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money in France - as in use of debit cards.

I am kind of confused about using my atm card in France. Some people here on this forum are telling me the the card with the chip n pin will only work in France. Others are telling me my BECU "striped" card will work just fine. Another person told me their getting a chip n pin card was such a hassle in order to just travel to Europe. And others have said there are plenty of ATM's around, so you'll have no problem pulling out more money Cathy. So.... what the heck !

Posted by
2246 posts

Cathy, a chip and pin card can be handy, but is not a necessity, in particular if much of your time is spent with an organized tour where travel arrangements are handled by the tour. C & P cards work in all/most of Europe, not just France. Your mag stripe debit card will work in ATM's generally, though it's a prudent idea to have two debit cards, imo, along with a credit card. Be sure to advise your Credit Union /Banks that you will be traveling and where you will be, then confirm with them just before you leave that they know this. And yes, there are plenty of ATM's around.
Relax, and have a great trip!

Posted by
31471 posts

cathy,

You should have no trouble using your BECU ATM card in France (or indeed anywhere in Europe). It may not work for POS (debit) transactions, but should work without problems when using ATM's. A few points to note......

  • In addition to notifying BECU that you'll be travelling in Europe, you may want to review your daily withdrawal limit, keeping in mind that currency conversion will be factored in.
  • You might also ask whether they have any "partner" banks in Europe which may offer lower fees if using partner ATM's.
  • The daily withdrawal limit set by your financial institution may be superseded by withdrawal limits set by each European bank.
  • I've found that ATM's may not work at certain times of the day. If you try to withdraw cash and the ATM doesn't work, either try another machine at a different bank, or wait an hour and try again.
  • As I mentioned previously, it's a good idea to have a "backup" ATM card if at all possible, in case the primary card malfunctions.
  • Also as mentioned previously, be sure to verify which account your ATM card will access in Europe.

Are you also going to be travelling with at least one credit card? That's where the aspect of "Chip & PIN" cards will be most noticeable. When using the credit card at staffed locations such as hotels or restaurants, you shouldn't have any trouble, although the staff may in some cases be unfamiliar with processing magnetic stripe transactions (I've seen a few comments on that). Where you will have problems with a non-chip card is with automated ticket Kiosks which in many cases will ONLY accept C&P cards. Based on comments that I've seen here, some Forum users have obtained the Andrews Federal Credit Union credit card, which DOES use "Chip & PIN" technology (read the FAQ's on that page for a description).

Unfortunately, the U.S. has been slow to adopt the "Chip & PIN" (EMV) technology now used in Europe, Canada and much of the rest of the world, but it appears this is finally going to happen within the next year or two.

Posted by
1217 posts

Most banks & credit unions these days have multiple ATM network agreements. Example- if they issue a Master Card logoed debit card, then it should work in all ATMs that are part of the Master Card/ Cirrus network, which is pretty universal in places tourists are likely to go (wiki says 1 million ATMs in 93 countries are on its network) Our MC logo stripped card handled ATMs in four European countries with no problems.

Call your bank/check their web site to check which networks their ATM card works with. Chances are it's quite extensive and you'll be just fine, even if you have to pay a pound or euro here or these for use.

Posted by
3685 posts

Cathy...I have used my BECU Visa credit card and my BECU MC debit card all over Europe since 2009. I have had no problem anywhere getting euros from an ATM with the debit card. However, I would never use it to buy anything. The Visa is for that when appropriate, like for a fancy meal.

I usually pay cash and almost always use an ATM inside a bank to get that cash. You will find more small branch banks in France than toilets--especially in Paris.

Posted by
6632 posts

Paris is an easy town in which to find a toilet -- New York City on the other hand -- difficult.

Posted by
60 posts

I've used my BECU debit card and Visa all over Paris multiple times. The only place we couldn't use it was at the metro kiosk. Bank ATMs are everywhere. The BECU fees are low and we've never had an issue with charges not being authorized. Do make sure they know you'll be using the cards, though.

I wouldn't bother with getting a card from some other CU, even of if is a chip and PIN. The likelihood of your cards not bring accepted in France are slim to none. Having cash on hand from one of the ATMs will help if there is a problem.

My only other suggestion is to make sure that you don't get large bills. Some of the ATMs will default to 100's, and they can be hard to get rid of unless you are spending close to the bill amount. The French seem to love/require exact change!

Posted by
74 posts

I used my debit card without any problems. Never needed a chip n pin. The only time it didn't work was in the auto route tolls, but I think some of them didn't take VISA or M/C, so I ended up paying cash.

Posted by
39 posts

I lovvvvve all this information! thank you everybody for your little golden tidbits of input. Highly appreciated.

I don't think I'll be going to the trouble of trying to get a chipped card.

Heck, from all these forums I'll know more about getting around in Paris than I will my own town here of Bothell. ;) lol

Merci!

Posted by
16883 posts

Our Book Editor in Charge of ATMs says that all bank-attached ATMs in Europe are wired to be able to use the internet for withdrawal confirmations with magnetic strip cards, thus the good results reported above. This is in contrast to many stand-alone automated ticket machines, on-street bike rentals, gas pumps, etc., that don't have the necessary internet connection.

Posted by
784 posts

Check with your local BECU branch. When I was getting ready to go to Paris last year, I checked with them first. As I had only a money market account with an ATM card, they suggested I set up a checking account with a debit card, which I did. I had no problems getting cash from ATMs in Paris.

Posted by
500 posts

The chip and pin card is most useful for using automated machines at train stations, gas stations etc. while in Europe. A regular debit card with magnetic strip and 4 digit pin is the best way to get cash in Europe.

Posted by
428 posts

Following up on what Zeeba said, how do you avoid getting 100's from an ATM? Can you specify the denominations you want? So the ATM would only give you 100's if you failed to specify (or if they were out of the denominations you requested)? What's the likelihood of the ATM being out of smaller denominations?

Posted by
4689 posts

Ask for a denomination that is not a round hundred, eg €180 rather than €200.

ATMs don't generally dispense above €50 except in countries where high denomination notes are in common daily use, such as Austria or Germany.

Posted by
8 posts

This is great information for me too! Thanks for asking the question, Cathy. Rather than using a debit card which accesses my bank account, will the ATMs accept a pre-paid Visa or MC debit card - one where you can preload money on the card and then draw from it as needed? Please advise. Thanks!