Regarding "Cards Can Only Go So Far," by Catharine Hamm [On the Spot, May 19]. I just returned from a trip to France and Holland, where I used a new PIN and Chip MasterCard I got from USAA.
It worked well, except on toll roads in southern France. I could not get any of my three cards to work there (I tried on three occasions). Making the toll roads more confusing is that different gates require different payment methods: Some may not accept coins, while others may not accept paper money (for short distances). At times there is no gate with an attendant. Different toll booths may accept different credit cards. One booth specifically said it did not accept MasterCard. My suggestion is that you have all options available at a toll gate: coins, paper money and credit cards. I have read accounts of American credit cards being accepted.
Another caution: On-street parking machines (and they are everywhere) often take only coins. It is wise to always have a number of euro coins on hand. Some coin machines do not give change.
Oh, had Hamm's column appeared just a few weeks earlier. My wife and I just returned from three weeks in Europe, two in Ireland and one in Amsterdam. Last time we traveled (2005) to Europe, we used our ATM card everywhere and Visa card only occasionally.
This time, the ATM card worked only sometimes, and our credit union Visa card also only sometimes. Thankfully, our Chase Bank Visa card has a chip and it worked most of the time, but not always.
It became comical, but I sure felt behind the times technologically. It never occurred to me that we are so far behind Europe in technology.
Dennis van Bremen
One big problem not having a Chip and PIN card is with parking meters. In the Netherlands, one can activate a parking meter with only a Chip card. What is a poor tourist to do? The only solution is to ask a passerby to use his or her card and then pay that person in cash. We had the same problem in underground parking garages without attendants. To say the least, this is rather embarrassing.
High time the U.S. switches to the safer Chip cards.
Robert C. Visser
Rancho Palos Verdes
I read the suggestion about putting dryer sheets in suitcases, etc., with concern [Your Tips, May 12]. Those dryer sheets, as well as all perfumes, etc., are full of chemicals and many petroleum-based and never tested long term.
For those of us sensitive to these chemicals, it is a nightmare to be next to someone who feels as if they must douse themselves with chemicals. Try dryer sheets with dried lavender at Trader Joe's — natural, last a long time and soothing (put in pillowcase if you have trouble sleeping while traveling).