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Why you don't want to bring Travellers cheques (checks) to France

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Ever now and then someone asks yet again about bringing Travellers cheques to Europe. I thought I'd give any holdouts a little more explanation of why it's not a good idea.

Years ago when they were more common we still used to have difficulty cashing TC's in stores and restaurants, where they weren't common. They are of course even less so now - everyone in this country has a card or a cheque book. So probably no hope of using them there.

So you go to a bank to get them changed - but banks don't have money these days! They have machines that have money. This is certainly the case in our part of the Dordogne, and I can't believe it's very different in other parts of France. No tellers with drawers of cash to deal with your TC's. Instead, bank customers use their debit cards to withdraw money from the machines inside the bank. If you don't have a card (but you do have an account with them) they will issue a temporary card for a specific amount. So if you want 200 Euros, they load that onto the card, and you have about 15 minutes to take it over to the machine and get your cash. If you DON'T have an account , you're out of luck.

We hadn't thought much about this until last week when someone sent us unsolicited travellers cheques to pay a bill. The bank would credit them to our account, and then we could take money out of the account. But only because we were already clients.

So, for any holdouts, bring your debit card.

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