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Foreign currency exchange
- The connoisseur's guide to France
and paying for things in France
With a very few exceptions, the only currency used for
in France is the €uro. By far the easiest way to pay for things in
France is simply
use an international credit card or debit card. Visa
can be used all over France, and American Express cards and
other international cards in a number of places. For buying things in
shops and paying hotel bills, just use your Visa or Mastercard, just
the same way as you would use them at home. As long as you have a card
with chip and pin technology, using it as you would at home is the
simplest and often the most economical way of paying for things in
payment is possible in most locations, though subject
to a transaction limit of 50 €. Payments from digital wallets
(Google pay, Apple pay etc.) are accepted by most merchants who accept
But obviously, there
are situations in which paying with plastic is not an option. Visitors
to France therefore need to have some Euros to hand, to pay for small
or larger items and in cases where the trader does not accept cards.
As is the custom throughout Europe, prices
displayed in shops in
France always include sales tax ("la TVA" - value added tax).
price you see on the label is the price you will be charged -
which can be a pleasant surprise for American or Canadian visitors.
Note that with the occasional exception of a few large
international hotels, and export-oriented shops - for example some
shops on the Champs Elysées in Paris - it is not possible to
for things in dollars or other foreign currencies in France (or, for
that matter, almost anywhere
else in Europe).
So again, the simplest solution is to use your international credit
or debit card.
Generally speaking, you can withdraw money from cash-dispensers (ATMs)
France in exactly the same way as you would at home - except that you
will be asked to select a sum in Euros. Your card company or bank will
automatically debit your account in your usual currency, having
converted the sum at the day's exchange rate, or the exchange rate that
they use for private customers. Some banks and card companies also
charge a withdrawal fee when the card is used in a foreign ATM, others
do not. If you have several cards, find out first which of them is
going to charge you least and offer you the best exchange if you use
them to withdraw Euros, and then use that one for your trip to France.
Rules and warnings
are some golden rules that you need to follow if you do not want to end
up paying far more than necessary for this service, or running out of
cash because you have reached your limit for withdrawals. So here are
some tips and advice.
1. Tell you bank
or card operator that you are going to
France before you depart; it may be necessary for them to temporarily
up your ceiling for cash withdrawals and for payments, as you may well
more cash and paying our for more things than you would normally do.
2. Do not make
frequent withdrawals of small sums.
You will probably pay
commission on each withdrawal, over and above the conversion rate
margin that your financial institution will take. In percentage terms,
the smaller the withdrawals, the higher the commission, and the more
often you will pay it. So it makes sense to withdraw larger sums and to
do so less frequently.
3. Do not use your
credit or debit card for very small purchases:
bank or card company may add a small charge for each purchase you make.
On small sums, for example sums under 40 €, fixed credit card charges
per transaction can soon mount up.
means of obtaining your Euros
you do not want to, or cannot, use a credit card or debit card in
France, you will need to make other arrangements. The best proposal is
usually to obtain your Euros in cash or in the form of travellers'
cheques from your bank, prior to your departure. Your own bank may well
apply a more favourable conversion rate than other types of bureau de
change. However, in Europe as a whole, travelers cheques are rather
old-fashioned, and less and less places accept them.
Exchanging currency notes
It is no longer possible to exchange foreign currency notes
banks in France. The only places that exchange foreign banknotes are bureaux-de-change
which can be found in large cities. But be wary of these foreign
exchange kiosks in
ports, airports, on ferries and other traveller-oriented locations.
They frequently take substantial commissions, or use an exchange rate
which is well below the official rate. The advertising slogan "We take
no commission" is frequently
used to mislead travellers into thinking that they are getting a very
good deal, when the reverse is true. They may well take no fixed
commission, but may use a very unfavourable conversion rate. Overall,
the customer may lose up to 7% of the value of the notes being
It's useful to compare the "We buy at..." and the "We sell at..." rates
that are announced. The greater the difference between the two, the
worse the exchange rate you are getting.
If the official
Euro to dollar exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.10 USD (which it sometimes
is, depending on fluctuations), and an exchange bureau offers to sell
you Euros for Dollars at 1.16602, the difference may not look
great to the
unwary traveler, but the exchange bureau is actually charging you about
6% by using a poor exchange rate.
And if they're selling Euros at 1.16602, you also
see that they're buying them back as something like 1.03600....
You'll be losing 60 dollars for every 1000 dollars
change this way. Far better use a credit or debit card and an
These can be cashed at virtually any bank and urban post
France; they can also be used in some hotels. However, outside of major
tourist regions (such as certain parts of Paris or or the Riviera),
very few shops or hotels accept travelers checks as payment.
If you do wish to come to France with travellers cheques, it
to get them in Euros, not in US dollars or any other currency. That way
you know that your cheques are worth their face value when you cash
is often possible to have money wired to you while in France, using the
services of companies such as Western Union. In this case, you can
arrange to have money delivered to an agency (such as a specific post
office) in France, and pick up the money in cash. For full details,
consult your bank or any currency transfer operator.
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