Money Tips for Paris
ATMs, currency exchange, and credit cards
ABOVE: Most Parisian cashpoints have menus in
at least four languages, including English.
cash and using credit cards are easy in Paris, but there are a few things you
should know before you stick your wallet in your pocket and head for France.
France belongs to the euro zone. (Its old currency, the
franc--or, more accurately, the "new franc"--was retired in 2002.) Please don't
embarrass yourself and annoy the locals by trying to pay or tip in dollars,
pounds sterling, or another foreign currency. Use euros, or stay at home.
Getting money from ATMs or cashpoints
Your best source of cash is an automated teller machine (ATM) or
cashpoint. You'll find ATMs on banks and post offices all over Paris, and most
of them have step-by-step instructions in your choice of French, English, and
Here's our advice on using ATMs:
Before leaving home, tell your bank that you'll be visiting
France. (In the U.S. especially, some
banks--even large ones--disallow foreign transactions for security reasons unless they've been
notified ahead of time.)
Be prepared to use a four-digit numberic PIN. If your bank
uses a six-digit PIN or a combination of letters and numbers, ask the bank to change
your PIN or to provide instructions for using your ATM card overseas.
You'll nearly always pay a small transaction fee on cash
withdrawals outside your bank's ATM network. What you may not know is
that many banks have foreign-exchange surcharges of up to 5 percent on
overseas cash withdrawals. If your bank has such a policy, you may want to
We advise carrying ATM cards for two different banks, just
in case one of your cards doesn't work. Also, look for an ATM before
you run out of cash, because it can be frustrating to encounter a "network
link down" error message when you're wallet is empty.
ATMs nearly always have better rates than currency-exchange
offices and hotel reception desks. (Not long ago, a Travelex office in Europe
was charging an 8.5 percent
commission on U.S. dollar notes, plus a €3,50 handling fee. The rate at
the bank in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport wasn't much better.)
If you insist on exchanging cash or traveler's checks, try to
limit the amount, because changing money back into your own currency at the end
of your will mean yet another exchange commission.
Using credit cards
Visa and MasterCard are accepted by most shops and restaurants,
though smaller merchants, some neighborhood restaurants or bars, and street
vendors may not take credit cards. (Also, restaurant tips are normally given in
cash.) American Express is accepted at higher-end boutiques and restaurants that
cater to tourists.
Many credit-card companies now impose surcharges on foreign
transactions, and these surcharges can range from 2 to 4 percent or more. If
you have several credit cards, learn which one has the lowest surcharge, and
use that card for your trip.
Some credit-card issuers decline foreign transactions unless
you've notified the company of your travel plans ahead of time. It's a good idea to
call the toll-free number on the back of your card before leaving home, just to
make sure that your card will be honored while you're abroad.
Many French ticket machines, card-operated gasoline pumps,
and other vending devices require modern "smart cards" with embedded
microchips. If you have an old-fashioned card with only a magnetic stripe
(the kind used by most American credit-card companies), don't be surprised
if machines refuse your card. The good news is that you'll still be able to
use your card in hotels, restaurants, and shops.
advice on cash, credit cards, VAT refunds on shopping purchases, and other
money-related topics, read these articles from Europeforvisitors.com:
Top photo copyright © Roman
Inset photo copyright © imagestock.