I often have my vacation rental guests ask me about the best way to manage their vacation money while they are travelling in France. Over the years I have boiled down my advice to three easy-to-remember points, and I will be explaining one per week over the next three Tuesdays.
Seeing as Clem has already woken up from an insanely short nap (just for the record, arghhhhhh sounds the same in French), here is French Money Matters Point #1 without any further ado:
1. Forget about traveller’s cheques and bring your ATM card instead
Traveller’s cheques are becoming obsolete. Why deal with the hassle when you can simply bring the ATM card you use at home and withdraw money out of your bank account from almost any bank machine here in France?
Keep in mind these guidelines for successfully using your ATM card over here in France:
a) Make sure that you have a 4 digit pin code that consists only of numbers. This is the only type that the French ATM’s accept.
b) Check with your bank to make sure they use a fair exchange rate on foreign withdrawals. I find in general most banks use a very competitive rate.
c) Check with your bank in regards to your daily and weekly withdrawal limits so as not to have any bad surprises. Most of us never bump against these limits (and hence, don’t even realize they exist) except under unusual circumstances, such as International Travel. Find out before you go to avoid nasty ATM surprises.
d) If you are withdrawing money out using a credit card (rather than a debit card) be aware that the credit card companies generally start charging interest on the funds withdrawn from the moment they are withdrawn (and NOT from the moment your bill is due). A solution for this is to top up your credit card account before leaving home.
e) Lastly, French ATM’s, just like French pizzaiolos, are mysterious creatures. Sometimes for no reason whatsoever a machine won’t work, but then you can go down the street and try the next ATM, or try the same machine five minutes later, and it works just fine. With ATMs. just like so many things in France, tenacity is richly rewarded.