Credit card difficulties in France

Nov 15th, 2005, 01:23 PM
  #1  
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Credit card difficulties in France

Perhaps someone else has run into this scenario: tried to pay for lunch with a quite functional VISA card and was told after several tries by management that something was wrong with the "pouce." Isn't that "thumb?" A different card produced the same result. The transactions simply wouldn't go through. This happened several times in well-attended, local cafes in small towns. We paid cash instead in those instances. (Others paid by credit card with apparently no difficulty). There were no repercussions such as multiple billings noted on our return. Any thoughts?
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Nov 15th, 2005, 01:36 PM
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Did you call your cc company and see why the card was rejected?

Once I had the interesting experience of getting my card rejected in London. It turned out that the expiration date was entered incorrectly -- the cashier didn't know that the date/month is month/date in the US and so put it in wrong.

I was quite embarrassed but this saved me from wasting my money on a nice shirt.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 01:41 PM
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I did call the card companies which could shed no light on the problem, since I had used them in Paris and other destinations on the same trip without difficulty. Before I left for France I contacted each card co. to inform them that I would be travelling in France and gave them specific dates so as not to trigger a card refusal. That seemed to have worked well. It's the "pouce" comment that has me intrigued.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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<the "pouce." Isn't that "thumb?">
it is not the pouce but the puce (electronic composant) we call that a flea ;-)because it is tiny.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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Hi coco: An electronic catalogue? i.e., an internal problem with the transaction?
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Nov 15th, 2005, 01:57 PM
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I've never had any trouble using credit cards in France, but it sounds just like a touchy machine. There's a store I regular go to near where I live in the US who has a lot of trouble some days putting credit cards through. I think he said they had a crummy machine, also. Maybe that machine was being touchy at that time with your kind of cards or cards from whatever country you are from, or something.

I've never had it happen, but since you had it happen so much, I would wonder about your card or card company.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:01 PM
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I'm Canadian, and have used these cards (VISA and AMEX) pretty much everywhere, but you are probably right: a momentary glitch in the system. I love a mystery!
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:03 PM
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sorry I meant component (composant is French) it is weird because only French cards have this component, and we have to dial a code with it.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:03 PM
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Interesting. I take it that there was no expiration date problem in your case? (In any case, most ccs only carry the month and year of expiration -- I think that I had one that had day/mo/year for expiration.)

The cc company usually logs a rejection though. That was how I found out why my card was rejected.

Perhaps the charges never even went through in the first place -- i.e. a bad connection -- but to have it happen a couple of times seems unlikely.

Maybe you were just unlucky.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:26 PM
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The "puce" -- is it a tiny electronic chip embedded in the card? I think that american cards may not have them, so if the merchant's card reader doesn't read the magnetic strip, the transaction could not go through to the bank. I recall hearing someone relate this experience some time ago, it could be what happened to the o.p., perhaps?
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:29 PM
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Yes, there's a "puce" disconnect between American credit cards and French machines sometimes. I've never been able to use a credit card at a gas station in the Dordogne because of it. Same thing occasionally with those hand-held machines they bring to your table in a restaurant or café.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:31 PM
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That's interesting. I've never had this happen in shops or restaurants -- but have had problems with vending machines.

Learn something every day.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:32 PM
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I used to have problems with the handheld machines in years past, but absolutely none this year.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 02:34 PM
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totally agree with kayd ans StCirq. My English guests couldn't pay their petrol at Carrefour automatic machines. Fortunately they could pay cash at the Total station next to it..
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Nov 15th, 2005, 03:46 PM
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Now that I think back to Sept., I had trouble with both the handheld and stationary credit card machines on several occasions. I think that's it, StCirq, the 'puce' disconnect. Thank you, all, for the brainstorming.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 04:06 PM
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As I understand it, the French "credit" cards are really debit cards which immediately subtract the payments from the account using the chip imbeded in the card and PIN's are required.

The UK passed a law recently in an attempt to try to cut down on credit card fraud and identity theft that cards issued in the UK should have a chip and require a PIN.

But of course in classic Anglo-Franco fashion, the 2 systems are completely different and the credit card chip readers in France do not recognize the chips in British cards and vice versa.

The US is somewhat behind in embracing such technologies and US cards still rely on magnetic stripes which of course are easy to counterfeit. And so the credit card machines have to be set up in such a way, in the interests of international commerce, to recognize all sorts of cards.

Now several times this past summer, I was in very rural parts of the UK and the clerks, who probably never have seen a credit card from outside the UK, did not understand why their pin reader would not recognize my magnetic stripe card without a chip...they had to call over senior managmenent to explain. In France, I suppose the machines they bring over to the tables in restaurants are set up to recognize both kids of cards but smetimes since they obviously have to be using wireless telephone lines to connect with the international credit card systems, the lines go down and no connection can be established whereas the machines can read the French chips...and most gasoline (petrol) stations which use credit card readers only recognize the French card with chips.

Interestingly enough, more and more in the USA to combat this problem, credit card readers say at self service gas stations and on the NYC subway are requiring entry of the card billing zip code (Wal-Mart requires it on Amex cards but not visa or mc)...I saw a notice at my local gas station today saying they would require entry of the billing address zip code but that if you have a foreign card and don't have a zip code, you would be directed to "see attendant." Well in the USA in general at gas stations with pay at the pump possible there is almost always an attendant to do the transaction manually....butin the NYC transit system for example, credit cards are only taken at the machines but not at the station booth....and of course in NYC they are getting rid of those anyway; so if you have a foreign credit card and no US zip code, you're out of luck.

One other quickie...I've noted that in the UK almost always the clerk checks the signature on the back of the card. Here in the USA, it is rarely done anymore....in France, they never check signatures either.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 05:04 PM
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I had a similar problem while checking out (very early to make flight from CDG)from my Paris hotel several years ago.Two credit cards were rejected, and I was in an absolute panic, as my shuttle was soon arriving. Finally my American Express worked! The credit cards had worked previously at some restaurants. I have been paranoid ever since, and always take several credit cards, debit card, and Traveler's Checks with me while traveling. This experience was quite unnerving, as I had been at that hotel for 12 nights, and it wasn't a "budget" hotel. I had PLENTY of credit on the cards, like $15,000 or more. I can't imagine taking only one credit card to Europe-ever!
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Nov 15th, 2005, 05:19 PM
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Well let's see what probably happened..you said you were checking out early right so it was probably around 7 AM to 730 AM in France...NY time is 6 hours behind so it was probably 1 AM on the East Coast of the US (I assume you are American, if not my apologies)...

Most banks have a short period of time during which the days transactions are updated and often during the window, their computers cannot accept incoming transactions and so the transactions could not be completed.

Amex, of course, is an international company and has offices in France as well as the US, England and lots of other places so their computers are up and running 24/7...at least it would seem this is the most probable explanation.
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Nov 15th, 2005, 05:36 PM
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xyz123, thanks for the probable explanation. I'll be sure to keep my American Express card (even though I never use it in the U.S.).
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Nov 15th, 2005, 05:57 PM
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Could be just about anything:

The magnetic strip on your card(s)just didn't scan properly in their machine.

Phone lines were busy. (One line connects to another to another for foreign transactions, all depending upon the "network" that approves the transaction for your specific card).

Whenever we've had a problem at a cafe or restaurant, waiting a few minutes has always resolved whatever the problem. Once, it was more than 20 minutes before the transaction to pay our hotel bill would go through - which the lady at the front desk advised was not usual, but not unusual either.
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