Why You Need a Chip-and-PIN Credit Card to Get Gas in Iceland

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During my recent trip to Iceland, there were a couple of times I was glad to have a credit card that had chip-and-PIN capability.  Especially at gas stations!

Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

Don’t Get Stuck Without a Chip-and-PIN Capable Card at Unattended Gas Stations!

I’ll share my experience about which cards I used in Iceland.  And helpful tips so you don’t get stuck without gas!

A Trip to the Land of Fire and Ice Index:

Some Gas Stations Require a Chip-and-PIN Capable Card

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase British Airways Visa

There were a couple of times while in Iceland that I was glad I had a chip-and-signature credit card that was able to default to Chip-and-PIN!

Cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival PlusChase Sapphire Preferred, and British Airways Visa are Chip-and-Signature.  But I was able to use my Arrival Plus at unattended kiosks because it defaulted to being a chip-and-PIN card when that was the only option.

Note:  The only true Chip-and-PIN cards available in the US are listed here and none are the travel rewards cards we usually use.

So, US Chip-and-PIN cards are really Chip-and-Signature cards that can handle PIN-based transactions.  This means if your transaction can be completed with a signature, it will go through as a chip-and-signature purchase.

But if you can NOT sign for a transaction (like at an unattended gas station in rural Iceland!) the transaction will process as a Chip-and-PIN purchase.

Not all cards, with a chip, issued by American banks are Chip-and-PIN compliant.  Most are Chip-and-Signature cards.

Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

Iceland Is Gorgeous! Make Sure You Have Enough Gas to Explore It All

In Iceland, some gas stations in rural areas are completely unattended.  And others are left alone after closing hours.  You can still get gas, but NOT if you have the wrong card.

If you don’t have a Chip-and-PIN card (or a Chip-and-Signature card which will default to a Chip-and-PIN mode if you can’t sign for the transaction) or a prepaid debit card, you will NOT be able to get gas.

The Best Cards to Use


I used my Barclaycard Arrival Plus many times during the trip.  It was the best card because it worked every time.  What a lifesaver!

And it earns 2X Barclays Arrival miles on every purchase.  It also has NO foreign transaction fees, which makes it a great card to travel with overseas.

American Express

NONE of my AMEX cards worked at the gas stations in Iceland because they only have chip-and-signature technology.  So they can’t handle transactions that require a PIN.


Something funny happened.  I found I could use my Chase Sapphire Preferred with ANY random 4-digit combination!  But I would not recommend that folks rely on this.

There are reports that the Chase British Airways Visa now comes with chip-and-PIN technology.  You may have to request a new card if you’ve had it for a while, and Chase will send you 1 with a chip.

Again, these cards are primarily Chip-and-Signature.  But in my experience in Iceland, I found that the Arrival Plus and Chase Sapphire Preferred both defaulted to Chip-and-PIN when necessary.

How to Set a PIN Online for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus

To set a PIN on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, call the number on the back of your card.  Or you can set it on the online banking website.

After you log-in, click on “Account settings.”

Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

You Can Set a PIN on Your Barclaycard Arrival Plus in the “Account Settings” Section

Scroll down almost to the bottom of the page.  Look for a section that says “Manage your PIN.”

Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

Click “Change Your PIN” and Set It to a New Number

Then click “Change your PIN” to set a new number.

Buy Prepaid Gas Cards Instead

If you don’t have a Chip-and-PIN card but need to buy gas, there’s a way around it.

You can buy prepaid gas cards during business hours and use them when you’re in other parts of the country.

Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

Iceland Has Mountains in the Distance, but Maybe Not a Gas Station. Fill Up When You Pass 1!

The biggest gas station chains in Iceland are N1 and Olis.  So if you buy a gas card to either, top off your tank whenever you pass a pump.  Especially if you are planning to drive to rural areas.

Other Places You’ll Need a Chip-and-PIN Card

These tips don’t apply to just Iceland.  There are many parts of the world where you’ll need a chip-and-PIN credit card to purchase gas.

You might also need a Chip-and-PIN card at:

  • Train ticket machines
  • Subway stations
  • Toll roads
  • Parking garages
  • Luggage lockers
  • Bike rental stations
  • Smaller merchants or independent shops
Why You Need A Chip And PIN Credit Card To Get Gas In Iceland

Besides Rural Icelandic Gas Stations, Lots of Other Places Will Require Chip-and-PIN Cards

For example, if you want to take the train into Paris from the airport, you’ll need a chip-and-PIN card.  The same is true for buying metro tickets in other European cities.

Of course you can always pay cash in those situations.

But if you have a Chip-and-PIN card, you won’t have to carry cash.  And you can earn miles and points!

Bottom Line

I’m glad I had a chip-and-PIN capable card with me on my trip to Iceland!

Cards such as Barclaycard Arrival Plus are actually chip-and-signature.  But they’ll automatically switch to chip-and-PIN at machines without human attendants, such as at unattended gas pumps in Iceland!

There are other places that will only accept chip-and-PIN cards, like train ticket machines and toll booths.

One trick is to buy prepaid gas cards and fill up your tank whenever you pass a gas station that will accept it.

But I prefer using my card to earn extra miles and points when I travel abroad.

Have you been in a situation where you had to use a chip-and-PIN capable card?

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9 responses to “Why You Need a Chip-and-PIN Credit Card to Get Gas in Iceland

  1. The link to the cards that are chip & pin leads to an article that is two years old. Is the list still the same? No additions?

  2. Aren’t the new Barclay Aviator Red/Silver cards chip/pin enabled also?

  3. I am leaving for Iceland in a couple of weeks so this post is timely.

    Can you clarify if we need to have a PIN established for the “chip & pin” CC we plan to use? I would need to reset the PINs because I don’t remember the code.

  4. United Nations FCU should be on everyone’s list if they plan on doing any international travel. It’s a shame that most people don’t know the difference between Chip + PIN and Chip + Signature. While many Chip + Signature cards will work most of the time, they won’t always work.

  5. The updated AMEX SPG cards are chip and pin. They’ve also removed foreign transaction fees, not sure if you’ve covered that in a post lately.

  6. @TH Photo

    The Amex cards are Chip + Signature, not PIN.

  7. @Antonio: Yes, Aviator is chip-and-sig with chip-and-pin capability. I used my Aviator Red extensively in Iceland last month and made sure I had set up the PIN before I traveled, using the procedure on the Barclaycard web site described above. Most stores asked for a signature, but gas pumps asked for the PIN.

    Iceland is the only country I have visited where I have not needed to acquire any local currency: everybody uses cards for everything, even the smallest purchases. I saw a few elderly-looking ATMs and kept thinking I would eventually need to visit one, but no.

  8. Having also driven around Iceland this summer, I can say that the problem of buying gas is VERY minor. More a quirk than anything. MOST stations just let you pay inside. A had one make me buy a gas card inside that I then used at the pump. I did wind up at one station that was unattended; I could have gone elsewhere, but decided to try my Suntrust debit card. It worked fine.

    Even if you drive around the Ring Road, there are many gas stations. You would basically have to be an idiot to run out of gas. If you want to be extra safe, buy gas every time you have half a tank or less and see a station. It’s an idiot-proof approach.

  9. We like to use our capital one credit card since there are no foreign transaction fees. We ended up buying gas card at the regular gas station. When we picked up the Rent-A-Car they did not warn us about this. Is there a foreign transaction fee on that card you use?