I am of the opinion that cash is king when traveling abroad. Not every restaurant, shop, or gas station takes credit card so having cash is of utmost importance to me. I recently rented a car in Italy, my first time renting in Europe. I’ve always found that it was too much of a hassle, plus European public transit is often very reliable and connected.

Renting the car presented a whole host of new scenarios. One of which being the need to fill the car up with fuel.

Sounds like a pretty basic problem or not a problem at all, right?

Well, if you aren’t experienced with buying fuel in Europe, it can be tricky and confusing. One of the issues I found was selecting the right type of fuel. On my dashboard, the rental agency printed “Diesel/Gazole”.

Perfect, the work is done for me.

Think again! I get to the pump and I am presented with three options: SenzaPB, Diesel+, and Gasolio. I went with Gasolio because it was the closest to Gazole. After filling up I thought to myself, “Oh S***, maybe it was supposed to be Diesel+?”. Granted, this was late at night and no attendant was nearby.

Immediate panic set in. I thought I had just filled my Diesel vehicle up to the brim with the wrong type of fuel.

After confirming with people in the know, Gasolio means diesel so I was good to go.

Now about credit cards

Each time I went to use a credit card at a gas station that was unstaffed, meaning no attendant or cashier present, the card got declined unless it was a Chip & PIN card — a card that you actually had to enter a PIN for.

The only card I had with me that was a Chip & PIN card was my Diner’s Club corporate card. I tried my AMEX Platinum, nothing; Barclay’s Arrival Plus, nothing; Citi AAdvantage Business, nothing.

Then one day I went to a gas station that had an attendant present. I tried my Arrival Plus card and it worked!

After doing a bit more research, I realized this is all purposeful:

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Again, this was my first time paying for gas in Europe so for me it was all a new experience. With that said, I know every country is different so I’m curious to know if you’ve had an experience like this?

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Goooo
Guest
Goooo

Gasoline is for trucks. Diesel would have been the right thing. I’m wondering how you can make it public that you were unable to deal with the most basic things, at the same time you try to run a useful blog.

A123
Guest
A123

This obsession in the EU and UK with “petrol”, “gas”, and “diesel”. No one cares. Gas is a generic term used mainly by Americans to refer to fuel for their vehicle. If you have nothing better to do but troll on someone because they are “unable to deal with the most basic things” then I suggest you keep your comments to yourself. I will always use “gas” when referring to fuel for my vehicle. Have a nice day.

Hari
Guest

From what I was able to find from BarclayCard, after setting a PIN on the website all you *should* have to do is make a transaction at a manned terminal and then it should work at unmanned C&P locations: https://www.barclaycardus.com/servicing/chipcard?legacy=true

Chris
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Chris

This is correct. When I got the Barclaycard Aviator Red MasterCard I set a PIN with the thought, “This may come in useful in Europe.” A few months ago I was filling up at an unmanned gas station in Dublin; I tried my Citi ThankYou Premier card first and it didn’t work. My Aviator Red card worked perfectly.

Jon
Guest
Jon

So, based on my vast scientific background 😉 I will guess that Senza PB means without PB (unleaded). Is diesel+ some sort of bio-blend?

DaninMCI
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DaninMCI

A good chip & pin card like the Barclay cards can really help in Europe. One problem I’ve run into in Italy is the days where the stations are closed or for siesta in the afternoon. It can also be confusing in Europe, Israel, etc. when the gasoline pump handles can be green when in the USA most green handle pumps are diesel. I find Italy the easiest next to Ireland overall on gas stations but Italy actually has more weird stuff at the stations or pumps.

Richard Andriano
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Richard Andriano

I generally use cash to pay for gas when in Italy, much less of a hassle. By the way, if you have an account at Fidelity, make sure to get a debit card along with your account. Very competitive exchange rates and zero fees. Limit is 500 EUR per day.

askmrlee
Guest

Was a PIN set on the Barclay’s card? They claim that it should act as a Chip and PIN when necessary, although the card is programmed to act as Chip and Signature first.

Marcus
Guest
Marcus

I feel a little better now as I had the same issues with gas and cards recently in Belgium and the Netherlands. My US issued debit cards were only good at ATMs and most other times it was a roll of the dice whether my AMEX or capital one cards would work, especially when paying for automated parking.

Franklin
Guest
Franklin

I appreciate hearing about your experience with buying fuel for your rental car with the credit card. I would never rent a car in Europe but it is easier to learn from someone else’s experience rather than making the mistakes myself. Along the same lines….when I wanted to buy bottled water in Prague, Vienna and Budapest…I just wanted non-carbonated or still water. But what is labeled in one country changes to the next because of the language and I did end up buying the carbonated water once even though I read the bottles to try and figure it out what… Read more »

gizmosdad
Guest
gizmosdad

I had the same problem a few years ago and I did some research, and I found two banks that have true chip-n-pin cards (no signature required, works in Europe.) One is from First Tech Federal Credit Union (https://www.firsttechfed.com/) and the other is from the State Department Fed Credit Union (https://www.sdfcu.org/)

I’ve used both cards in a variety of places across Europe, and they both worked just fine – I’ve never had a problem with them,

Xlf42
Guest

Just imagine a European (with his Mastercard/Visa) trying to pump gas at a US station and his ZIP code not working (which is the usual case even after decades). *ALWAYS* seeing the attendant, prepaying, making sure to get the receipt afterwards (some chains still think it is ok to make foreigners overpay by keeping the “change”), being limited to staffed stations… Really annoying.
If the world fails, it is because, payment system providers cannot agree on common terms.

C D
Guest
C D

Unleaded gas is also usually going to have an octane rating next to it in the 90s in Europe, 95-98 or above. Diesel has a cetane number, 40 or so. The smell and appearance of gunk on the nozzle is quite different too, take a look at the diesel pump next time you fill up.

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

I travel Europe for work on a regular basis by car. I can say this is the standard in all countries. Usually you fill up and go inside to pay with non chip+pin cards. Outside always takes chip+pin.

Dr. V
Guest
Dr. V

I rented in Ireland last year (super expensive) but they always had attendants inside. I tried to stick to major gas chains which made it easier plus you have to pay your toll at stations which means you always have to go inside. Still was a bit confusing making sure i got the right type and I’m a Jersey Girl so had to pump my own gas (I’ve lived many places so not a new concept ) Which chip and pin card would be best for an infrequent EU traveler?