Update Nov 4, 2013: I was in the UK last week and it looks like the Underground has fixed their terminals to allow the use of the chip at a UPT! This is great news. My guess is there is some upper limit to what can be accepted without signature and it is now implemented.

Some of you may know that I spent a little over a week on vacation with my wife traipsing through Europe this month. And even though I was constantly yelled at for walking too fast or running to check out some grey squirrel (they are tan here in the US), we had a fabulous time. We had a few hitches in our travels as any trip will, but one in particular caught us very much by surprise.

Chip, by Declan Jewell

Chip, by Declan Jewell

I made it a point to get my most commonly used credit cards (unfortunately, the one tied to my checking account is WAY behind the times here) re-issued with a chip in them so I would have plenty of fun over in Europe looking like a local and entering my PIN into all of these mobile readers. But something peculiar was happening that didn’t make sense to me until I had a few transactions rejected.

If you recall, the implementation of EMV here in the states is going to be Chip and SIGN, not Chip and PIN. So instead of inserting your card in the slot and punching in a PIN, it reads the chip, sends off the authentication info, and then you sign the slip just like you would here in the US for a normal swipe transaction. 95% of the time this worked just fine. I had one instance in a pub in Florence (yes, I found an Irish pub and had to sample some of their delicious beers because let’s face it, Peroni and Moretti are meh) where I watched the bartender SWIPE my card for it to be quickly denied. Lesson 1, if there is a chip reader available, there may be a security feature in the card that requires you to use the chip slot and not the swipe. Once he used the chip slot, things went through as normal.

Now, flash forward a few days to Barcelona. I’m particularly excited because the weather was very nice, the sun was shining, and we were a bit northeast of Barceloneta, so we needed to take the Metro. I thought, sweet. No problem! This would be a chance for me to use the PIN I assigned to both of the cards because there is no way that there will be a person down there to accept the card for signature. I was right about the lack of personnel support, but boy was I wrong about the PIN thing.

DENIED!

DENIED!

DENIED!

I felt like that one day in college where I thought I was going to be a big shot and buy a round for the bar. “Don’t worry, guys! I’ve got a MASTERCARD!” Aaaaand, over its limit.

So I found some cash, fed the hungry ticket machine, and got us fare for two days on the metro. But I was confused! Wasn’t this whole chip thing supposed to solve my problems with paying in Europe?

my bank sucks, by B Rosen

my bank sucks, by B Rosen

I spent a few minutes on the phone with my bank when I got back and figured something out. My card that is issued in the US and made to work with US systems ONLY works the US way. Meaning, as it stands today, my card CANNOT be used in a Chip & PIN scenario, and ONLY can be used with Chip & SIGN. This means that any automated machine will not be able to accept my cards because they all require the Chip over the swipe if present and the only way they can accept my Chip card is with a signature.

That, my friends, is EMV’s manifestation of the Catch-22.

So as you are issued your new EMV card here in the US, be aware of the limitations (including your ATM cash retrieval limits if you get in a bind!) of the implementation before you stand for ten minutes in a line that will just get stuck with you fumbling around with your non-standard card.

This post originally appeared on BrandenWilliams.com.