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Debit OR Credit Card in Paris / Switzerland

Hi, I am visiting Paris/Switzerland in September from Toronto. Should I carry CASH or should I use Debit or Credit Card. I booked hotels and provided my Credit Card. Should I pay cash or pay from credit card to pay my hotel stay bills. I have to visit many places, grocery, shopping etc and what method should I use to pay bill (Cash,debit/credit card). I checked with bank and they will charge 3.5% from debit card and 2.5% from credit card for transaction. Thanks

Posted by
21844 posts

Are sure about your rates? I haven't seen a debit card that high before. If you had more time I would have suggested changing bank accounts and even credit card since there are many credit/debit cards that do not charge fees for currency conversion. However, even given those rates they will still be cheaper (by a small margin) than using any currency exchange bureau. Since your credit card appears to be cheaper than your debit, I would use the credit card as much as possible.

PS Just noticed you are Canadian so maybe those are the common fees for Canadian accounts.

Posted by
3332 posts

I checked with bank and they will charge 3.5% from debit card and 2.5%
from credit card for transaction.

If that's true, you should consider opening up an account with a credit union to cover all of your international travel expenses. The above is highway robbery.

Posted by
68 posts

Fellow Canadian here. I just came back from a week in each of Paris and London, and used both my credit and debit cards regularly. I was very careful with my cards and yet somehow my credit card was compromised in Paris. I received a text from my bank saying they had detected and blocked two fraudulent attempts at cash withdrawals, and I ended up having to close that account. My husband had trouble with ATM withdrawals at a major bank as well - the machine said three of three attempts to make a withdrawal had been unsuccessful, but his banking records showed that one went through. We're working with the banks to resolve it now that we're back home.

So, my advice is to be super careful and keep track of ALL your transactions, whether withdrawals or purchases, and check them against your bank records regularly.

Posted by
5745 posts

The above is highway robbery.

Sure is.

Doesn't matter where you're going. It's insane to pay such high fees, there is no reason to.

Anyone who travels occasionally (and even those who don't) should have at least one credit card that does not charge any foreign transaction fees - there are countless available, including many with zero annual fee. You can even get "rewards" cards - cards that get you airline miles or cash back.

With a zero-fee card, you should put every expense you can on the card.

You should also get a bank or credit union that charges zero or nearly-zero fees, both at home and overseas. With a debit card from one of these, you should pay little or no fees when you use a foreign ATM and withdraw cash from your account at home. Many credit unions just pass along a 1% currency conversion fee.

Carry some cash while you travel, but not a lot. Never, ever use an "exchange" service, that's crazy expensive and needless.

I travel with multiple credit cards (all with no foreign transaction fees) and two debit cards (each from different credit unions, zero fees but 1% foreign conversion fees). My wife does the same. So we have multiple, independent sources for cash.

I put everything I can on awards-earning credit cards (zero cost), and occasionally pull some cash from my home credit union account via my debit card (1% conversion fee).

Posted by
8493 posts

My local CU charges 3.5, also, so I have cards from Amex and Andrews Federal CU that charge nothing. My local CU card is only for emergency back up.

It's always better to use a CC because if your card is compromised, you are protected. If your debit card is compromised, you could be saying adios to everything in your bank account.

Posted by
21287 posts

David is writing from the US perspective. I am not sure Canadians have the no-fee card options we do. I trust that some of our Canadian posters will find this thread and respond

.

Posted by
3493 posts

There was a thread here recently from the Canadian viewpoint (quickly looking I unfortunately can't find it). Basically, there are very very few options to avoid the international fees.

However, from what I was able to find out looking at some of the larger Canadian banks, it is still less costly to get Euros in Europe from an ATM using your debit card than buying cash from your bank before you go. Most Canadian banks seem to have different international exchange fees for getting cash and making purchases with your debit card with purchases being a higher rate. YMMV.

Travel funds cards seem to be a popular offering. These do have fewer fees than those you can get in the US. However, you have to load them into the currency you plan to use at the exchange rate the card issuing bank gives you (and it isn't even close to what the actual daily rate is, and it is in the bank's favor). If you load Euros and then stop in London and use the card, you pay the bank's exchange rate again to convert the Euros back to CAD and then into Pounds. Not good for the cardholder.

Posted by
2916 posts

There was a thread here recently from the Canadian viewpoint (quickly looking I unfortunately can't find it). Basically, there are very very few options to avoid the international fees.

Yes, I recall that also. I have a no fee debit card from TD Bank, a Canadian bank, but it's their US operation, which has branches where I live, and I believe they don't have that kind of card in Canada.

Posted by
5789 posts

For what it's worth:
https://creditcardgenius.ca/blog/canadian-credit-cards-no-foreign-transaction-fee/#

Canadian Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fee Posted by
Stephen Weyman | Last updated: Jul 17, 2018

How much is a typical Canadian credit card foreign transaction fee?

It’s almost universally 2.5%, plus a small spread that the bank itself
has to pay and passes on to you the consumer. The total cost should
come in under 3%.

Given that 99% of Canadian credit cards charge this fee, it may
surprise you that a few cards use to exist that charged absolutely
nothing in foreign exchange fees other than the small spread the bank
itself pays.

Top Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card...his one of the rare cards
that waives the usual 2.5% foreign currency exchange fee....

Home Trust Preferred Visa.... This little hidden gem is currently one
of the only cards available in Canada that gives you a foreign
currency conversion fee of 0% ‒ at $0 annual fee.

Rogers Platinum Mastercard As far as no fee cash back credit cards go,
this card is a rocket.

There’s no cheaper way to exchange money than using a 0% foreign
transaction fee credit card. Bank’s typically charge 3%, or more, to
convert your money in person and the rate for doing it online are
usually about the same unless you are converting large sums of cash.
If you want to convert any leftover cash after your trip is over, now
you’re paying that 3%+ a second time.

Posted by
5697 posts

Pay attention to what Bets said about your increased liability on using a debit card -- credit cards offer a lot more protection, so I only use my debit card for cash withdrawals from banks (and during business hours, inside the bank whenever possible.) Even with 1% extra fee, the credit card is worth it unless your hotel can give you a discount for cash.
P.S. Be on the lookout for DCC in Switzerland -- their credit card machines seem to default to $, but you can easily push the button for CHF payment.

Posted by
3334 posts

Edgar, FWIW, those cards you cited (all CCs, not ATM cards), look great at first blush. But the Scotiabank card has an annual fee and a minimum income requirement. The Rogers card isn't no fee. And the cash back can only be redeemed for Rogers products. The Home Trust Preferred Visa looks good, but this is neither a bank nor a credit union, but is a Trust company who markets to customers who can't get credit or loans at a regular institution. I would hazard a guess that the average Canadian has never heard of them.

Back to the OP, with what I will assume are the usual Canadian bank ATM (debit) and CCs. Kenny, We might start out with €100-200 that we get from our local bank but then we ONLY use our debit cards to withdraw cash from Bank owned ATMS outside of Canada. This will reduce your debit card's vulnerability as long as you are careful. We only use cash for small purchases, usually under €50. Everything else goes onto the CC. We make a few large cash withdrawals (usually that ATMs max amount) rather than a lot of small ones to reduce the number of transaction fees we have to pay. For safety's sake, we take more than one debit card and CC, from different accounts, in case one is compromised. Remember to always decline any offer to charge you in CAD. This is Dynamic Currency Conversion, and can come with a higher than normal exchange rate.

Posted by
43 posts

Now I am afraid if card is compromised. I am thinkkng if cards are compromised then how I will arrange money in this country. Should I send to some money in my name through western union for backup for emergency use. What are the other options for emergency backup.

Posted by
8493 posts

Always travel with cards from two different banks, both debit and credit cards. Have money in both accounts. A lot of incidents can shut a bank’s system down. Many years ago, back when we were traveling with only on bank card, our bank canceled all its cards due to a hack and re-issued new ones. Our children intercepted the new cards in the mail, activated them, and sent them over to us in France. Luckily, we had a bank account in France because we were without our US ATM cards for two weeks.

Posted by
9 posts

"If your debit card is compromised,you could be saying adios to everything in your bank account" I wonder Bets ,it's a temporary "Adios" something like see you later more than a definitive ,permanent and total loss of your money?

Posted by
11292 posts

Even if it's "temporary," until it's been fixed, you have no access to your money. Not great on a trip.

Posted by
21 posts

I get a Travelex debit card. I bite the bullet for the exchange rate on that day, load it with what I think I will need in cash for my trip and then don't have to worry about losing my money in my bank account at home. It can be reloaded on your phone or computer. Then I carry 2 credit cards with no exchange fees.

Posted by
21287 posts

The cost of using that Travelex card is exorbitant. If you loaded $1000 on a Travelex card today, you'd get €792.30. The official exchange rate would give you €875.46, so you're losing €83.16 on the deal, which is about $99--a loss of nearly 10%. If you later want to change the funds to a different currency, you pay a 5.5% fee. If you don't spend all the money and want the balance refunded, there's a $20 fee. If you instead decide to keep the card until your next trip and it's more than 12 months in the future, there's a $3/month inactivity fee. And there's apparently a fee to buy the card in the first place, but it varies by location so it's not shown on the website.

Posted by
43 posts

Is it safe to keep CASH during this trip? I just want to make sure that I should have money during this trip if CARD doesn't work due to any reason.

Posted by
27 posts

Once or twice a year, during the time we travel, our credit card gets hacked. We leave the debit card at home for this reason alone. When someone steals your debit card # and begins to quickly charge it, that's your bank account they're taking from. And no-one messes with our money. When someone steals my credit card #, the bank puts a quick stop to it and with a couple of phone calls it's resolved.
We always take two different credit cards in case one is shut-down (like when someone charged a $7000 Hawaiian vacation while we were in Orlando). call the company and tell them in advanced where we're going to and which states/airports we're flying through, and any expected high charges such as final apartment payments, so they don't shut down the card when they see charges in New York and Paris on the same day.
We carry cash and use this at small stores/cafes and save the credit cards for established + reputable businesses such as museums, grocery and department stores, etc.

Posted by
3334 posts

Is it safe to keep CASH during this trip? I just want to make sure
that I should have money during this trip if CARD doesn't work due to
any reason.

Yes, there are several ways to safely keep cash while you travel. If you use the search function, or read Ricks tips about money matters in any of his books, you'll find lots of discussions about using money belts, neck wallets, secret pockets, etc. And using the room safe in your hotel room. Note that these are used for cash, cards, or valuable documents like your passport that you DONT expect to access during the day. These are kept hidden at all times. Your cash or card that you expect to need that day are kept secured as best as possible (a zippered front pocket, an inside pocket, etc) in a place that you can access as needed.

While it is always good to be prudent and be aware of possible problems, there is no need to be paranoid. There's no need to carry around thousands of Euros (or whatever the local currency) that you bought back home. Firstly, you'll likely be hosed on the exchange rate. Secondly, since large denomination bills can sometimes be difficult to use, that would be a pretty bulky stash. And third, you leave yourself vulnerable to loss- once it's gone, it's gone.

Just be prudent. In all our years of travel, our debit card has never been compromised. Or eaten by an ATM machine. But we know it's a possibility, so we carry 2 different cards. And we only withdraw cash from a bank ATM during business hours. Similarly, we bring more than 1 credit card, so we have a back up if necessary. And as previously mentioned, notify the bank and your CC companies before you leave of your dates and the places you'll be visiting.

Posted by
21844 posts

Just want to support CJ's comments. That is our experience also. Actually carry three debit cards but have never had a problem with even the first one. It is easy to focus on all the things that can go wrong but that is a small percentage. And our ultimate back up should something go wrong with all the debit cards is cash advance on a credit card. Granted it would be expensive but it works.

Posted by
11973 posts

I don't carry much cash. I usually have something up to, but not over, 50 euro in my front pocket. I use an ATM when I need it. My primary bank, USAA, charges me a flat one percent foreign transaction fee for ATMs. I like that because there's no reason to take larger withdrawals than I need in order to keep the relative fee lower. I have two checking accounts at USAA and a debit card for both. I use one debit card most of the time and carry the other in my neck wallet as a back up. If something happens to my main card, I can transfer money to the other account and use the other debit card. For some reason my card died in Bordeaux last trip (something happened to the chip). I was just finishing my trip and survived without another withdrawal (but I had the other card if I needed it).

For purchases, especially tickets, hotels, and rentals, I use a credit card. It's easy these days to find cards that charge no foreign transaction fee. I verify any cards fee structure before every trip. They can change so I make sure I'm taking a card that doesn't overcharge me. I also take a back up card. I take an American Express just for rentals. Some Amex cards have a very good CDW offer. I finally had my first fender bender in Europe, so I'm waiting to find out if they pay as advertised. If so, I'll shout their praises here. If not, I'll let everyone know.

Posted by
43 posts

Is hotel in Paris/Switzerland provides the locker to keep my important documents like passport etc. OR where I can keep safely my important documents in any rental locker etc. Is there any possibility?

Posted by
5697 posts

Different opinions on this -- I keep my passport, cash, cards in a money belt worn under my clothes at all times. Others swear by hotel safes.

Posted by
3334 posts

Is hotel in Paris/Switzerland provides the locker to keep my important
documents like passport etc. OR where I can keep safely my important
documents in any rental locker etc. Is there any possibility?

IF your hotel room has a safe, it is up to you you whether or not you use it. While we choose to always carry our passports, we do leave extra cash and credit cards, and other valuables in the room safe.

I'm not sure that I would trust the security of just a locker (such as one might have in a hostel), though, for anything that valuable. When we stay somewhere without a safe we prefer to carry the extra cash and cards in our money belt or neck wallet.

Posted by
3699 posts

CJean's research rings true with my experience. Canadian banks are secure -- no major problems in the 2008 meltdown -- but we pay through the nose for that reassurance. My tactics are different, however, using a credit card for large expenditures only and withdrawing a large amount of cash when I first arrive. Both cash and cards can be lost/stolen, but cash is faster for small transactions and can be a little cheaper. Travelling alone, I carry ATM and credit cards from both Visa and MasterCard, issued by different banks, and the cards are never together in the same pocket.

Posted by
364 posts

My personal opinion use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees like Capital One, Citibank, or Ollo.

Happy Travels💫✨