I’ve read over and over about how it’s necessary to use a card with chip and PIN capability when using automated ticket machines in Europe. It was for that reason alone that I selected the Barclays Arrival+ as the card I would take with me if I could only bring one card with me when traveling internationally. My evidence for that decision was totally anecdotal, as I’d only heard that it was necessary to use a card with a pin for purchases from automated ticket machines.
We just spent a week in Austria and Germany and had to use several automated ticket machines on the trains. Here’s what I discovered when using a chip + PIN card, a chip + signature card and Apple Pay.
The first time I walked up to a machine, I was ready. I brought my chip + PIN card. When asked for payment, I inserted the card and the machine did exactly what I expected, I was asked to type in my PIN. After doing so, our tickets were dispensed. Easy peasy.
Using the Arrival+ card, I earned 2x points for the purchase, which I can use to offset any travel expenses.
However, when purchasing the ticket, I noticed that the screen said that the machine also accepts Apple Pay (and Android Pay). Instead of earning 2x Arrival points, I could be earning 3x Ultimate Rewards by using my Sapphire Reserve.
The next time we needed tickets, I tried to use my phone to pay for the purchase. It took a few tries, but I finally managed to get it to work.
3x Ultimate Rewards is better than 2x cashback. But what if I didn’t have a mobile payment device or a chip + pin card? Could I still buy a ticket from the machine? Might as well find out.
I attempted to buy tickets from the machine with my Citi Premier card. It would earn 3x ThankYou points for travel-related purchases, which subway/train tickets should qualify. I inserted the card when asked and after a few seconds, approved. No pin necessary.
Up until now, I had heard that the only way to pay for tickets from an automated machine was to have a card that is chip + PIN enabled. After using the machines, I can say that the newer ones accept contactless payments like Apple Pay or Android Pay. I was also able to use a card without a PIN and didn’t have a problem.
I was traveling in larger cities (Salzburg, Munich, Frankfurt), so I’m not as sure if this will work if you’re going to some smaller towns. I’m betting that most of the people reading this are also going to be visiting the major tourist sites. If that’s the case, you should be fine. If you’re renting a car and need to buy gas or taking a train to some smaller towns, having at least one chip + PIN card with you is still worthwhile. It’s just not the only way you’ll be able to make payments at most locations.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary