ATMs at every airport, most train stations and on every second street corner in towns and cities. Visa, MasterCard and Amex widely accepted.
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) – known as distributeurs automatiques de billets (DAB) or points d'argent in French – are the cheapest and most convenient way to get money. ATMs connected to international networks are situated in all cities and towns and usually offer an excellent exchange rate.
You always get a better exchange rate in-country, but it is a good idea to arrive in France with enough euros to take a taxi to a hotel if you have to.
Credit & Debit Cards
- Credit and debit cards, accepted almost everywhere in France, are convenient, relatively secure and usually offer a better exchange rate than travellers cheques or cash exchanges.
- Credit cards issued in France have embedded chips – you have to type in a PIN to make a purchase.
- Visa, MasterCard and Amex can be used in shops and supermarkets and for train travel, car hire and motorway tolls.
- Don't assume that you can pay for a meal or a budget hotel with a credit card – enquire first.
- Cash advances are a supremely convenient way to stay stocked up with euros, but getting cash with a credit card involves both fees (sometimes US$10 or more) and interest – ask your credit-card issuer for details. Debit-card fees are usually much lower.
For lost cards, these numbers operate 24 hours:
Amex 01 47 77 72 00
MasterCard 08 00 90 13 87
Visa 08 00 90 11 79
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Commercial banks charge up to €5 per foreign-currency transaction – if they even bother to offer exchange services any more.
- In Paris and major cities, bureaux de change (exchange bureaus) are faster and easier, open longer hours and often give better rates than banks.
- Hotels €1 to €2 per bag is standard; gratuity for cleaning staff completely at your discretion.
- Bars No tips for drinks served at bar; round to nearest euro for drinks served at table.
- Restaurants For decent service 10%.
- Pubic toilets For super-clean, sparkling toilets with music, €0.50 at most.
- Tours For excellent guides, €1 to €2 per person.
Travellers cheques, a 20th-century relic, cannot be used to pay French merchants directly – change them into euro banknotes at banks, exchange bureaux or post offices.
Americans, Take Note
US-issued 'smart' credit/debit cards with embedded chips (a technology pioneered in France in the 1980s) and PINs work virtually everywhere in France, including autoroute toll plazas, but cards with a chip but no PIN may occasionally leave you unable to pay – for instance, at unstaffed, 24/7 petrol (gas) stations with self-pay pumps. If your credit card is of the old type, ie with a magnetic strip but no chip, ask your issuer to send you a new, chip-equipped card – they're usually happy to oblige as the new technology is much more secure.