Since borrowing a London-based friend's credit card in order to use the communal bike system in Paris a couple summers back, I've been curious about less-complicated solutions to the lack of "chip and PIN" credit card technology available in the States. Designed specifically for traveling Yankees, I recently started using the Cash Passport that Travelex launched late last year. The smart card not only gives users access to chip-enabled services (using it currently in the U.K. made buying Heathrow Express and tube tickets a cinch), but generally eases the woes of carrying personal credit cards.
Pre-paid with Euros or British Pounds, you don't have to worry about daily exchange-rate fluctuations, incompatible ATMs and the threat of identity theft—unlike normal plastic, the Passport isn't loaded with any personal information. (One of the biggest implications of these types of cards is cutting down on fraud globally.)
All this safety does have a downside. Travelex's advanced security checks makes refilling online more difficult than it should be. Though their free emergency assistance is available 24/7, it's the kind of process you'll only want to go through if your card is lost or stolen. Load enough money to last the duration of your trip to avoid any hiccups or time-wasting phone calls.
On the upside, consider that Travelex doesn't charge for balance inquires, ATM withdrawals or for receiving cash back from in-store purchases. When you get home, simply unload remaining balances—you can even transfer what's left directly to your personal bank account or get a personal check. To learn more about how to feel like a savvy traveler rather than a stupid American, head to Travelex online.