Planning a trip abroad? Prepare to dip rather than swipe your credit card. Banks in more than 60 countries -- including the major European destinations -- have switched to cards with smart chips instead of magnetic stripes.
You should still be able to use a magnetic-stripe card for restaurant meals, shopping, hotel stays and rental cars. But you may have trouble buying gas at an unattended pump or using an automatic ticket machine. Carry enough cash to make purchases where there is no ticket agent, and be sure to use an ATM card instead of a credit card to withdraw cash at a bank -- the card will work even if it doesn’t have a chip -- so you avoid extra charges associated with a cash advance.
If you’re interested in switching to a smart-chip card, you could sign up for one that offers dual activation -- both a stripe and a chip. British Airways Visa Signature ($95 annually; interest rate, 14.24%) and J.P. Morgan Select Visa Signature ($95 annually, waived the first year; 13.24%) are both issued by Chase. Neither card charges a foreign-transaction fee, which saves you as much as 3% on overseas transactions. U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature ($49 annually, waived the first year; 13.99%) does charge a foreign-transaction fee: 2% for dollar purchases and 3% if your purchase is in a foreign currency. But you need only 20,000 points for a flight worth $400.
Stay tuned. Other major banks may soon issue dual cards. Wells Fargo issued 15,000 chip cards to its platinum cardholders last year and plans to offer more cards this year. Bank of America and American Express say they are evaluating the technology.