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I own a MasterCard credit card. It has a 3-digit CVV code written on it, and I've always used it to make purchases.

Now I'm in Ireland and everyone here wants me to insert a 4-digit code. The problem is that I don't have such code, and looking on the web no MasterCard credit card has it. If I try to enter 3 digits and then hit "OK", nothing happens.

Another strange thing is that nobody wants me to swipe the card. They just want to use the chip.

Why and what can I do?

  • 4
    mastercard.com/ie/consumer/chip-and-pin-faq.html may be worth reading as this would be MasterCard's Irish site's FAQ on Chip and PIN. – JB King Jan 28 '16 at 22:04
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    The 3-digit CVV code is used solely for online purchases, never for purchases at the point of sale. – jcaron Jan 28 '16 at 22:51
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    It must be hard using it at an ATM without a PIN. NB. longer PINS are sometimes truncated to the first 4 digits by european ATMs. Swiped cards are too easy to skim and copy so chips/pin are mandatory now in many situations. Small purchases can be tapped. – mckenzm Jan 29 '16 at 2:31
  • @jcaron: I've always used the CVV in the States – PicPuc Jan 30 '16 at 12:34
  • @PicPuc, for online purchases, yes. But certainly never at a point of sale or at an ATM. Unless for some reason you chose the CVV as your PIN, but as far as I know that would not be possible as the PIN is at least 4 digits (in most cases exactly 4 digits, but some go up to 6, possibly more). And it would be a security issue, and would make you liable for fraudulent purchases, as you are not supposed to store your PIN with your card. – jcaron Jan 30 '16 at 13:19
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Short answer: call your bank and set up a pin.

Long answer: Europe uses the chip-and-pin system. It is kind of like the new chip-based USA debit card system. In order to use European point-of-sale systems, you need to have a chip-and-pin enabled credit card, and you need to set up a pin with your card-issuing bank (just like you set up a pin with your checking account debit card).

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    As I understand it, chip-and-pin is "kind of like" the USA's chip-and-signature in that they both involve a chip. But they're not interchangeable. If you have a chip-and-signature card, you can't just call the bank and set up a pin on it - you would need a new chip-and-pin card, and most US card issuers don't issue them at all. – Nate Eldredge Jan 29 '16 at 1:39
  • @NateEldredge I've used my chip-and-signature US card with a PIN in Europe... – Peter K. Jan 30 '16 at 1:22
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Payment cards with chips (officially called "EMV cards") can have several different verification methods, including signature and PIN, with a preference order, which is dictated by the issuer.

In your case, there are two possible scenarios:

  • The card says it prefers to use a signature, but can fallback to a PIN ("signature-preferring card")

    This means that you actually have a PIN (even though you may never have used it, or even received it). Ask your card issuer for the PIN. Note that if you have used/can use that card in an ATM, that's the same PIN you would use there.

    Note however than your PIN is not the CVV, which is used only for online purchases. The PIN is definitely not written anywhere on the card. You would usually have received it as special letter with lots of security features preventing people from reading it without you knowing about it.

    Also note that a card with a chip will usually get blocked after 3 consecutive incorrect attempts (with consecutive here meaning without a successful one in between — they may be hours or days apart and still count as consecutive).

  • The card says it can only use a signature ("signature-only")

In both cases, you should be able to use the card at regular ("manned") points of sale. The system should not ask for the PIN at all, and instead inform the teller that "a signature is required", however some POS systems may not handle this very gracefully. You can also try to have them swipe the card instead of inserting it into the reader. Note that in most cases, you will be requested to present a proof of ID.

Signature-only cards will usually not work in automated POS systems (ticketing machines) in countries where chip-and-pin is prevalent (i.e. many European countries). Signature-preferring cards should, but they will usually want the PIN.

Note that there are the actual situation is a combination of the preferences/settings/capabilities of the card issuer, the card issuer country, the merchant system, the merchant contract, the merchant country, so YMMV.

More information on Wikipedia: EMV — Chip and PIN vs. chip and signature

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    I think you're missing the point that he's trying to enter his CVV code into the Chip & Pin terminal. Which won't work regardless of what type of card it is. – Vicky Jan 29 '16 at 20:08
  • Indeed. Had pointed that out in comments below the OP's question. Have updated answer to make that it clear that PIN and CVV are distinct. – jcaron Jan 30 '16 at 0:16

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