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Money in France: Cash vs Card
Currency in France
France, one of the founding members of the European Union, adopted the common European currency, the euro (€), in 2002. It is one of 19 European states to use the euro as legal tender.
In France, you can pay with bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 EUR, although many shops and restaurants will be less willing to accept bills higher than 50 EUR. For paying in small change, you have 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent coins, as well as 1 and 2-euro coins. The euro coins have a common side and a national side, which are different depending on which country they are issued from. All French coins have RF (République Française) on them. Despite this, all euros are valid anywhere in the eurozone.
Cash, Debit, or Credit Card
While in many other European countries cash remains king, around half of all payments made in France nowadays are made by card. It is one of the most popular methods of payment among the French, with 10.6 billion payments being made by card in 2016 alone.
There are various different types of bank card (carte bancaire) that are linked to either Visa, MasterCard, or CB, a popular French payment system. In general, traditional high street banks (such as BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, etc) charge a fee, while online banks generally offer them for free. The fee will depend on the type of card and the bank, so it’s a good idea to check this when choosing a bank.
Contactless payments (paiement sans contact) is also seeing a boom in popularity in France at the moment. In fact, between July 2016 and July 2017, there was a massive 112% increase in contactless payments, with 1.1 billion EUR spent via contactless payments in France during those twelve months. As of October 2017, the maximum amount you can spend per contactless transaction has been increased to 30 EUR.
Cash Withdrawals: Steer Clear of Unnecessary Fees
Despite the widespread use of card payments, some smaller shops, cafés, or restaurants — particularly in smaller towns and rural areas — still only accept cash payments, and it is recommended you carry some cash with you just in case. ATMs (les distributeurs automatiques de billets – DAB) can be found almost everywhere in larger towns and cities so there should be no issues withdrawing cash. However, ATMs can be much harder to find in the more remote areas in France, so you often have to make sure to withdraw enough cash to last your time in the countryside.
Conveniently, many banks have online nationwide ATM locators to help make life a bit easier:
ATMs which are linked to a bank do not generally charge for cash withdrawals, if using a French bank card. However, there are also several “private” ATMs (i.e. not linked to a particular bank) which may charge a fee for a withdrawal. Also, if you are still withdrawing cash from your home bank account, and that isn’t in euros, then it is possible that your bank will charge you for making a withdrawal — check with your bank beforehand. Double check what type of ATM you are using before taking cash out to avoid being charged unnecessarily.
As in most countries, it is worth noting that in France you will be charged more if you withdraw cash using a credit card.
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