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Travel money guide: France
An insider's guide: The best ways to take, save and spend travel money in France.
France was one of the first countries to merge into the Eurozone and the euro has been the national currency of France since 1999.
If you’re heading to France, you can use debit cards, travel cards or credit cards to spend in more places than not. However, choosing the right travel money product is an important part of planning your trip – it could relieve stress and the fees that are tacked on to your bank account at the end.
Compare travel credit cards
When planning your vacation to France, take a look at your credit cards. If they charge foreign transaction fees, you might want to consider getting a travel card like those listed below. Not only do these cards waive foreign transaction fees, you might even be able to get to France using credit card rewards.
How much should I budget to travel to France?
Paris is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and prices can rise according to the number of tourists and the destination’s reputation. For example, Bordeaux is a rich city and famous for its wine and lesser known cities such as Lille are a little cheaper — but only marginally.
$75–$150 per night
$600–$800+ per night
|Falafel sandwich (rue des Rosiers, Le Marais)|
Coffee with croissant/ pastry
|Lunch at a mid range restaurant|
$20–$25 per dish
|Michelin star restaurant|
$75+ per dish
|Free museum day on the first Sunday of every month||Admission to the Louvre|
|VIP seating and dinner at the Moulin Rouge|
*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.
Exchange rate history
Euros are a stable currency, so don’t expect the rate to change too much when you’re in France. If you believe it’s going to get more expensive to purchase euros, you can lock in a rate with a travel card or traveler’s checks.
Did you know?
If you’re using a credit card or debit card for purchases and ATM withdrawals, you’ll get the Visa, Mastercard or American Express foreign exchange rate. This is pretty close to the interbank rate and a little better than the travel card foreign exchange rate.
Which to take: travel credit card, debit card or credit card?
When making payments, some merchants may have a spending minimum — 10 euros for example. However, if you’re making a contactless payment, you can get away with purchases of just a couple of euros using your card.
How to use a credit card in France
|Travel money option||Pros||Cons|
|Travel prepaid cards|
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
Using travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and other options in France
Using a travel prepaid card
These travel cards allow you to load dollars and lock in a rate when you convert the funds to euros — letting you spend without paying the 3% currency conversion fee. You can hold different currencies on these cards at the same time, which is handy if you’re heading to the UK.
Although you’re saving on currency conversion, you may be subject to ATM fees, reload fees, card issue fees and inactivity fees.
- Tip: You get two cards when you apply for one of these accounts, so store the second card somewhere safe to be used as a backup.
Using a debit card
Equipped with a chip, secured with a PIN, and providing direct access to your own money, debit cards get the gold for convenience when it comes to travel money in France. Look for a checking account that doesn’t charge for currency conversion or international ATM withdrawals.
- Tip: Banks in France won’t charge you to make a withdrawal, so you can withdraw euros and make over the counter purchases for roughly the same price as you would back home — and in some cases, it can be even cheaper.
Using a credit card
Pick a travel friendly credit card if you’re looking to apply for an additional line of credit for your trip to France. Look for a card that waives foreign transaction fees and offers travel features like complimentary international travel insurance and complimentary purchase protection insurance that some high-end cards may offer – like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
- Tip: Be careful using your credit card to get cash, it’s a cash advance and there are a number of charges which make this the most expensive way to get money from an ATM.
Using a traveler’s checks
Don’t bother with traveler’s checks — they’re expensive and inconvenient. There’s a commission when you cash traveler’s checks and you’ll wait in long lines at the bank.
Paying with cash in France
You can use your card in France for most things, but if you want to shop at the street markets, you’ll need cash — ATMs are typically onsite. Places like Porte de Clignancourt and Les Puces de Montreuil in Paris have some amazing deals for things you never thought you’d find.
Currency in France
The euro comes in the denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.
ATMs in France
ATMs are everywhere in France. Ask for a banque électronique if you need directions from a local — though you really won’t have to look far to find a machine.
Some key information to know if you’re using an ATM in France:
- Bank ATMs don’t charge a local ATM operator fee.
- If you’re using a Visa or Mastercard you shouldn’t have a problem. Check with your card provider if you’ll be using a different brand.
- You’ll be able to pick a language for the ATM.
- You get to pick the denominations you want.
Case study: Interview with Jacob about spending travel money in France
Jacob spends a bit of time in Paris. Last time he was in France, he spent two and a half months in Paris and few weeks traveling to some of the smaller cities in the North of France.
What cards did you take with you?
- Discover Bank Debit Card
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Why did you take these cards with you?
He signed up for the Barclaycard to get the excellent sign up bonus. On top of that, the card has no foreign transaction fees and is part of the Global ATM alliance. He used the card to pay for his flights to score complimentary travel insurance.
The Discover Bank Debit Card is his day-to-day card and he used it to make over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals because it waives both the foreign transaction and international ATM fee.
Did you withdraw from ATMs?
He used his Discover card to withdraw cash from ATMs in France because he could avoid the fee.
Were there any places where you had trouble using your cards?
Jacob says he didn’t have a problem using his card throughout France, although he spent the majority of his time in Paris. He said that some places make you spend over 20 euros if you want to use your card. However, if the business accepts contactless payment, you can use your card for small purchases.
What’s your recommendation for the best form of travel money to take to France?
Jacob says a credit card is a must. He also suggests it’s worth including a debit card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion or international ATM fees.
Do you have any travel money tips for France?
- Coffee. Coffee gets more expensive or cheaper (espresso) based on the location of the cafe. You pay for the view, not the coffee.
- Tipping. Tipping is not expected and should be given as a way of saying thanks for good service – rounding up to the nearest euro is appreciated.
- Metro tickets. If you’re using the Metro in Paris, buy bulk (packs of 10 or 20 tickets at a time) for a discount.
- Summer prices. France becomes much more expensive during tourist season, especially the price of accommodation.
- Free museums. The first Sunday of every month is free museum day in Paris. Wake up early – it’s very popular.
- Street food. Head to Rue des Rosiers, Le Marais for a one of the best falafel sandwiches in the world — and for about five euros.
Buying euros in the US
Euros are a major international currency, you can buy euros at banks, exchange offices, at the airport – the list goes on. You will get a better deal if you wait to buy euros in France, even better if you make an ATM withdrawal using a no ATM fee and no foreign transaction fee debit or travel card.
If you want some cash in your pocket when you land, compare the following foreign cash providers.
Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options
Take a combination of travel money products to get the most from your travel budget. A credit card is a great way to make large purchases, while using a travel card or a debit card is better for smaller everyday expenses and cash withdrawals.
Give yourself a couple of different ways to access your travel budget in case something happens to one of your cards, as it can take you a couple of days to recieve an emergency replacement card from your bank or lender.Back to top
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