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Last summer I traveled to (IIRC) 22 countries in Europe and the Middle East. Contrary to the guide book's admonition, I was able to buy Paris Metro/RER tickets from the vending machine in De Gaul AP with my "stripe" cards. When filling up with gas, I couldn't use the gas pumps to pay, but had to go to a separate window. All hotels took my credit cards, all restaurants (other than "cash only" places". Every store took them, with the exception of a Clark's shoe store in Gravesend, UK.

I also had no problem using ATM's (Bancomats) with my debit card.

None of my cards had strips.

Cards used (do not charge a premium for foreign transactions):

Credit: AMEX Platinum, HSBC Premier MasterCard

Debit (for ATM's) HSBC Premier

I guess, one key strategy is to hit the ATM at the airport/train station when you arrive and always have some cash in your pocket.

For those looking to avoid cards with strings attached, I think Capital 1 works as well (but I don't have one).

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