'Charge it' European style

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If you've been shopping in Europe with a credit card, you might have had a merchant tell you that you can't use your card with them. What's going on?

Some merchants in Europe aren't accepting U.S. credit cards, even when they're supposed to.

Many European countries are now using credit cards embedded with microchips. These cards require users to type in a PIN number instead of signing. This is commonly referred to as a "chip and PIN" credit card system.

U.S. credit cards, however, are still "swipe and sign." The cards have a magnetic strip that is swiped instead of the microchip, and users must sign a receipt.The word from MasterCard, Visa, and American Express is that every merchant who accepts their cards must accept swipe and sign cards. If a clerk tells you that you can't use your card, insist that they try it. A manager at the merchant should also be in-the-know on this issue, and should see to it that your card is accepted.

When all else fails, dine or buy elsewhere. It may also be wise to verify before a hotel stay or nice meal whether the merchant will accept your card. No one wants to owe money with nothing in their pocket but an unusable credit card.

Forensic accountant Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations through her company, Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners honored Tracy as the 2007 winner of the prestigious Hubbard Award and her first book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud, will be on bookshelves in March 2008.
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