for fellow travellers

Friday, October 16, 2009

Problems with Indian credit cards while traveling esp. in Paris.

Special chip missing in Indian credit cards

While boarding from Paris' Gare du nord we almost missed our Thalys train to Brussels because of our credit cards not being accepted by the ticketing machine. During international travel we usually ensure that we reach the airport or railway station well before time.

Gare du nord, Paris but this is a photo while arriving via the Eurostar from London

But somehow we got delayed the day we were leaving Paris and barely managed to reach the station about half an hour before the train was scheduled to leave. At the station in Paris one usually does not come to know the platform at which the train would be arriving till the very last. So the kids and all our luggage was near the ticketing windows and we had to walk a bit to reach our train and the reserved compartment. We had bought our tickets in India through the net and now we just had to retrieve our tickets from the machine. We tried to get our tickets from the machine without any luck and we panicked as there was very little time left and we were carrying loads of luggage.
Meanwhile Anupam, our friend had already joined a queue at the ticket window as he had lost his wallet with credit cards to a pickpocket in a parisian metro!! Yes a man had taken advantage of Anupam as he was traveling with family, a baby and a stroller and was a tourist - yes this also happens in Paris  and we thought that rogues were mainly confined to Italy!. The story goes like this  - As Anupam with family was entering the metro station his paris visite card got folded in his pocket and the machine would not accept it and would not allow him to enter.

This particular man helped Anupam with his card and the stroller and all. He walked with them till inside the train. Now most Paris metro trains open from one side only. At this particular station the doors on both the sides were open. At the last minute the man picked his pocket and ran out from the other side. Meanwhile Anupam came to know immediately he got his family out fast and followed the man. But he lost him in the crowd after a while. It was a planned and targeted pickpocketing.
Coming back to the original story, Anupam joined the queue immediately as we entered the station and so he got his tickets just in time. Meanwhile we tried at the machine and lost precious time. Then we joined a queue and were literally going berserk at the slow pace with which it was moving. It seemed that no one was in a hurry except for us. The clerk would exchange pleasantries with each person first. We were literally jumping up and down with frustration at the etiquettes which the parisians were observing and we were wishing that alas they would behave like Indians. (Do Indians need lessons in etiquettes?) There was no provision for providing tickets to people whose trains were leaving first. We would have stood on the station and watched our train going by.  But it was not to be so and we managed to get tickets in the nick of time. With our friends help we got our luggage and children near the train and literally threw our luggage in the train and got in.
We could not get our tickets from the machine because our cards, which rely on magnetic-stripe technology for transactions, lacked an embedded microprocessor chip, which stores and processes data and is now commonly used in Europe. Such chip-based cards — commonly referred to as chip-and-PIN cards because users punch in a personal identification number instead of signing for the purchase — offer an extra layer of protection against the theft of cardholder data and counterfeiting, and they are designed to replace magnetic stripe technology and signature payments.
The chip-and-PIN technology usually isn’t much of an issue when making purchases at a store, or paying for a meal in a restaurant, as most of those merchants still have credit card terminals that can read the magnetic stripes. Likewise, A.T.M.’s typically recognize and accept many cards whether they have a chip or a magnetic stripe. We could easily draw money from the ATM almost in all the cities we visited.
But Indian and American cardholders have had their cards rejected by automated ticket kiosks at train stations, gas pumps, parking garages and other places where there are no cashiers in Europe. Yes americans are in the same boat as us. It is also important in so much as we had no problems whatsoever in travelling across America in 2007, our credit cards worked everywhere.

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