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Using U.S. Credit Cards and ATM Cards in France

Using U.S. Credit Cards and ATM Cards in France

Mar 4th, 2011, 02:28 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 4,301
Regardless or what cards you do decide to bring and use: be sure to get a phone number for your bank and credit cards that is not toll free, 800 numbers do not work from overseas IME, you must have the actual area code and number in case you need to call them.
michele_d is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 05:20 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
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A couple of more things on ATM cards:

European machines accept no more than 4 digit PINs.

If your U.S. account is with a major bank, ask if they have any European affiliates; for example Bank of American and BNP Paribas. Withdrawals at those branches incur no annoying transaction fee (but you'll still pay the exchange fee).

FYI, I asked my Canadian bank (I live in the U.S. but have accounts there) for a credit card, which would have a chip. No dice, they won't issue cards to non-citizens.
Alan_CT is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 06:55 PM
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European machines accept no more than 4 digit PINs.

I have read more than several accounts from those who have successfully accessed French bank ATMs with 6 digit PINs. The 4 PIN myth seems to be self perpetuating folklore unless Alan_CT you have first hand experience to the contrary.
Sarastro is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 07:30 PM
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I don't know what bank Alan_CT uses bu my bank, Toronto Dominion/Canada Trust tell me they will happily open an account for an American.

It does need to be done in person and requires a passport and one other item of photo ID. They will then issue a chip ATM card.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 11:05 PM
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Well, i hate to be the lone dissenting person, but YES, i had problem using a US bank-issued Star and cirrhus network bankcard at every bank's ATM in Paris two yrs ago. It could hav ruined the trip (no cash!) but luckily daughter had a newer card that did work. As it was, we just lost a few hours of attempting ATM use all over the Marais.

As soon as i reached London---voila! NO problems at all with that same card.

This was two yrs ago. The card was then already 2 yrs old. I suspect its age had something to do with it. All the banks told me, "Oh, it is missing zee e 'puce' " (means "flea" --what they call the chip.

So i woud recommend to OP that you have a fairly NEW bank card!
CaliNurse is offline  
Mar 5th, 2011, 05:30 AM
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I don't think it has anything to do with the puce, I've had no problems at all using my ATM card in France just last July and it was real old, actually (about 15 yrs old). I did have a problem with that card in one particular bank's ATMs in Paris about ten years ago, but it was only that one bank chain (CIC I think or something like that), I could use the same card at BNP or other banks. But you never can tell about these things, I've had a problem using my ATM card once in the US, also, so I think it can happen anywhere and I agree it is useful to have a couple cards for options. I wouldn't worry at all about a card that is only two years old. I never get new ATm cards that frequently.
Christina is online now  
Nov 4th, 2012, 03:29 AM
Join Date: Nov 2012
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I agree with CaliNurse. My husband and I are in France right now, and we've had trouble with all of our American credit cards (his Chase Amazon Visa, our Visas from Wells Fargo, and our debit cards) almost everywhere except at hotels. The credit cards are not accepted anywhere, even including places like McDonalds. (We also went to Spain, and had no problems at all there- its only France.) Fortunately we've been able to get cash using one of the debit cards at certain ATMs (not all of them), or we'd be in big trouble. One restaurant refused our card and we were short on cash, so I had to stay at the restaurant while my husband went running around looking for a bank machine.

Our biggest issue has been getting gas- our cards don't work at gas stations and there are very few stations that have people working at them to let us pay with cash. One time we actually had to stop a local and ask if we could use his card to buy gas while we gave him cash! Fortunately he was very nice. He also said its very common for American cards not to work there.

I would strongly suggest taking out a significant amount of euros in cash at the beginning of your trip so you don't get stuck.
Kba is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 04:32 AM
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Rather than digging up an old, somewhat dated thread on credit cards Kba, perhaps a new thread would have proven utilitarian.

It has been rather well documented on this and other travel forums that French pay-at-the-pump gas stations require credit cards issued on French banks. It has been a long time since I have used a pay-at-the-pump station in the USA that did not require my entering the billing zip code. Our friends from France, traveling in the USA, have made the same complaint about try to use their credit cards at gas pumps here.

To purchase gas, you will need to find an attendant accepting payment. Typically there are two lines at many gas stations: a pay-at-the-pump line and a pay the cashier line. You will need to plan fuel usage with the knowledge that obtaining fuel late at night, on holidays, or on week ends may not be possible.

Additionally, there are few locations in large cities and known tourist areas where magnetic strip credit cards are not accepted. Travel away from well worn tourist paths and you may find a hotel that will not accept your credit card.
Sarastro is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 04:50 AM
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We were able to use our Andrews Federal Credit Union Chip and Pin cards without any problems. It is a true Chip and Pin card although it does tend to require a signature WHEN there is a person processing the card. IF we used it at unmanned situations [tolls, parking, gas ,railway tickets etc] it functioned perfectly as a true chipped card. The only instance where it did not work was at 2 grocery stores [same store, different location - Intermarches].

We used the card along the Cote d'Azur from Nice to Bordighera Italy; all through The Luberon and in Montpellier, and in Paris.

Do a search here, using the words: chip and pin and find all the similar threads on the topic.

Oh, the Andrews card is available to anyone and has no annual fees, nor any foreign transactions fees. We also set up a banking account to use to get cash from ATM's. This also has no fees and worked seamlessly.
DebitNM is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 07:22 AM
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And by the way, normally you should be buying your gas at a supermarket, which is much cheaper than a gas station - and where, outside of SUndays and sometimes lunch hours, there is usually someone to handle the transaction.
Carlux is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 07:51 AM
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Bad idea. Kba probably failed to notify his/her bank about being overseas. We spent 3 weeks in France in September, and I've made more than 100 trips to that country over many years and never had a problem with any credit or debit card, except for an occasional Sunday morning transaction at a French ATM machine (which I have always assumed to be related to banks doing some kind of routine maintenance on their accounts/machines).

Taking loads of cash is unnecessary and risky.
StCirq is online now  
Nov 4th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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We just returned from four weeks in France. We had a new Bank of America Travel Reward card that is chip and signature. We were in Normandy, Brittany, the Loire, Burgundy, and Paris. We used the card everywhere we went and only had trouble a couple of times. We were able to use this card on the tollways with an attendant except a couple of times and then were able to use our American Express card. That doesn't make any sense, but a friend who was in France in May said they used their AmEx on the tollways. So we tried it even in an unmanned booth and it worked!

The BofA card worked great - we would indicate when we paid that it needed a signature and the clerks seemed to be familiar with the signature card. It went into the machine just like the chip & pin - they didn't swipe it . In Paris we were able to use it in the machines at the Metro stations - no signature required.

We bought gas at manned supermarket stations with no problems.
blh is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 11:01 AM
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Huh? I was just there about a month ago and had no problem whatsoever using my American credit cards in Paris anywhere, nor in Bordeaux. I don't have a debit card, but I used my ATM card in lots of ATMs in both cities, also, with no problem. I don't eat at McDonalds, true, but I used them in lots of restaurants and stores and museums (and the Air France airport bus). They were never refused, not even once.

I mainly used my Capital One MC, but also used my Amex and AAA Visa a few times (that one is managed by B of A).

True, you can have problems at automated gas stations and other automated machines, I've heard of that, but other places just refusing them for some reason? Restaurants and stores are usually glad to get business. I don't know why they would refuse them, that isn't clear. Even the smallest mom and pop restaurants and cafes where I was staying took them, of course the cinemas did as well as Monoprix, etc.
Christina is online now  
Nov 4th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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oh, my CCs are just regular ones, they don't have any chips in them. My ATM card (not debit) is from Capital One, also. Actually, I have two ATM cards from Capital One, one for a checking acct and one a separate MM acct, and both worked fine.
Christina is online now  
Nov 4th, 2012, 12:23 PM
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Canadian friends recently drove from AZ to British Columbia and were never able to use a credit card to pay at the pump because our postal codes have letters unlike your zip codes. So American pumps often prove unfriendly to foreigners too! ;^(
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Nov 4th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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How curious. We drove from Alberta to Michigan in Oct.2012 and used credit cards all the way. We have chips and were never asked at the pump for a zip/postal code, nor in the cashier area..Also the ccs worked in Spain in April 2011..Wonder what was/is going on. RBC Avion Visa, AmX gold and MC gold from ATB were the ones that we used.
amer_can is offline  
Jan 25th, 2013, 05:28 AM
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Old-fashioned American style magnetic strip credit or debit cards have poor protection (compared to chip cards) and have less and less use in Europe. In Russia such cards are also common, but are replaced with chip cards in recent.
In Europe magnet strip card doesn't accepted in toll roads payment, all automatic filling station, majority of other filling stations, small stores and so on, so on....
Serga01net is offline  
Jan 25th, 2013, 05:50 AM
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This comes up all the time.....

Yes...lthe momentum is on towards difficulties using American credit cards in Europe but we're not there yet. And there are some banks that issue American cards with the emv chip.

And yes, chip and pin cards are more fraud resistant to merchants but the vast majority of credit card fraud takes place over the internet and chip and pin dosn't provide protection against that yet.
xyz123 is offline  
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