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Money Tips for Paris

ATMs, currency exchange, and credit cards

ATM photo

ABOVE: Most Parisian cashpoints have menus in at least four languages, including English.

euro banknotes and coins photoObtaining 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.

The euro

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 other languages.

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 change banks.

  • 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.

Currency exchange

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.

Warnings:

  • 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.

For more advice on cash, credit cards, VAT refunds on shopping purchases, and other money-related topics, read these articles from Europeforvisitors.com:


Money articles at Europeforvisitors.com:


Top photo copyright © Roman Milert.
Inset photo copyright © imagestock.

 

 

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