Travel money guide for France | finder.com

Travel money guide: France

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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.

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Compare travel cards for France

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, most will also reward you for your travel.

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    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.

    Paris Budget Mid-range Expensive
    to-sleep $25–$40
    per night
    2-star hotel
    $75–$150 per night
    5-star hotel
    $600–$800+ per night
    francedining Falafel 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
    to-see Free museum day on the first Sunday of every month Admission 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.

    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.

    How to send money to France

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    Which to take: travel credit 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.
    How to use a credit card in France

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Travel prepaid cards
    • Hold different currencies
    • Save on currency conversion fees
    • ATM fees
    • Reload fees
    • Card issue fees
    • Inactivity fees
    Debit cards
    • Security with chip and PIN
    • Direct access to own money
    • Widely used in France
    • ATM fees
    • Finding an ATM in your banking network may be difficult
    Credit cards
    • Widely accepted in France
    • Waived currency conversion fees
    • Cash advance fees
    Traveler’s checks
    • Acceptance
    • Security
    • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
    • Becoming a phased out travel money option
    Cash
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Higher risk of theft

    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.

    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.

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    Currency in France

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

    ECB_5_euro_banknotes 10euro
    20euro 50euro
    100euro 200euro
    500euro

    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.
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    Interview with Jacob about spending travel money in France

    jacob

    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?

    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.

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    Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in France

    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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