Using your Bank Cards in the UK
CHIP and PIN
Most UK credit/debit cards use the CHIP and PIN security system. This means that cards without both a CHIP and a PIN could be rejected at many stores and some cash points!
The CHIP is a bit of electronics inside the card. If your card has the CHIP, there would normally be electrical contacts visible on the front of the card. These should be in the same place as those on the left of the picture above.
The PIN is the secret number you type into the machine when using your card. Many UK card reading machines (including cashpoints) will expect a 4 digit PIN. Pins that contain letters, more than 4 digits or less than 4 digits may cause problems. If you have any doubts, check with your card issuer prior to your visit.
If you have any concerns regarding use of your card in the UK, it may be worth contacting your card issuer prior to your visit.
Some specialist cards e.g. commercial petrol/diesel cards still use a signature/registration check but CHIP and PIN is the normal security check.
Wireless and Mobile Phone Payment
Most payment cards in the UK have a contactless payment system. If a special card, (recognisable by the circular arcs symbol on right of picture above,) is placed very close to a wireless card reader, small purchases can be made without entering your PIN number. A similar system also exists for paying for small purchases via a mobile phone bill. The contactless card payment system in the UK often has a £100 per transaction limit. (£100 may not apply to all accounts - especially those based outside of the UK.) Larger purchases will require your PIN number.
ATMs and Cash Points
The machine that dispenses cash when you insert your bank card is called a cash-point or cash-dispenser by many UK residents and we may not understand the American translation ATM. Most of our banks and the larger supermarkets have Cash Points. These are usually located on an outside wall of the premises. If the cashpoint appears to be "locked" inside a separate room within a bank, it may be possible to unlock the door to a dedicated cashpoint room with your cashpoint card. Expect to see a list of acceptable card types (Mastercard, Visa etc.) either close to the cashpoint or displayed on the cashpoint screen. Be aware that many cashpoints can only operate in Welsh (Cymraig) or English. Non-Welsh speakers may experience difficulty if they select the wrong language. If a machine is totally unable to recognise your card, it is likely to return it. If the machine detects something suspicious about your card (e.g. Card reported stolen) it could retain it.
Some UK cashpoints charge for withdrawing cash (in addition to any currency conversion fees,) however, it is usually possible to find an alternative machine.
Although Pembrokeshire is a very safe place, it is prudent to take certain precautions when using your card. Most people are honest but there are exceptions. You may have had a list of suggestions when your card was issued including some of these...
- When using the card, take a few seconds to double check the amount before entering your PIN.
- When using cashpoints, place your wallet/purse over your hand when you type in the PIN - this makes it harder for hidden cameras/observers to see your PIN being entered.
- Look at a cashpoint or card reader before use - if anything looks odd or something is attached then go somewhere else
- Never allow a shop assistant to hold your card - be very suspicious if the card is ever removed from your sight for any reason - even if only for a few seconds
- If there is a problem with your card, read the slip and check what went wrong. This avoids accidentally making two payments.
- This site does not claim any financial expertise and it cannot provide any financial recommendations or suggestions. If you want any money advice, you should consider getting help from a more appropriate source.