Call both your bank and your credit card company to let them know that you will be taking a trip. This will (hopefully) prevent the delightful situation of having your credit or ATM card eaten and / or blocked for security reasons.
This week I will be dealing with financial transactions in stores and restaurants (coq au vin! Yum!) while you are in France.
Here are my three tips for this week:
1. Bring your Visa and / or MasterCard, but consider leaving your AMEX and Diner’s Club at home
We have many American guests who come over here equipped almost exclusively with their Amex, only to find out that it is hardly accepted anywhere in France. Same goes for Diner’s Club.
Contrary to North America and even the UK the only widely accepted credit cards here are Visa and MasterCard – pretty much equally accepted across the board, by the way.
So unless you need to bring either your AMEX or Diner’s Club to benefit from the built-in traveller’s insurance and other special benefits, consider leaving them at home and bringing just a Visa or MasterCard.
2. In smaller French stores neither credit cards nor debit cards are accepted for transactions under 15 Euros
Here is an excellent reason to always keep a few Euros in your pocket!
The charges for merchants to accept credit card transactions in France is so high that using them for transactions under 15 Euros just doesn’t make sense for many smaller merchants (notably tabacs, librairies, and boulangeries). Rest assured, this rule isn’t just for tourists, it is equally enforced with the locals.
3. Prices in stores / restaurants in France: what you see is what you pay!
Contrary to Canada, where a whack of taxes is added at the cash register every time you make a purchase (you thought that T-Shirt only cost $10.00??? Psyche!), the prices you see on price tags in French stores, as well as at the bottom of a restaurant bill, include all taxes and charges. Voilà, what you see is what you pay.
The service charge is even included on the bill at all restaurants and cafés, making tipping completely optional. Unless, that is, you’re trying to pick up that cute garçon…