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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. Whether you’re planning to sunbathe on the French Riviera beach or visit the bustling center of Paris to sight the Eiffel Tower, you can use Mastercard and Visa cards to spend in more places than not. Pack along the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card to avoid foreign transaction fees and earn flat 2x miles on all your purchases.

However, it’s a good idea to keep euro on hand since some merchants won’t accept card payments for small amounts. You won’t have a problem finding ATMs in major cities and towns, though you’ll want to be prepared if you’re traversing the French countryside.

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Most retailers and merchants are credit card and debit card friendly. Visa and Mastercard are accepted everywhere, but American Express and Diners Club cards can be used in fewer places.

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.

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 receive an emergency replacement card from your bank or lender.

These are your options for spending money in France

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. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers just that — no foreign transaction fees and rewards on your purchases.

Pros
  • Widely accepted in France
  • Waived currency conversion fees
Cons
  • Cash advance fees

Which credit card issuers are accepted in France?

You’ll find Visa and Mastercard to be widely accepted in France. American Express cardholders may also find higher acceptance than Discover cardholders, who will likely struggle to find merchants that accept their card.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visa
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
Mastercard
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
exclamation point iconMedium
check mark iconHigh
Discover
cross mark iconLow
exclamation point iconMedium

A few credit card fees to avoid

International travelers often uncover a nasty surprise: Using a card overseas can be expensive. The main culprits are foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees.

Compare travel credit cards

Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 3 of 29
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card
70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
3 miles per $1 on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases
$50
Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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.

The Betterment Checking for instance reimburses all foreign transaction and ATM fees, keeping your pockets padded for more macarons and baguettes.

  • 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.
Pros
  • Security with chip and PIN
  • Direct access to own money
  • Widely used in France
Cons
  • ATM fees
  • Finding an ATM in your banking network may be difficult

Using a prepaid travel 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.
Pros
  • Hold different currencies
  • Save on currency conversion fees
Cons
  • ATM fees
  • Reload fees
  • Card issue fees
  • Inactivity fees

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.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Higher risk of theft

Using 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.

Pros
  • Acceptance
  • Security
Cons
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Becoming a phased-out travel money option
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France currency

The euro comes in the denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.

5 Euro banknote10 Euro banknote20 Euro banknote
50 Euro banknote100 Euro banknote

The main banks in France are:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Credit Agricole
  • BPCE
  • Societe Generale
  • Groupe Credit Mutuel
  • Credit Cooperatif
  • La Banque Postale
  • Credit du Nord
  • AXA Banque
  • Banque Palatine

Buying currency in the US

Euros are a major international currency, and 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.

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.

Live Rate

= 1.0015

Refreshing in: 60s | Tue, Oct 04, 10:28PM GMT

ATMs in France

ATMs are everywhere in France, especially outside major bank branches and at post offices. Ask for a banque électronique if you need directions from a local — though you won’t have to look far to find a machine. Plus, use a Betterment Checking debit card to get pesky international ATM fees reimbursed within 24 hours.

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.
Find ATMs in France

How to keep your travel money safe when in France

Generally speaking, France is a safe location for tourists. Take all the usual precautions you would take in the US. This includes walking in well-lit areas at night, and never leaving your belongings unattended.

But if you want to up your safety odds, consider carrying your wallet in your pocket or use a money belt. This is especially true for busy tourist areas and on public transit.

How much should I budget to travel in 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, whereas lesser-known cities such as Lille are a little cheaper — but only marginally. All prices are in US dollars.

BudgetMid-rangeExpensive
Accommodation$25–$40
per night
2-star hotel
$75–$150 per night
5-star hotel
$600–$800+ per night
MealsFalafel sandwich (rue des Rosiers, Le Marais)
$5
Coffee with croissant/ pastry
$8
Lunch at a mid-range restaurant
$20–$25 per dish
Michelin star restaurant
$75+ per dish
ActivitiesFree museum day on the first Sunday of every monthAdmission to the Louvre
$18
VIP seating and dinner at the Moulin Rouge
$500

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.

Case study: Jacob's experience

Jacob profile photo
Jacob

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 a few weeks traveling to some of the smaller cities in the North of France.

Do you have any travel money tips for France?

  • Coffee. Coffee gets more expensive or cheaper (espresso) based on the location of the café. You pay for the view, not the coffee.
  • Tipping. Tipping isn’t 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 one of the best falafel sandwiches in the world — and for about five euros.
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