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Using credit and debit cards in France and Europe – tips, links, telephone numbers – Day-tripper.net, the web magazine which saves you money when crossing the channel to Calais, to buy wine, beer, spirits and food, travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel.
Pay by Credit card – we find they generally give the best rates – you can buy just about anything with a credit card in France. Debit Cards are widely used in France.
Most credit cards companies load the exchange rate and charge you a fee for using it for foreign purchases. However even taking these into account, we still recommend using your credit card. It's also safer than carrying large amounts of money around with you.
Most credit cards are widely accepted although some shops have a minimum (usually 15 euro). You can now use English credit cards in the automatic machines in France (petrol stations for example).
Changing money is convenient on the ferries but you can also easily draw money out of the many cash machines using your English PIN number. Watch out for charges and loaded exchange rates though. Even better, simply use your credit card for all your purchases – not only is this the easiest option it also is the cheapest. Using a debit card is even cheaper when drawing money.
Paying for foreign currency usually counts as a cash withdrawal incurring further charges. In our opinion iut is best to use you card direct at a bank machine, rather than use it to buy currency at the port or on board.
Whilst paying for goods at shops with a credit card remains one of the best options, withdrawing money not always so. For example HSBC Mastercard charges about 1.5% or £1.50 whichever is the greater and load (charge you more) the exchange rate by 2.75%. However they claim to have access to more favourable exchange rates so these charges are mitigated.
Sales run for about six weeks, dates varying between regions, from early January and mid June every year.
We suggest you ring your credit card company before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.
TIP 1 – We suggest you ring your credit card company before shopping in France – increased fraud means they are turning down shoppers cards if their spending deviates from the norm. Take your mobile – you can often sort the problem out over the phone.
Phone these numbers before you go: Barclaycard – 08700 100 578 (01733 294814) , Mastercard 020 7557-5000.
Tip 2 – Get a credit card from a company that doesn't charge extra for using it abroad or one that charges less.
TIP 3 – When you use your credit card, make sure you remember your PIN. Signing for your goods can now take a long time if they have to find someone to arrange a signature payment.
TIP 4 – Pay by Credit card – we find they generally give the best rates – you can buy just about anything with a credit card in France. Eurocheques are generally not accepted nowadays. Some card companies charge you if you use your card abroad. Check before you go which card is best to use.
TIP 5 – Change money before you leave – check that your bank or credit card has any special offers (commission free). More information
TIP 6 – Make a note of all your credit and debit cards, passports, driving licences, travellers cheques as well as the helplines. A little preparation will save you a lot of bother in the unfortunate, but none the less regular occurrence of theft.
TIP 7 – E-mail yourself. Send yourself an e-mail with all your passport numbers, credit card details. If bad luck strikes at least you may be able to access your details easily. Use a yahoo or hotmail account which is easily accessible wherever you are.
TIP 8 – When paying for an air fare or other fare remember you get protection should the carrier go under if you have spent more than £100. This protection may not include accommodation unless it is part of a travel inclusive ticket.
TIP 9 – Make sure your credit limit is enough to cover all eventualities.
TIP 10 – Always fill in all the spaces (tips box in particular) on credit card slips. Make sure you get back and keep a copy, at least until you get your statement.
TIP 11 – If you do not have a chip card or have other problems, the French Authorities recommend that tourists should show the following phrase or read it to the retailer: Les cartes anglaises sont a bande magnetique. Ma carte est valable et je vous serais reconnaisant d'un demander la confirmation de votre banque ou de votre centre de traitement. "English cards contain a magnetic strip. My card is valid and I would recommend that you ask for confirmation from your bank or your processing centre".
Tip 12 – Warning! – Tobacco and wine shops often use a generous exchange rate when working out the sterling CASH price, so do take plenty of sterling cash when buying tobacco to get the best prices. Whilst you can pay by credit card, bear in mind that the price that shows on your statement will be about 7% more than the sterling prices listed in the shop.
– Cardwatch. "Card Watch raises awareness about all types of plastic card fraud in the United Kingdom, and provides information to prevent fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards, cheque guarantee cards and charge cards." www.cardwatch.org.uk
If you lose your card in France, ring the Interbank service on 0892 705 705 / 0836 69 08 80 or (Paris)
American Express – 01 47 77 72 00. www.americanexpress.com
Diners' Club – 01 49 06 17 50. www.dinersclubinternational.com
– Mastercard / ACCESS. Tel: Ring operator and reverse charge to 0044 1904 544 633 (HSBC). Or try the French number 0800 90 13 87. . www.mastercard.com
– Barclaycard / VISA. Tel: 0590 8281. In France 0800 90 11 79. www.visaeurope.com
Cash – Make sure you have at least some French money. Whilst most Calais Shops accept Sterling not all do.
Euro cheques – no longer accepted much in France. Don't rely on them.