Europe's a travel bargain, but what if your credit card doesn't work?

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Europe's a travel bargain, but what if your credit card doesn't work?You've probably heard by now that the value of the euro has sunk against the greenback, making travel to Galway or Geneva a tremendous bargain. But before booking that flight for the European getaway of your dreams, take a look at this article, which highlights some disturbing news: Once you get to your Old World paradise, you may find that your American credit cards don't work.

What's going on here? Aren't all credit cards created equal? Not exactly. We here at WalletPop have told you before about the recent popularity across the pond of so-called "chip and pin" credit cards that include a microchip as an added security feature. Because they cost more to produce, U.S. banks aren't issuing them, which is problematic because some venues in Europe -- such as train stations with ticket machines -- no longer accept our American-style credit cards.

Unfortunately, according to John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com, there isn't a lot travelers can do about this situation. "European Union efforts for security are passing us by a little bit, and I haven't heard hide nor hair of chip and pin in the U.S.," he told WalletPop in a recent interview.

Ulzheimer offers some suggestions for Americans planning to take their credit cards on European vacation this summer. To cover your bases, you can pre-pay for things like your hotel stay and rental car, but restaurants and retailers will be hit or miss. Carrying cash is one option. If that doesn't appeal to you, another -- albeit more complicated -- solution would be to go to a bank or major retailer once you arrive at your destination and buy a prepaid credit card that you can load up with your spending money.

Keep in mind, this inability to accept non-chip and pin cards isn't universal, so it's possible to travel to Europe, hand over your credit card left and right, and never experience a problem. But as Ulzheimer points out, it behooves you to have a backup, even if that just means tucking a 20-euro note into a discreet location in case you're stuck on a train platform with no way to purchase a ticket.
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