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An American Abroad – My EMV Experience

Before I moved to the States back in the early aughts, I lived in the UK where I was the proud owner and user of an EMV card. I haven’t used one since my migration.

As part of the travel policy at my company (ACI), those who travel abroad to EMV regions are encouraged to get EMV corporate cards from our issuer.  With a trip to the UK pending, I received mine a couple of months back.  On the flight to the homeland, I thought about how great it would be to write a blog post about my “cashless” trip, a great advert for international payments!

I landed at Heathrow and set off for the taxi rank.  I got into a black cab and asked about the fare to Watford (our UK HQ).  “Ninety pounds, mate. Fixed price.” Now, I am not from the South of England and don’t know the distance, but this seemed outrageous to me. “No thanks” I said, approaching the next taxi, and another outrageous fare. I then noticed a sign in the cab that read “no cards or cheques, cash only”.  I had no cash and was abruptly met with an “We don’t do cards.”

My quest for going cashless wasn’t starting well.  I went to the ATM and withdrew some pounds from my checking account. I then headed for the train into London en route to Watford.  I tried to pay with my card, but incorrectly typed in the PIN (that I was sent a mere 6 weeks back).  2nd! This was followed by a message noting that I had one attempt left.
I paid in cash.

I got to the hotel and called our friendly issuer and described my predicament. “No problem, go to any ATM with our network logo” and it will ask you for a PIN and just key in what you want.  I have reset the PIN and you just need to go to the ATM. Then try a balance inquiry to ensure it works.”

So off I went and... success! I was now able to live out my cashless utopia with my EMV card and a password I could remember.  Having previously written about both EMV and the future of payments, I wondered if others would have similar predicaments,  if more consumer education was needed for EMV, if EMV would be bypassed in favor of mobile by the millennials, if EMV would be too daunting for seniors. My quest for a cashless experience led me to more questions than answers.

My colleague Dan Heimann (Mr EMV at ACI) will no doubt chuckle when he hears about my experience.  Listen to Dan and Zil Bareisis from Celent talk about effective strategies for the migration to EMV.  Request the replay at And, if you are traveling abroad, please remember your PIN! 

An American Abroad – My EMV Experience by Paul McMeekin