Business travelers who manage international travel expenses with accounts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch can expect easier credit card transactions in Europe starting in 2012. According to industry trade publication reports, a successful pilot program has led the Bank of America subsidiary to announce wider availability for "chip-and-PIN" credit cards early in the new year.

The chip-and-PIN version of the global credit card technology standard replaces the familiar magnetic stripe on the back of a customer's card with an exposed EMV microchip that retailers can insert into a secure payment terminal. European banks have required cardholders to use personal identification numbers with EMV cards for both credit and debit transactions.

PINs will be optional on new cards

With the announcement, Bank of America Merrill Lynch joins Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and a handful of smaller credit card issuers in giving customers the choice to set personal identification numbers for all transactions connected to their EMV cards. Reacting to cardholder reluctance to memorize PINs, American banks have more widely adopted a contactless version of the EMV chip without requiring a PIN at checkout. However, overseas travelers in Europe have reported increased difficulty finding merchants and vending kiosks that will accept their EMV credit cards without PINs.

When Bank of America Merrill Lynch's chip-and-PIN business credit cards are available in early 2012, corporate customers will have the option of setting a PIN to use for any transaction on a contact-based credit card reader, whether in the U.S. or overseas. Bank of America spokesperson Kevin Phalen told American Banker that the decision came from a desire to provide uniformity in the customer experience for cardholders who opt in to chip-and-PIN. The new cards will still work on traditional point-of-sale devices inside the United States, thanks to embedded magnetic stripes.