Swipe or pin code?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by chipulukusu, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Hello, I ask for help on a topic I didn't seem to find in the forum.

    In England, when I try to pay with my Italian credit cards, I am rarely prompted with a pin code request, so I have to pay in the traditional way, signing a receipt. This is not a problem in most cases, but in some places, like at DVLA (road tax office) or other similar offices I usually ask in advance (and I understandably receive a no as an answer, usually:().

    The question is: Is it ok if I ask "Can I swipe" meaning "can I pay with the traditional method of signing a receipt instead of using a pin code"?

    I usually ask that and the idea seems to get through somehow, but I don't know if it is because the sentence is correct or because of the accompaining gestures I clumsily produce (for which, though, we Italians shoud be very skilled:D)

    Can you please help me solve this little dilemma?:)

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Swipe is transitive and although an object can be implied, I would say "Can I swipe my card?" or "Can I swipe my card instead?" or "Can I swipe my card instead of using the PIN?" depending on the circumstances.
  3. Arkalai

    Arkalai Senior Member

    London, England
    English- British
    [ I assume Italian credit cards don't allow you to do the "new" way of entering a PIN? It's so much easier... ]

    I would be explicit about what you're meaning to do. "To swipe one's card" has an obvious meaning.

    My card doesn't have a PIN. Can I swipe my card?
  4. Thank you Paul and Arkalai, at least I'm reassured that swipe is the right word for indicating the old way.

    when I was handed my new credit card in January it was boosted as a "new one" with a PIN, but I still have to find a place in Italy where I can pay like this, apart from few automatic machines.
    When I asked that two years ago at my bank they didn't even know what I was talking about...
    We are a little behind in this field, I'm afraid.

    By the way, last month I was at a supermarket here in Italy and there was a "new" POS machine where you can sign on a display like you do with some courier deliveries... I wanted to laugh...
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  5. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I would have thought it might be more straightforward to say, 'Can I sign rather than key in the PIN?' I think it's possible to insert the card into the slot (as opposed to swiping) and still sign. The person on the other side should understand what they need to do. (I have been in similar situations in the UK.)
  6. You are right natkretep, I don't really swipe in this cases (swiping machines must be disappearing quickly, in fact) . This is why I was not sure swipe was the right word, but it seems that swipe can still identify the old act of signing a receipt.

    By the way, another odd feeling I have at cash points is when I try to hand the card at the cashier (like I do in Italy) and they kindly point me at the POS machine with a dismissive hint...:). But this is also slowly changing in Italy...
  7. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    I think you must be using "swipe" differently than I do. "Swipe" means to slide the card through the card reader. It has nothing to do with signing the receipt. Of course, some places expect you to swipe the card yourself and others expect you to hand it to the cashier to swipe.

    How do you use a credit card without swiping it? Some cards have a chip so you only have to tap, not swipe, the card, but yothe process is the same. After you swipe the card, you can choose credit and they will give you a receipt to sign (or you sign on the machine), or you choose debit and put in your PIN. For very small purchases, they might not ask for either.
  8. Hi Sparky this is exactly what I was asking, if, now that swiping machines are disappearing with the widespread diffusion of chipped card, the verb to swipe a card can be a substitute for the old action of swiping the card, waiting for the printout of a receipt and signing the copy for the shopkeeper (even if you don't actually swipe anything, most of the times, you just insert the card). I thought that Paul and Arkalai substantially agree with this use of the word, but I may be wrong.

    I am not talking here about cards which are both credit and debit cards. In the UK every shop I've been in is able to accept credit cards that works POS transactions through a PIN code verification, with no need of any signature for any (reasonable) amount. This is not true in Italy where the PIN number of a credit card can still almost exclusively be used for withdrawing cash at the ATM's (I don't know if things are changing rapidly as now).

    Anyway, I wanted to say that when you buy things with a credit card with a PIN number it still works as a credit card, not as a debit card.
  9. Mahantongo

    Mahantongo Senior Member

    English (U.S.)
    For what it's worth, American credit cards also do not use PINs, and when one uses a credit card in the US, one almost invariably signs something (a paper receipt, an electronic screen, etc.) Thus, the question would not arise in US Eglish, because our credit cards work the same way Italian ones seem to...:)
  10. Thank you Mahantongo, this solves the mistery... and electronic screens are making a timid appearance in Italy too, as I said in post #4:)
  11. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    It seems helpful to suggest there are two ways a card can interact with a device:

    1) with a chip-reader where the card is inserted far enough for the machine to make contact with the chip's connectors. I don't know what the action of inserting such a card is called, but perhaps it's not swipe? (I have a US card that does not have such a chip and discovered it would not work in Scotland or Japan in establishments that only had devices for chips - forunately we did find a gas/petrol station in Japan that had an older machine just before we ran out - of course the card would not work in a machine to get cash from either :( ).

    2) the old-fashioned, pre-chip, way where the card is run through a device that can read the data on the magnetic strip (my cards are like that) and the action of doing so is called swiping, due to the arm action needed.

    In the US, for purchases, use of a credit card requires a signature (on an electronic pad or receipt) while a debit card needs a PIN. For withdrawing cash from a machine, both types of card require a PIN. In all cases, the card is "swiped" using a magnetic strip reader. (A few cards can be waved in front of a "wireless reader" but I have no experience with those!)
  12. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I agree with natkretep's advice. What you're asking to do, chipulukusu, is sign. So why not say "sign"?

    Since most modern devices don't involve swiping (at least in the UK, which is what concerns you), "swipe" is at best a misnomer. But soon there'll be a whole generation of young shop assistants, bar-staff and cashiers who never knew swiping of credit/debit cards, so the word might get you some odd looks.
    That may be so in the US, Sparky, but it's not universal. In every European country I know, credit cards and debit cards are separate animals. A debit card is linked to a bank account, and pretty much anyone can get one because generally they work only if there's enough money in your account. A credit card isn't directly linked to a bank account, and is issued only if you have a satisfactory credit rating. A lot of people have both, but they're separate cards. (France is the exception: they don't have credit cards as we know them, only debit cards.)

    As for << How do you use a credit card without swiping it? >>, well, I haven't swiped a card for years (see Julian's point 1).

  13. Thank you for all your advice. I get the point, "swipe" is not, and less will be in the future, a proper word for what I mean.
    I'll go for: "sorry, I don't have a PIN, may I sign the charge slip instead, please?" to make things as clear as possible.
    But this has been a very interesting discussion and I learned something new for me, thank you :).
  14. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    You're mixing apples and oranges here. A signature is used in the U.S. to verify a promise to pay. A personal identification number (PIN) is a security measure. In other words, you could have found the card on the street ... but if you don't know the PIN, you cannot use it.

    Since a signature is on the card, it doesn't take a lot of practice to duplicate it....

    But no, one cannot make the generalized statements that credit cards is the U.S. require a signature. I've just driven 1,500 miles and swiped/inserted my card in the automated gasoline (petrol) pumps many times (ouch!) and none asked, or provided a means, for a signature.

    But aha! Some did ask for my postal code as a security replacement for a personal identification number (PIN)

    Note that even if you insert a card into a machine and withdraw it quickly, it's still the same as "swiping," i.e. moving the magnetic strip across a sensing head.

    (This written from Brandon, Manitoba)
  15. Thank you for all this first hand information, sdgraham! I've never been to the USA, so I am totally naive about how things goes your side...
    I've never thought to the signature as a promise to pay, this is very enlightening. And yes a PIN code is a stronger measure of security instead of askin for an ID to check the pic and to match the two signatures.
    The only place in Italy where someone can happily use a stolen or found credit card (and debit card...) is at the motorway toll gates (yes, we pay for our motorways in Italy:(). Petrol stations don't accept credit cards when unattended and on automatic mode. Recently you can buy travel tickets at the machines with a credit card, but you need a PIN (the one for withdrawing cash usually works).
    McDonald's and few others have recently introduced new "no contact" machines where you don't need to swipe or insert a card but just to move it quickly close to the machine, but I don't know how this affect the verification procedure, I don't have any of those special cards....
    I am packing a lot of informations for possible future travels, thank you!:)
    Drive back safely!

    EDIT: I'm just remembering a much older mode of using a credit card, which was still in use in some part of the world at the beginning of this millenium and is still present for in-flight use on some airlines. The card is pressed in a machine which prints an image of the card on a two layer carbon-copy slip. The slip is signed as a promise of payment, as you said, and then posted to the issuing company for actual payment. For not insignificant amounts the cashier used to phone the issuing company for confirmation, so that credit card payments where usually available only during office hours...
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  16. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Maybe there's a legal distinction in the US (?) between a signature and a PIN, but in practice (at least in countries that are moving or have moved to chip/PIN systems), there's no real difference. They're both personal identifiers. A signature and a PIN are both security measures (even if signatures are pretty feeble ones), and a signature and a PIN are both authorisations to pay. In fact the term "electronic signature" is sometimes used to refer to authorisations given by entering codes (numerical or otherwise).

    So in chipulukusu's UK context, I'd say those apples are all apples (or all oranges). Since PINs are now in common use as an alternative to signing, and in many cases have completely replaced signing, I'd say his question ("I don't have a PIN. May I sign instead?") makes good sense. But if your travels ever take you to the US, chipu, sdg's advice will be useful.
    True for magnetic-strip readers, where the card has to be moved across the sensor in order for it to be read. But with chip-readers there's no swiping involved. As Julian mentioned, the chip is in a fixed position when it's read. It's more akin to plugging in a USB key or a memory card (and no-one describes that as "swiping").

  17. Very useful indeed, expecially the part in which I understood that I wouldn't be always able to use my credit cards for fuelling not being able to provide a valid US postal code... When I pay my utilities online I have to enter my UK postcode but lucky enough they don't care if it is not the same my credit card is registered with.

    Thank you Ws!

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