can really be a problem.

SNCF Ticket machines accept only chip cards

Until recently, there were few options for Americans traveling overseas.  Several months ago, Chase debuted its Chase Hyatt credit card and that is the card that we took on our trip.  Supposedly there are plans to add the chip to other credit cards, including American Express, but as of right now, the Chase Hyatt card is the only one available for the mass market.  An added benefit to this card is that there are no foreign transaction fees.

Chip cards are required at any type of automated kiosk or point of sale automated credit machine.  You can insert your credit cards a hundred times, but if it doesn’t have a chip, it’s going to come right back out.  I watched a guy at the train station almost destroy a kiosk because he was so mad that his credit cards would not be accepted.  He did not understand the photo above, which basically says that if your card doesn’t have a chip, it cannot be read by the machine.  I think he was upset, thinking that there was a problem with his credit.

Hope that this information is helpful, and that it may save you some time and distress on your upcoming trip!

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. Having a card with a chip makes a huge difference! When I came to France I had a prepaid Visa card, with a chip, but quite a few ticket machines wouldn’t accept it (I think it was because the numbers printed on it were not raised in any way). That seemed like a good option because I could lock in the currency exchange rate in advance, but the downside was that it couldn’t always be used!