In 2015, many retailers in the U.S. will start to accept a more secure version of credit cards, which involves a special EMV chip embedded in the cards. I will share the top EMV chip credit cards that you can get today.
Many Americans are just now getting introduced to the EMV chip credit card. It looks just like the credit card you have in your wallet, except it is safer with the EMV chip (EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa — the three companies that collaborated on it). EMV chip cards are the standard payment method in many foreign countries. Soon, they’ll take on the same role in the United States.
I’ve looked at the entire list of EMV chip credit cards (also explains EMV a little more) and chose the best ones based on: introductory bonuses, rewards program, EMV chip technology and foreign transaction fees. In addition to these features, I’ll show you how to actually use the card — hint, you don’t swipe it.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Key card benefits: You can earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every single purchase. When you redeem the miles for your travel expenses, you get 10% miles back. There are no foreign transactions fees with this card.
Annual fee: $89, waived for the first year
Why I like it: The introductory bonus alone is able to cover $400 in travel expenses, which is a great deal. The travel rewards program is also very attractive because you earn miles on all purchases.
It’s a stellar travel rewards credit card for international travel because it has EMV chip technology (the standard payment format when shopping abroad) and no foreign transaction fees (typically around 3%). It is my most recommended travel rewards credit card.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Key card benefits: Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Furthermore, get another 1% cash back on the payments that you make towards your Citi® Double Cash Card bill. Your first late payment fee is waived. There’s also a slew of travel protections, like trip interruption insurance and car rental coverage.
Annual fee: $0
Why I like it: The Citi® Double Cash Card is just a top-notch cash back credit card that would be ideal for any shopper. The simple cash back program can generate an effective 2% cash back (although I did notice that you can get tricked into earning less than that).
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Key card benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The miles can be transferred to other frequent traveler programs (like airline and hotel rewards programs). And, if you use your points to book travel through Chase, you get a 20% discount.
Finally, you get great travel perks, including personal concierge and various travel insurances (MyBankTracker’s marketing director was able to get back $450 from his Chase Sapphire Preferred after his trip was delayed overnight.)
Annual fee: $95, waived for the first year
Why I like it: The 40,000 bonus points is a very lucrative introductory offer. If you book your travel through Chase, your trip is going to cost fewer points than you thought. And, if you’re worried about the $95 annual fee, see how it is worth the cost.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred®
Key card benefits: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $6,000 spent per year; 1% thereafter), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else.
Annual fee: $95
Why I like it: You’re getting a credit card that gives high rates of cash back on very common purchases.
Tip: If you already have one of the credit cards that I mentioned, you can call the number on the back of the card to request a new card with an EMV chip. Otherwise, one will be issued automatically when your current card expires.
As much as I don’t like to account for intro bonuses when picking a credit card, the fact is that many people do base their card decisions on attractive bonuses. That being said, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards have similar bonus offers, but the Arrival Plus card requires less spending to earn the 40,000 bonus miles.
Citi Double Cash doesn’t have any introductory cash bonus, but the 0% introductory rate can help cut interest costs over 15 months, which is a decent amount of time to not have to pay interest.
In the end, I like the bonus offer from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® because the deal lets you rack up the most bonus miles with a reasonable amount of spending.
The rewards programs of these cards are tailored to different types of spending. Again, I can’t blame you if you sign up for a travel card just to take advantage of the bonus points and use them for one free trip, but keep in mind that your spending patterns will determine long-term use of the card. Therefore, it’s important to consider your daily spending habits when you choose one.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred are close rivals in the travel rewards category. I’ve compared these two cards before and I still think that the Barclaycard Arrival Plus has the better rewards program because it is just so simple and straightforward.
Citi Double Cash also happens to provide a great cash back program that could mean 2% cash back on everything. Other cash back credit cards, like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® card, often have bonus cash back categories while all other purchases earn a flat 1% cash back. Citi Double Cash stands out because you don’t have to worry about different categories — you just get a great cash back rate on everything.
Of the group, I think that Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Citi Double Cash have the best rewards programs. They’re easy to understand with no fuss.
Type of EMV chip
I know this may be confusing, but you should know that there are two types of EMV chips: chip-and-signature and chip-and-PIN (they look the same). One version only requires you to verify the purchase with a signature while the other requires a number known only to you. Generally, chip-and-PIN is considered safer, since your signature can be forged.
In the group of cards above, only the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card has chip-and-PIN capabilities.
Foreign transaction fees
Since an EMV chip credit card is almost a necessity if you want to use a card to spend abroad, you’ll also need to think about foreign transaction fees. The fee is added to the purchase amount when you use your card for international purchases.
Most credit cards that are not focused on travel, like Citi Double Cash and American Express Blue Cash Preferred®, will charge foreign transaction fees of around 3%.
On the other hand, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards have no such foreign transaction fees, which means savings when shopping overseas.
I selected the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® as the best EMV chip credit card because it has everything that makes it a great credit card, in addition to being a reliable credit card for international travel. Also, it carries the safest form of EMV chip technology (chip-and-PIN).
|Card||Intro offer||Rewards||Type of EMV chip||Foreign transaction fees|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®||40,000 bonus miles / $3,000 spend||2 miles/dollar on all purchases||Chip-and-signature/chip-and-PIN||None|
|Citi Double Cash||0% APR on purchases and balances / first 15 months||1% cash back on all purchases plus 1% cash back on card payments||Chip-and-signature||3%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||40,000 bonus points / $4,000 spend||2 points/dollar on travel and dining; 1 point/dollar on everything else||Chip-and-signature||None|
|BankAmericard Cash Rewards™||$100 cash bonus / $500 spend||3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back on groceries for the first $1,500 spent (combined) per quarter; 1% on everything else||Chip-and-signature||3%|
How to use EMV chip credit cards
1. Rather than swiping, you insert and EMV chip credit card into the machine. Although many credit cards in the U.S. will still have EMV chips and the magnetic strips together, paying with the EMV chip is safer.
2. Chip-and-signature cards may get rejected. Although chip-and-signature cards are safer, remember that signatures can be forged. So, fraud is still possible. Don’t be surprised if a retailer doesn’t accept a chip-and-signature EMV card because of this reason.
3. Expect less EMV chip acceptance at smaller, mom-and-pop businesses. By the end of 2015, approximately 59% of U.S. point-of-sale locations will be chip-capable, says the Aite Group. Smaller retailers are less likely to be the first ones to upgrade their payment terminals.