Credit Card/ATM in Paris

Nov 26th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Credit Card/ATM in Paris

A quick question about use of US credit cards in Paris.

My husband and I usually just take enough euros for a day or so (left over from our last trip), our ATM card (the primary way we withdraw money in Europe) and a credit card or two.

I've heard rumblings on this board however of new credit card technology making US credit cards harder to use/obsolete. Is this exaggerated or will we have issues on our January trip to Paris?

We just took a trip in May in France and didn't run into any problems.

Also my parents are taking travelers checks with them because they don't like using their ATM card. Will it be an issue?

I personally have never used travelers checks before.

jodeenyc is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 10:47 AM
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american credit cards/ATM cards work just fine everywhere but some automatic ticketing machines like in train stations that require a chip that many American cards as of yet don't have

Traveler cheques are increasinly hard to cash, much lousier rate and many French banks don't even change money anymore - hotels stores may take them but at an oft predatory rate.

I strictly relied on credit cards and ATMs for 15 years now or so in France and all over europe and never had a problem. I do carry traveler cheques as a back up in case my cards don't work for some reason and always stay a few hundred euros ahead in case there is some kind of local snafu.

Tell your card companies what country you are going to and make sure ATM is also a debit card or hooked to checking accounts and has a 4-digit PIN # - then can use the zillion of ATMs and only pay what your local bank charges for the ATM fee.

You may want to cash your parents travelers cheques for them and pay for their expenses by ATM withdrawals and charges - you'll save them tons of bucks IME
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 10:49 AM
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1. All standard ATM cards work in the machines in Paris if they have the usual logos -- Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron, Maestro, Cirrus, Plus....

2. It is not too much of a problem changing travellers cheques in banks and exchange offices, but your parents will lose money in the transactions compared to using cards. It has been about 20 years since good deals were available changing travellers cheques in France.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 26th, 2007, 11:18 AM
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Paris i guess is obviously different than other French towns due to the many foreign tourists from non-euro land

but in Orleans a fair size regional town last Feb no banks, and i checked them all just for curiosity changed money at all - not even the Banque de France - the post office was the only place doing so.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 11:33 AM
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It is absolutely true that since the advent of the euro currency, more than 80% of the exchange offices in France have closed.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 26th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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As above, skip the TCs...a hassle (need to find a place to cash them) and they are financially not a good deal. ATMs are abundant and are a good deal in terms of costs.

I also have found that automated machines (like tickets for Roissybus, tickets for RER) did not accept them. I simply then went to a manned booth and used cash/had them swipe the card. Some gas stations/toll booths are also know to reject N.A. CCs. I have used my CCs at the airport and in restaurants for purchases.

The European cards have the "puce", which is essentially a smart chip built into the card to deter fraud. They have had these for a while. Some N.A. banks are looking into this, I believe there are some isseus with adopting standards for global use.

I would not think that Europe would adopt a technology that would not allow significant #s of tourists to not be able to charge. My theory is cash for everything, CCs for large bills like hotel, major purchases,etc..
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 11:45 AM
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and...if the kind person swiping their card for them offers to make the charge in anything other than local currency, tell them to refuse(see threads here on dynamic currency conversion)
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 12:00 PM
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It is still fairly easy to exchange TCs in Paris, some of them have closed, but it is still much easier than most places in Europe. And I know where the rates are good.

It may not be convenient to your hotel, but I exchange them at an exchange bureau inside a travel agency on bd Montparnasse right near Vavin metro stop. I stop in there every time in Paris to exchange TCs or foreign currency, and chat with them, and I know their rates are only 2-3 pct over interbank, and they are still there (at least were in August 2007). They aren't open on weekends any more, I don't think (one concession to less use of them), but they are open daily from around 9 am, I believe. It is the Credit General de Bourse et de Change at 95 bd Montparnasse, 6e. As I said, you may not notice them, they are inside a travel agency at that address. I know there are exchange bureaux in Chinatown that also give very good rates, and I haven't checked lately, but some on rue de Rivoli near the Louvre aren't as bad as you'd think. Others I've seen in St Germain, near St Michel, etc. are worse rates.
Christina is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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And then with cheques you have the choice of getting them in euros or dollars

i always get in dollars because it seems the exchange rates in Europe are better than the exchange rates whoever in U.S. used when they converted your bucks to euro denominated cheques

but perhaps euro travelers cheques would be better or more easily exchanged at stores, hotels, etc. unless they put a charge on cheques in any case.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 02:11 PM
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I would never ever get them in euro, and would never recommend anyone do that. If you take them, the whole point is to get local currency when you get to Europe, not to use them to pay directly to stores or hotels. You would use a CC for hotels and large purchases.

You pay to cash them if they are in euro, and it will probably cost you a lot more to get them in euro in the US than you'd pay to exchange the USD ones for euro in Paris (at least in Paris, I know the TC market there very well). Maybe some big hotel would take them to please clients, but I don't think that is the the reason the OP's parents are taking them. IN any case, you still pay a lot to get them in euro (I believe AAA charges 7-9 pct over interbank, as I said, I know where to exchange them in Paris for 2-3 pct).

A lot of places in Paris charge less than 8 pct markup on them when they are in USD.

Of course, you can exchange them at Amex if they are Amex, but I wouldn't. Their rates aren't that great, and there are always long lines of people there doing all kinds of things, and there is only one I know of, near the Opera.
Christina is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 02:26 PM
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While I agree it is entirely possible to use TCs, I guess when I'm on holidays I don't want to:

a) pay any more fees for currency than I have to
b) need to find a bank/location that takes them, and adjust to their hours, and line up.
c) worrying about having all that cash on me/at the hotel

If I'm on holidays, getting currency should not be a errand I have to run, but something that is seamless to my touring.

ATMs are everywhere and since they already have ATM cards...
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 03:41 PM
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Please try to talk your parents out of taking Travelers Checks. They are a HUGE hassle, are more expensive, and it is getting harder all the time to find places that will cash them. Virtually no merchants want them Even most hotels won't honor them. When ever they need cash, your folks will have to search out an exchange bureau or one of the few banks that will take them.

It isn't anything like using TC's in the States where they are basically the same as cash.
janisj is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 04:04 PM
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I was in my local Chase bank the other day - a big kahuna of banks - and someone asked for travelers cheques and then the teller said you're in luck - we only have a few left and they're doing away with selling them

Now i did not quiz the teller on that but it's ominous perhaps about travelers cheques being now a dinosaur.

I suggest if traveling together you simply handle all the financial aspects - even they may like that - instead of them buying travelers cheques have them put a deposit in your ATM account or pay credit card bills when they come in later.
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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The only places you won't be able to use your American credit card in France are in unattended credit card purchase points -- for example, the velib bikes and gas stations without an attendant (especially the case on Sunday). Machines like this require the "puce" chip. But restaurants, hotels, and stores will take your regular card (assuming that they don't require payment in cash.) I have read that American Express cards will work in the velib machines, but not sure if this is true of all Amex cards.
nonnafelice is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 08:13 PM
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My mom and I just got back from Paris, and this is the first trip ever in which she didn't use travelers cheques. We got by just fine with the ATMs or by using credit cards for purchases. It saved time and money, and there were no worries.
Tinathread is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 04:08 AM
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Also for folks never been to Europe - leave the Discover card at home - not accepted anywhere but at American Embassies IME (to buy a passport)
PalenQ is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 04:53 AM
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>my parents are taking travelers checks with them because they don't like using their ATM card. <

I'm sure that if they practice using their ATM card here in the US for a few weeks before going to Paris that they will find it easy to use it over there.

Charge everything you can and use the ATMs for walking around money.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 05:18 AM
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And make sure their pin is 4 digits and that the money is in their savings account. I usually get a small amount of cash before going, so that I do not have to look around the airport for the ATMs, or wait in line at the ATM there. I can land, and go look for ground transportation.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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My European ATM withdrawals come out of my checking account. And in Europe there is no option for checking or savings.

As for travelers' checks, not only are there fewer and fewer places to cash them, one is limited to business hours at best. Whereas you can get money from an ATM anytime.
Mimar is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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If the parents still insist on getting TCs, at least make sure they buy them in dollars, and that daughter loads up her checking account with extra funds. Once everyone relizes how inconvenient the TCs are, they may prefer to rely on daughter's ATM card for cash, and they can deposit those unused dollar TCs in their bank account when they return home -- or sign them over to daughter to repay her for the ATM withdrawals on their behalf.
kayd is offline  

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