Chip-and-PIN cards from US banks. Also, inspect your purchases.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the July 2011 issue.
The vertically challenged Leaning Tower — Pisa, Italy.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 425th issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine.

If this is the first copy of ITN you’ve seen, all you need to know is that the bulk of the articles and letters you’ll read are written by subscribers to the magazine, travelers like you.

If you’re already a subscriber, then you know that, in addition to reading about interesting destinations, a terrific tour guide or two and maybe what a traveler learned the hard way, there’s something more that you get from ITN.

Simply by writing in about their travel experiences, people can’t help but express how they were affected by them or what they felt, particularly when surprised at some amazing creation, whether manmade or of the Earth.

Of course, anyone writing in is encouraged to include practical elements too — prices, contact information, travel tips, etc. — to help others follow in their footsteps, but just taking the time to describe something that moved them shows that they want that spark, that knowledge, to be experienced by others.

From the silly to the intense, ITN shares what subscribers feel other travelers may benefit from knowing about.

A quick question for you from ITN’s publisher — in the year 2010, did you travel to any of the following countries: Guyana, Suriname, St. Vincent, Macedonia (FYR), Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo DR, Congo R., Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia or Sudan?

If you set foot in any of those places last year, shoot an e-mail to and tell him so. If we get a good response, everyone benefits.

In April, two banks in the US announced that they were running limited trials with credit cards that use the chip-and-PIN (or EMV) security verification system, which is used in most other countries.

Wells Fargo Bank sent a Visa Smart Card to a selected 15,000 customers who frequently travel overseas. The trial is not open to the general public, and the bank has not committed to making the cards available to all of their cardholders yet.

However, Chase Bank is trying out a chip-and-PIN version of the JPMorgan Palladium Visa card, and any customer who can qualify for that level of card (and who wishes to pay the annual fee of $595) may apply. Chase stated that it plans to release other chip-and-PIN cards over the next year or so.

Even in countries outside the US, any vendor with a contract to accept a major credit card is instructed to accept valid magnetic-strip cards for payment. However, many payment points not manned by humans (self-serve gas stations, train ticket kiosks, etc.) are not set up, or required, to accept those cards.

From a US-based bank or credit union, you may have a credit card with a chip in it that allows you to make a purchase simply by waving it over a card reader. That’s not a chip-and-PIN card; it’s a card with an RFID chip, or “blink,” and the chip is incompatible with EMV card readers.

By the way, the acronym “EMV” comes from the initials of the companies Europay, MasterCard and Visa, which developed the technology in order to more effectively thwart credit card fraud.

Always ahead of the crowd — along with a few other large retailers, Walmart announced that it will begin adapting its checkout counters in the US to also accept chip-and-PIN cards.

In the March issue I reported that, on April 29, restrictions on carrying liquids aboard planes headed into or out of European Union nations would be eased somewhat. Liquids in containers that could hold more than 100 milliliters (3.38 ounces) would be allowed on board so long as each was in the proper bag with an approved seal and there was proof of purchase within the preceding 36 hours at a shop within the secure area of an airport or on board an aircraft.

Well, after 10 of the 27 EU countries refused to change their policies, the EU decided to postpone and reconsider making that change.

Several countries indicated they would not have the required scanning equipment in place in time and claimed that checking each container for the proper seal and sales receipt would result in excessively long lines.

In most countries (including the US), you’ll still be able to take onto a plane a bottle of wine or whatever purchased at a duty-free shop within the secure area of an airport. It’s just that if you have to board a plane again with your carry-on before reaching your destination, that bottle will need to go in with the checked luggage — or you could just finish it off before going through security.

While on a cruise in September ’10 that stopped in Brest, France, Laurel Freid of McAllen, Texas, took a tour to Locronan. “It’s a beautiful village,” she wrote.

In a shop, a cap caught her eye that had the word “France,” in script, embroidered on it. “It was like none I had seen before because the wording was on the side of the cap instead of on the front,” she told ITN.

She took the cap to the register and looked at other things in the store while the clerk rang up and bagged her purchase.

Back on the ship, she discovered that a different cap, one saying “Aust Billabong,” had been placed in her bag instead.

Her receipt didn’t show the address of the shop, so Laurel e-mailed the Locronan tourism office as well as Atout France, the French national tourism office in New York. Atout France didn’t reply to her, but a representative of the Locronan office contacted the shop and wrote back to Laurel, saying, “The salesman feels in no way the cause. On the other hand, he suggests you return the cap and he will send you a cap with the Breton logo.”

Laurel wanted only the cap she had intended to purchase, but it was no longer available.

She wrote to ITN to pass along this simple advice for readers: never leave a shop overseas without first checking the purchases in your bag.

Skip Siegel of West Bloomfield, Michigan, wrote, regarding a May ’11 feature article, “My wife and I were on the very same Dnieper River cruise that Lynn Remly was on, the same sailing, and her report about the ship and Ukraine was 100% accurate. My compliments to her. ITN readers can be happy to know how right this report was.”

The “Where in the World?” page is a popular feature in this magazine and on our website — a fun challenge and a chance to win a year’s subscription.

A request — look through the photos you took during recent trips and pick out a few that we may print on that page. Rather than statues, look for one-of-a-kind buildings or natural landmarks. Or an extreme closeup of a portion of a well-known structure or feature (“David’s” eyeball, for instance).

Noting precisely where the picture was taken and what is depicted plus approximately when you were there, send it all to Where in the World?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail (If you want the photos returned, please specify.)

Kathryn Hutton of Santa Fe, New Mexico, e-mailed, “I very much like ITN because it feels so very authentic and has such offbeat articles and information. Also, the fact that so many people share their real experiences, needs, likes and dislikes makes it, every month, a very readable and fun experience.”

Carol Bonomo of San Marcos, California, wrote, “When I can wrestle my husband’s copy from him, I enjoy reading ITN and the readers’ submissions. He saves every copy. I didn’t realize I had a problem until I opened one of the drawers of our Korean tansu looking for incense and discovered that every drawer was packed with ITNs.”

Lynne Young of Sacramento, California, simply wrote, “I love your magazine. It’s the best. Keep up the good work.”

Just back from a trip outside of the US? Send in a report. As you can see, it will be appreciated.