If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I recently returned from a fabulous trip to the South of France. One of the best parts of staying in Nice is that the train runs along the coast, so it’s easy to visit the many beautiful villages on the Côte d’Azur. One of the worst parts is waiting in the long lines at the station’s ticket windows.
|It's easy to visit the villages near Nice.|
If you don’t have time to spare, there are machines that dispense tickets for the regional trains if you have a basket of change or a credit card. The problem for most Americans, though, is that they usually can’t come up with enough coins, and the machines won’t accept their credit card.
While the U.S. is known for advanced technology, we are way behind when it comes to credit cards. The chip and PIN cards, which are standard in Europe, are virtually unknown here. Chip and PIN is supposed to be more secure because like the name says, there is a small chip on the front, and users must often key in a security code to complete the purchase. Foreign merchants still do accept American cards, so don’t worry if you want to use yours overseas. However, be aware that standard cards aren’t accepted in certain cases, like at the ticket machine and at toll booths. You might also come across some people who don’t know how to process your card, as I did. Luckily, her boss was able to handle it because I would have been really disappointed if I had been unable to buy that cute top.
Knowing the difficulty I would face when paying at certain places in Europe, I was pretty excited when I heard that Bank of America introduced a card with chip technology this summer. I had to learn more. When I spoke to the sales rep, he told me that the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card offers some other nifty benefits. There is no foreign transaction fee and unlike British Air’s chip card, there is no annual fee. While the card doesn’t offer the PIN that European cards do, I decided to take my chances.
The third weekend of September is the weekend of patrimony in France, meaning that most of the cultural institutions offer free admission to encourage the French to discover their culture. You can also buy a Carte Isabelle train ticket valid for travel all day throughout the region for a mere 5€; it’s usually 14€. That Sunday, my friend and I had decided to take the train to St. Raphael, where we would take a ferry to St. Tropez. With the line for the ticket agents stretching out the door, I crossed my fingers and joined the line at the machine. When it was my turn, I punched in my request for two aller-retour tickets, inserted my credit card and held my breath. Accepted! I was ready to go. Unfortunately, the train wouldn’t leave for another hour, and we’d have to wait another hour for the ferry, but at least we spent that hour relaxing in a café rather than standing in line, so I was glad for my card.
This is not an endorsement of Bank of America, nor any of its credit cards, and I have received no compensation from any credit card company for this article.